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Renovating to sell? What to splurge and what to save

With an oversupply of listings and a cost of living crisis, it’s important to strike a healthy balance between making your property listing stand out and saving yourself a bit of cash. Project Manager and renovation expert Jen Jones says your focus should depend on what your starting position is.

“There needs to be some consideration of what your starting canvas is. If it’s a classic do-up there’s probably not much point in doing anything, it’s really about how it presents through narrative. But if you are going to do something, remember that first impressions are everything.”

Jones says an exterior house wash can seriously improve the appearance of your house, and may only set you back $1000.

“Thinking about street appeal as well. That could be a simple case of cleaning and repainting your front fence, or front door. Making sure the gardens are done, and the lawn is mowed.”

It’s also important to consider the age of your home, and the flow on effect that may have for things like insurance.

“We sell a lot of character homes in New Zealand, and anything that was built before 1940 can be quite challenging to get finance for because that finance requires insurance.”

Jones says insurance often requires you to declare when the repiling was done, when it was rewired and when the plumbing was replaced, which means that with older homes renovating to sell might not always be about aesthetics.

“If those things aren’t done they can become barriers to insurance. It’s important to invest in those things. You could spend around $2000 - $3000 upgrading the electrical board, but sometimes that could be the difference between getting a buyer or not if insurance is a barrier.”

WHAT ROOMS MAKE THE BIGGEST IMPACT?

Tyge Dellar from Demo to Reno says if you’re wanting the most bang for your buck you should focus your attention on the kitchen and bathroom.

“When it comes to people wanting to sell in this market, definitely sprucing up your kitchen and bathroom is going to be key. Obviously, you're not looking at doing a full renovation, but there are certain aspects that you can tweak to give it more of a luxury feel.”

That includes things like replacing kitchen handles, taps and installing a new splashback.

“From the benchtop to the ceiling really opens up the kitchen, and gives it a fresh look.”

“With bathrooms it’s the same. You don’t want to overspend, but you want to look at updating things like taps, and flooring.”

SHOULD THE SEASON CHANGE YOUR FOCUS?

New Zealanders love to entertain so Tyge Dellar says that in summer it’s key to think about indoor outdoor flow.

“If there’s potential to have an opening out onto a deck, or a non structural wall that can be taken down, it just opens up the space so easily and quickly.”

“In the winter it pays to start thinking about heat pumps, heaters and maybe putting in a fireplace.”

Dellar says winter renovations can be as simple as painting a room with warmer colours.

“Getting rid of whites and warming things up. You can also look at your flooring and carpeting. If it’s really hard, cheap carpet you might want to spend a little bit to spruce it up and put something a little more gentle on the feet.”

WHEN SHOULD I START RENOVATING?

Dellar says it’s important to plan ahead, and allocate enough time so that you're not rushing a renovation before open homes.

“I would say that if you can allocate three days a week, you’d probably need a good month to get a reasonable amount done. If you want to start changing benchtops and doing a bunch of bigger things like that, it might take longer, so you might want to think about starting at least two months out.”

“You really want to have it all done by the time your agent comes around and appraises your property, so they can give you an understanding of its value in that market.”

An easy way to manage improvements is also by thinking constantly about updating your property in small increments.

“You never know when things can change and markets can change. You may need to sell quickly, and may not have done anything to your house at that point. I always think it’s such a waste to sell a house without any improvements because it can add amazing value.”

HOW MUCH SHOULD I BE SPENDING?

Jen Jones says some renovations can easily get up to $50,000 by the time you clean and paint your roof, the exterior of your home and do a few touch ups.

“But that’s at the extreme end of the spectrum. I think a realistic amount could be anything up to $5000, but it really depends on the size of the house. Ultimately though, you shouldn’t be spending nothing.”

Tyge Dellar says for up to $7000 you can repaint your kitchen, your bathroom, update your taps and bathroom fixtures.

“Every kitchen and bathroom is quite different though. It’s really as much as you want to spend, or as little as you want to spend. You can buy a tap for $300, or you can find one for $30, they’re going to give you a similar result at the end of the day.”

“I think the key right now is that you don’t want to overspend. I definitely think in this market that you really want to stick to a budget when it comes to getting your house ready.”

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO SAVE?

Dellar says there are some great ways to save on cash including repurposing certain items.

“I’ve seen a lot of really interesting ideas when it comes to lighting pendants. People will go and find something at an op shop, put a chain on it and give it a really unique style for a room.”

“You can also take some timber and refurbish it for a nice shelf or something similar.”

The key thing is also being able to tap into a bit of DIY.

“You’re really going to save if you do it yourself. Also jumping onto places like Trade Me or Facebook marketplace to find good deals on materials, or even looking in your own shed to see what you’ve already got that you can maybe use.”

Jen Jones says there's also a cost effective way to spruce up your property without even needing to pick up a hammer or a paintbrush.

“Decluttering is a massive thing, and it doesn’t necessarily cost anything, or it’s pretty cheap. You might pay $100 - $200 for a storage locker for a couple of months.”

“Clearing out a lot of stuff from your home can give the illusion of space, and I think it’s easy for people to visualise living in a home if they can see space and picture their furniture in place of yours.”

Jones says it pays to be considered when it comes to staging too.

“Full staging isn’t the most cost effective solution. If you’ve got a particularly dated dining table you could just swap that out, or add an occasional chair to a room. Partial home staging can save you a lot of money.”

“Basic things like plants and artwork can add a bit more personality to the space, and make it feel a little more homely.”

AI can also be used to stage a home, but Jones says that only really works if you’re focussing on an online listing.

“It's great for digital marketing. But until people start introducing VR goggles at open homes, it doesn't necessarily help when you're in this space.”

“It could be used to show different applications of a space like the third bedroom as an office or a games room to attract a broader audience or demographic by showing different ways that spaces can be used."

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