UrbanTurf Reader Asks: What Home Renovations Increase Resale Value?

by UrbanTurf Staff


In this installment of UrbanTurf Reader Asks, a reader who eventually wants to put his four-bedroom home in Capitol Hill on the market wonders what parts of the house should be renovated in order to enhance the resale value.

I own a four-bedroom row house in Capitol Hill and my wife and I are considering renovating it with the idea that we will put it up for sale in the coming 12-18 months. Neighbors and friends have said that upgrading the kitchen and bathrooms (which need it) should be at the top of the list, but are there other areas to focus on? The basement is not “finished” in the real estate sense of the word, so that is a possibility. We bought the property in 1993, and have not upgraded it since. To the UrbanTurf audience, what areas of the house should we concentrate on to ensure the highest return when we put it on the market?

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This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/urbanturf_reader_asks_what_home_renovations_increase_resale_value1/4223


  1. beth said at 10:54 am on Monday September 26, 2011:

    Definitely bathrooms and kitchen, but also painting and other small touch-ups can make a difference.

  1. Thomas said at 11:06 am on Monday September 26, 2011:

    Given the market on the hill, you could not do anything and make a very good profit. But I agree with Beth on the kitchen and bathrooms.

  1. lauren said at 11:23 am on Monday September 26, 2011:

    Renovations increase value, yes, but I’ve always heard that it’s usually not as much as the cost of the renovation. Ie spend $50,000 for a new kitchen, house sells for $30,000 more than it would have otherwise. Not a great return on investment. If you’re selling 1-2 years, I wouldn’t bother doing anything major.

  1. beth said at 12:09 pm on Monday September 26, 2011:

    @ lauren,

    do new kitchens cost $50,000? if so, I need to start saving!!

  1. Nikki said at 1:03 pm on Monday September 26, 2011:

    I agree with the statement about kitchens and bathrooms with one caveat…don’t be too taste specific. If you know you’re going to sell go with something classic. Otherwise you may have some difficulty (or you spend a bunch of money and then the buyer rips out what you’ve just completed). It may be worth a discussion with an experienced agent in your area to discuss value before and after a renovation. The Hill is so popular that you may want to save yourself the trouble of living through the renovation!

  1. Janson said at 1:12 pm on Monday September 26, 2011:

    Consumer Reports has written that very few renovations provide a positive return on investment. Consider also that a renovated kitchen should probably cost between 15 and 20% of your home’s value (according to what looked like a reliable white paper by viola park). That’s a lot of risk to be taking on - will the design you choose be the one the market is looking for in the month you sell?

    Personally, I would repair anything broken, professionally paint everything white, get a few thousand dollars worth of landscaping, pay for great staging, and great photography. Your returns on each of those will definitely be greater than 1. With all the risks, from taste to competence, that come with renovations, I would do as few as possible.

  1. Hill resident said at 2:25 pm on Monday September 26, 2011:

    I live on the Hill and am getting bids on my rowhouse kitchen renovation right now.  I don’t know what your square footage is (for my kitchen we only have about 600sf to work with), but for a complete rehab (all new counters, cabinets, appliances, plumbing and electrical reroute, and drywall repair/painting)- we are looking at $40K, probably more.
    Why risk not being able to get that back AND having to live without a kitchen for several months if you are just going to move one year later?  You should renovate because YOU want to enjoy the results!  Just put it on the market now- the Hill is hot!

  1. whoa_now said at 3:27 pm on Monday September 26, 2011:

    What everyone above said..with the exception of the basement. If you can put 10-25K into the basement and make it a legal separate unit for rent. Then do it. Don’t worry about the kitchen or the baths if you’re moving in a year. But making it that the new owner would have income coming from the basement, will raise your home value.

  1. SWDC said at 3:57 pm on Monday September 26, 2011:

    Capitol Hill parking is difficult. If possible create off street parking (even better a garage with a loft and/or living/storage space)and a Washington DC “legal to rent” basement rather than spending monies renovating a kitchen and bathrooms you have no intention of spending any time in.

  1. JT said at 4:13 pm on Monday September 26, 2011:

    Definitely talk to a real estate agent to get a sense of what you expect to sell your house for and what various improvements would do to marginally increase value. A lot of people over improve or make it taste specific then wonder why they can’t get all their money back.  And, don’t paint your home entirely white, just use attractive colors - nothing too loud and taste specific.

  1. DV said at 9:40 am on Tuesday September 27, 2011:
  1. Mary said at 1:30 pm on Tuesday September 27, 2011:

    There may be a middle ground, here. Retiling and putting all new fixtures in a bathroom’s expensive, sure. But, regrouting existing tile is a pretty easy weekend DIY job and that, plus a new vanity and tub fixtures might get you most of where you need to be for a lot less. Ditto in the kitchen.

  1. Reader said at 1:55 pm on Tuesday September 27, 2011:

    Thank you for all this informative feedback! It has given me a lot to think about.

  1. LP said at 2:19 pm on Tuesday September 27, 2011:

    It depends on how outdated your kitchens/bathrooms are.  Older hill houses that haven’t been updated in 20+ years (and maybe longer in your case?) are going to be on the low end of the price spectrum and less appealing as most homebuyers don’t like doing renovation.  It may also make the house show poorly.  Retiling and putting new fixtures in a functioning bathroom is NOT necessarily expensive as there are lots of great options that are cheap (think basic white subway or hex tile) - if its just a facelift, it could add tons of value to your house if done well.  You can retile a bathtub surround and paint the walls in a weekend.
    Unless the basement can be turned into a legal rental unit, don’t waste money on it.  That can be a huge money suck.  I also agree on not going with all white walls - neutral, pale colors are best.

    It also depends on how much work you want to do and how much cash you want to get out of your house.  Definitely call a few realtors to get their opinion of how much your house would sell for now vs. after some minor upgrades.

    Good luck!

  1. mona said at 7:41 am on Thursday September 29, 2011:

    I agree about the legal rental but if you don’t have a front and back entrance and at least 7’2” of ceiling ht and windows that are 44” off the floor and big enough to climb out of in each bedroom in the basement, don’t waste your time. These are the big things that have to be there for a legal rental and they can also be the biggest cost if you don’t have them in the first place

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