Over the years there have been many, many, some may even argue too many, TV shows centered around the buying and selling of properties, mainly with a focus of how to make money from refurbishing or “doing it up”. This has led to us increasingly being asked to give potential seller pointers as to what can be done to maximize the home’s value.
So can you really add value by sprucing up? Or are you throwing away your money? And how far should you go?
Over our years of experience in the property market we have seen numerous owners throw money away on their home with extensive, expensive kitchen refits, bathroom changes and even, in some cases, extending, only to find that the buyer wants to change or remodel all their hard work to put their own inevitable stamp on the home. Anyone who has dealt with me directly will know that one of my favourite anecdotes, to illustrate this point, is the story of the owner who spent £35,000 on his kitchen only to drive past and see it in a skip only a few short months later when he decided to drive past his home to reminisce. I can’t even begin to imagine what went through his head when he first realised how much he had spent on these now shattered granite worktops.
The truth is that every buyer you get through your door will be different than the one before and will have very different ideas about what is stylish, I know from my own experience that I argue with my own significant other about what we should and shouldn’t do so I could never expect every potential buyer to have the same opinion as each other
So does that mean we are saying are we saying don’t decorate? Well, no, not really, but we do advise to proceed with a lot of caution, this can never be a one size fits all scenario and there are a lot of “ifs” and “buts” to consider.
I often look to the property development market. Builders and such that buy properties that are barely suitable mortgage security and then get it refurbished and back on the market as quick as possible. These guys make a living in maximising the value of homes and squeezing ever last inch of capital to then move on to the next one so they surely hold the answers to what you should do to increase the value of your home?
Time is of the essence for these guys, getting the property back on the market as quickly as possible is essential in making sure that the bills don’t mount up and eat into the profit and don’t forget that these guys are doing the work and saving massively on labour costs. But, this isn’t where I think we can learn from the professionals, I believe that lesson is in the content of what they do to the property before selling it on. Keeping it simple and keep it generic.
Firstly, consider how much work do you really want to do and is the spend is really going to add the value you need it to? It’s very easy when you live in a home to become obsessive with a room that, in your eyes, now looks tired but this can easily be that you have just become bored with it. Someone else may love it as if it had just been done by their own fair hands. So ask other people for their genuine feelings, ask them to be impartial and, most importantly, trust their instincts. Bear in mind that when one room is redecorated it can easily make the rest of the home look a little tired, so, you shift the minor issue to the rest of the home and before you know it you have carried out a complete renovation. Which in itself isn’t a problem as long as you get the money back when you sell it.
The opposite is also true. If your home is show home quality throughout but has one room that you never got round to doing, a small corner of the house that is like a time warp to the neighbouring rooms, then finishing it could just give the "wow" factor. You have to consider the type of buyers out there. If you are attracting the buyers that love your modern, clean lines of the rest of the home and the type of people that don’t want to get their hands dirty, could that one room actually scare them off?
Also, ask your agent. I know that many would be sellers think the agent would tell them not to decorate just so they can get your home online asap. But the reality is that the agent wants to help you realise your homes full potential and wants you to recommend him or her so will give you the right advice. Find out his or her experience. Have they sold houses in all types of markets? Have they got years on their side to have seen all the scenarios? Look at the stock they are selling. We have known sellers take the advice of outside “house doctor” type services just to receive the same advice that the agent has been giving them for weeks
Neutral is an overused word in the property market, a word that was introduced by the lifestyle programmes, and a word that can easily be misinterpreted. You have to be careful not to strip the home of its personality completely. If you are going to decorate it doesn’t mean you have to bathe the whole home in a sea of magnolia paint but it does mean keep it low key on the walls, the parts the buyer is actually buying, but maybe add a splash of colour with the soft furnishings and keep it feeling like a home. We hear daily that a home just “feels” right. Keep that feel and let them imagine living there.
So to summarise: