When an ‘improvement’ does not add to the home’s appeal
When it comes to home renovations a widely held assumption is that any improvement or alteration to a property immediately adds significant value to the potential selling price.
As with most assumptions, this one needs to be looked at more carefully before a definitive conclusion can be reached.
The first thing is to not confuse regular maintenance with renovations. Maintenance is a crucial part of both looking after a property and ensuring it retains a market-related value.
Renovations typically refer to the improving or expanding the structure of the property, or overhauling the fittings to something in a better, more modern condition. While improvements are generally positive, be careful to not over-capitalise by spending more than you can realistically expect to make back, should you choose to sell,” says Steven van Rooyen, principal at Leapfrog Milnerton, noting that it’s useful to study the renovations and improvements him and his team believe add value to a property.
Both kitchens and bathrooms are popular candidates for makeovers. Both spaces are high-use areas that tend to suffer wear and tear more than other rooms, and they are also more susceptible to dirt and grime.
In many contemporary homes, particularly open-plan houses, the kitchen is a focal point and a popular gathering place. Updating the kitchen goes a long way in making a home more inviting and comfortable.
“One seldom goes wrong with a kitchen renovation. Kitchens tend to simply have their lifetime (about 15 years, give or take), after which renovations almost become crucial,” van Rooyen says. Bear in mind, though, that renovations don’t necessarily mean demolishing everything and starting over again. “Things like new countertops, sanitary fittings and cabinetry handles can go a long way in modernising the kitchen.”
Where the kitchen is a focal point, the bathroom is the most personal space, but is as impactful in impressing a potential buyer.
“Bathroom renovations that improve on an impractical or outdated design are almost always a great idea,” van Rooyen says, adding that many a promising sale has gone awry thanks to the negative impression an old, grimy bathroom leaves.
Nobody says no thank you, or “what a waste of money” to a garage, van Rooyen believes. Whether it’s building a garage because one didn’t exist or extending and/or enlarging an existing one, this is the kind of thing that always attracts and impresses potential buyers. A cleverly designed garage is also a great way to add storage space to a property.
A garage is one storage space solution, but other space-creating interventions like a pantry, scullery, laundry room or walk-in cupboards are also great value-adds to a property.
“Be practical about these additions though,” cautions Van Rooyen. “Adding a pantry and a large walk-in cupboard to a one-bedroom townhouse probably won’t add much attraction to the kind of property that typically attracts single people or first-time buyers who probably don’t need the extra space.”
A large family home, on the other hand, always benefits from extra space.
Safety features prominently on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which explains why properties with security gates and burglar bars perform better on the market than those without.
“We all want to feel safe at home, and gates, fences and window bars help with that, which makes a property that already has it so much more appealing,” van Rooyen notes. In many cases your insurance company will require you to have the necessary security features and devices. When installing be sure to choose something unobtrusive – nobody wants to live in a jail.
Wood is a great way to add warmth and texture to a space, but wooden window frames don’t quite elicit that warm, fuzzy feeling in buyers, because of the maintenance they demand.
“For wooden window frames to maintain their look, they need to be cared for properly, which is both expensive and labour-intensive,” van Rooyen says.
Swimming pools, once the hallmark of a covetable property, seems to be losing ground in the home appeal category, thanks to the maintenance they require, as well as the water shortages and related restrictions prevalent in parts of the country. “It’s an expensive addition to a property so unless you know you’re really going to use it, think twice as it tends to quickly becomes a money-guzzling pit,” van Rooyen says.
At the end of the day you’re generally better off focusing on transforming key areas, like the kitchen and bathroom, rather than breaking and remaking the whole structure. It’s also a good idea to check the prices of other properties in the area and to compare your planned renovations with what homes of a similar size and value in your area are doing. This is also something a trusted property advisor can advise you on.
“The very best you can do is to not neglect regular maintenance and to opt for quality products in a classic aesthetic as a means to ensure longevity as much as possible,” van Rooyen advises.