Think of it as the top commandment when putting your home on the market: Thou shall improve your bathroom and kitchen to get the best price. So how does a homeowner maximize the value of these two most important rooms? We asked a local builder and a local real estate broker to share their tips for low to high-end upgrades.
Bettering the bathroom
Not every homeowner has pockets deep enough to replace appliances and purchase granite countertops. To make the most of a modest budget while trying to sell a home, try these simple ideas:
Shop big box home stores for do-it-yourself projects like faux countertops and flooring.
Liven up the bath with new towel racks, faucets, hardware, soap dish and wastebasket.
If mirrors are scratched, spend the money to replace them.
If the stove is old, make it look clean by replacing the burners.
Deep clean all wooden cabinetry. "Get something called CSP cleaning solution," recommends Robert J. Thomas, owner of More & More Construction in Shady Cove. "Mixing that like they call for on the box, you can actually wipe the grease off cabinets, then polish them and wax them."
Change hinges and handles for a fresh, new look; many stores sell these parts for about two dollars each.
If light fixtures are cracked, yellowed or outdated, invest in low-cost, nice-looking replacements. "You can find them for $10 each, but make sure the power is off when you change the fixture," says Thomas. New plates around light switches and outlets can boost a room's appearance with minimal cost.
A coat of paint on the walls will also help. "If you do a bright off-white, not too yellow, it really lightens things up," Thomas says.
And no homeowner should underestimate the importance of elbow grease. Bathrooms and kitchens that are spotlessly clean, meticulously maintained and that display very, very few personal effects always move homes faster.
Switch out the surfaces. Whether you resurface just the floor, just the countertops or both, choosing a good-quality porcelain or vinyl tile will immediately spruce up the bathroom. New surfaces not only improve the room's appearance, it helps combat buyers' fears of water damage.
"This is the first thing that will bring up the price," says Robert J. Thomas, owner of More & More Construction in Shady Cove. "Some people tile six or eight inches up the wall from the floor, which keeps the water contained in the bathroom so you don't have dry rot."
Dry rot can become one of the greatest problems in an old home's bathrooms, especially if the tub features a surround that is in three or four pieces, allowing water to escape into cracks and wreak its own wet havoc on flooring and walls. If this is an issue, consider removing the older bathtub and upgrading to a shower stall or a solid surround tub and shower.
Although any tub replacement will be costly, tile, granite and marble will take a bigger chunk out of an improvement budget than would a solid fiberglass shower surround, counsels Thomas.
Regardless of the tub's pedigree, make sure the grout is in good shape, says Sheila Ross, broker/partner of Rogue Valley Realty Group in Medford. "That causes leaks and people get concerned about that."
Also consider replacing the toilet. "You can buy a new toilet and all the trimmings for $100, which is a really smart upgrade anyway because the newer models save water," Thomas says.
Vanities, too, can be affordably purchased at local discount home stores or watch for sales. Look for brochures and local classes that explain how to install these appliances.
To add high-end cachet to a top-shelf home, place a vessel sink on a new vanity. "They are very pretty and are catching the eye of buyers," Ross advises.
Kick up the kitchen
"People now are paying a premium price for homes and they like to see what they're getting for that, so high-quality, custom touches are wise additions," says Ross.
The trick in any room, but especially the kitchen, is to keep colors and styles simple and neutral, she says. "People know they can change little things to make the home their own as long as the nice touches are there."
Replacing an old floor with genuine hardwood, tile or stone is the first order of business when working to create a price surge.
"This will gain you three times the value," says Thomas. "When you change the flooring in a kitchen, you're going to spend $10,000, but it will probably bring up the value $50,000."
The upgrade is cosmetic but durable, Thomas points out, and buyers recognize that unless they drop something heavy on the floor, they'll likely never need to replace it. "But if you do vinyl or carpet you're always going to have wear," says the builder, who suggests choosing a neutral light beige or light gray tile or a mixed, black and white marble look. A less expensive upgrade might be a top-of-the-line laminate.
Cherry or cherry-look wooden cabinetry and granite or faux granite countertops are also guaranteed to boost a home's price, Ross says. "And stainless appliances are huge ... they have a faux stainless surface now that doesn't seem to leave fingerprints."
Trading out a porcelain sink for stainless steel will also add dollar signs to the asking price ... remember to upgrade the faucet at the same time. If the dishwasher is visibly outdated, that should also be replaced. Finally, consider installing a microwave and exhaust fan over the stove.
"That one only costs a couple of hundred dollars and really upgrades the kitchen," says Thomas. "Replacing any of these things is truly not that expensive compared to what you're going to gain in value."
Keeping upgrades simple, neutral and tasteful while trying to appeal to the buyer will help any homeowner realize their investment in a larger sale price.