Renovating for fun and profit
on that typical experience, Berges formulated the following guidelines:
- Spend money on what can be seen vs. what can't be seen;
Fix up the exterior first, then the interior;
- Focus first
on what Berges calls the "Yikes!" appeal -- clutter, trash and bad smells
that drive down a home's value.
adds value," Berges says. "The improvements that are most visible are
the things you need to focus on."
you see is what pays off
This means that, if you have $10,000
to spend, and you can either spend it all on a new roof or all on repairing a
cracked foundation (but you can't do both), you should replace the roof because
it can be seen. Whatever your budget, put a higher priority on improvements that
can be easily seen, because those give you the best bang for the buck.
"People expect the foundation, plumbing and wiring to
work," Berges says. "If they don't, they detract from value. But fixing
them to bring them up to code doesn't necessarily add value."
Because an unkempt yard and ugly exterior can cause prospective buyers to drive
away without going inside the house, you should work on those first. Clear up
clutter. If you want to, hire day laborers to remove that old engine block in
the driveway and reattach that rain gutter that fell two years ago and has been
lying by the side of the house ever since. Then concentrate on landscaping. Prune
hedges, trees and shrubs, especially if they obscure the front of the house. Paint.
If the roof is dirty, hire someone to power wash it.
the curb, "the roof takes up 30 percent of what you see," Berges says.
"If you have a nice-looking roof, that goes a long way in curb appeal for
Cut clutter, clean
Maybe you notice that Berges isn't recommending that you break the bank --
just that you spend a little time and money to make the place look better. You
should do the same inside the house -- reduce clutter and clean everything. If
you own a pet, invite a non-pet owner inside the house to sniff around. You might
be inured to the smell of your Weimaraner's urine, but the stench could make a
When Berges buys a house that he intends to fix
up quickly and sell, he almost always has the interior repainted wall-to-wall
and has the carpets and vinyl flooring replaced. Once, when he and his wife sold
their own home, they didn't replace the carpets and they regretted it.
"We thought that by offering a flooring
allowance, a family could move in and select their own flooring," he writes.
But he discovered that buyers don't want to select their own flooring. He already
had bought a house and didn't want to be stuck with two mortgage payments, so
he unloaded the old house quickly, for $10,000 less than he thought it was worth.
Deal with the hassle, keep the
"For half that amount, we could have replaced all
of the flooring and sold the house for its market value," he ruefully writes.
"People don't want to fool around with painting and replacing carpet and
fixing the house up. In the world of fast food and instant gratification, people
just want to buy a house and move in."
is geared toward middle-class homeowners. On the upper end, buyers expect well-kept
yards and painted walls, of course, but they often yearn for amenities that middle-class
people might not expect. For example, one of the hot trends in the Hamptons on
Long Island, says architect Marcia Previti of Gillis Previti Architects, is for
two dishwashers in the kitchen. "You might reserve one for glassware and
one for pots and big dishes," she says.
Adding a second
dishwasher might be a sound investment in the Hamptons or in Beverly Hills, but
it would be a waste of money in Toledo or Peoria. Berges's final piece of advice
is to keep up with the Joneses, but "you don't want to overimprove."
Berges lives in a neighborhood of concrete driveways. A neighbor recently spent
$28,000 replacing a concrete driveway with brick pavers. In a high-end neighborhood,
that would be a cost-effective use of money, but Berges' neighbor won't come close
to recouping the cost of installing the beautiful driveway.
When you're trying to decide how to spend remodeling money, Berges recommends
seeking the advice of an experienced real estate agent who is familiar with your
neighborhood. A licensed appraiser should be able to provide guidance, too.