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Renovations Worth The Bucks

Real estate agents weigh in on which renovation projects sellers can make for the best return

One renovation where homeowners can get a good return is a kitchen remodel, but Realtors caution against over-investing. This updated kitchen in a Crestwood mid-century home features new hardwood floors, neutral colors and stainless steel appliances. photo by Diana Linsley.

March 10, 2017
Savvy homeowners can take on some renovation projects that will bring significant bang for their bucks when they look to sell their home, according to some local real estate agents.

While many people expect to get 50 percent of their renovation investment back, Russ Nolting, chief executive officer with Keller Williams Realty in Kirkwood said that doing an energy project can return nearly 100 percent.

"So adding insulation to your attic, especially important in this area, is a big deal," he said. "Also, any kind of exterior enhancement like siding replacement or new windows or doors or even things like adding stone to the exterior give you a high cost recoupment."

When it comes to kitchen and bathroom remodels, Nolting suggested homeowners stick to the mid-range.

The photo above is before the remodel. photo by Diana Linsley.

"The more high end you go, the less you'll get back as a percentage of what you put in," Nolting said.

Klaus Bank, a broker with RedKey Realty Leaders St Louis (with offices in Frontenac and Chesterfield), said there are many factors to consider in deciding on a home investment that will pay you back.

"You should really seek the counsel of a professional Realtor to help you through the maze," he said.

However, as a general rule, kitchens and bathrooms tend to be areas for the best return, Bank said.

"But, if areas of your house are not functional or require repairs, it's best to spend your money there first," Bank said. "For example, a brand new $30,000 kitchen isn't appealing if the roof leaks or the paint is chipping or the garage door doesn't open and there are cracks in the ceiling, etc.

"The average buyer will not be able to look past these items and appreciate that wonderful kitchen," he said.

For those who have maintained their house and can afford renovations, Bank advises always thinking of resale and what a typical buyer in your price range will expect.

"Visit new construction display homes builders know what buyers want," he said. "Second, do not over-improve your home for the area.

"Spending the money to install a better kitchen than other properties in your area doesn't automatically mean you will recoup that money," Bank said. "Lastly, sometimes we over-improve for the enjoyment of having nice things. If you will enjoy the upgrade, spend the money and enjoy your home."

When putting a home on the market this time of year, one of the most important aspects a homeowner should focus on is the curb appeal, said Kathy Beilein, president of Laura McCarthy Realtors in Clayton.

"Gardens and lawns should be clean, trimmed and fresh," she said. "Everyone knows that kitchens and baths need to look current and inviting; however, two of the least costly improvements are paint or wallpaper in current colors and patterns and decluttering."

She advised that rooms should be edited so that belongings are not distracting which will also make the rooms look more modern.

Laurie Busch, sales associate with Janet McAfee Inc., said that sellers have become very savvy so a "quick fix" doesn't go as far as it once did.

"Buyers are looking for better quality finishes and upgrades, even to the point buyers are looking for name brands for appliances and plumbing finishes," she said.

The homeowner should consider how much he or she has to invest and what the home value can support.

"According to Remodeling magazine, a seller won't recoup as much of their investment with a major bath or kitchen remodel than they would with basic home maintenance such as new siding, if it's needed," Busch said. "Siding replacement recouped 92.8 percent of its cost, according to the study.

"The only home improvement likely to return more at resale was a minor (roughly $15,000) kitchen remodel, which returned 92.9 percent," she added. "Roof and window replacement return 80 percent of your investment when selling."

For the home interior, kitchen and bathrooms lead the pack as being the best investment, Busch said.

"Next to these two, flooring, once underestimated, has become an important investment," Busch said.

"There is a wide selection of flooring choices natural, fabricated, stone, tile and more. But keep continuity of the floor selections, wood still being the preferred choice," Busch said. "Continuity of flooring makes the space seem larger.

"When renovating, think neutral," she said, noting the classic choices of whites, grays and the "greige" for bathrooms and kitchens. "The key to any renovation is to keep in style with the architecture of your home."

Phil Hunt, owner of Berkshire-Hathaway Berkshire Hathaway Advantage Realtors in Webster Groves, noted that each home and location can affect the return on investment for improvements.

"The top two remodel items that prove to sell a home faster and for more money are kitchens and baths, stainless appliances and tile backsplashes, as well as tile or wood floors," he said. "Refinished hardwood floors or new hardwood floors have great appeal. Grey-tone colors are now popular as well."

Outdoor entertainment features are great improvements that tend to sell a home faster and for more money along with exterior lighting packages, Hunt said.

"Custom grilling features and outdoor fireplaces are in great demand," he added. "Landscaping is quite a must in this market, the house has to have "The Look" from the curb."

Today, the open floor plan concept is what most active families demand a large space off the kitchen, Hunt said.

"Another feature that adds some value, although not the same return on investment as above ground improvements, are finished lower levels," Hunt said. "For these to really gain value, they have to have a level of finish above the old school finished basement.

"Lower levels are worth more with a lower level bath and entertainment systems, if allowed by code, as well as extra sleeping areas," he said.

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