We so often focus on all the improvements that add value (think bathroom and kitchen renos), it’s easy to lose sight of the ones that rarely rate with buyers. If you’re renovating to make a profit, however, you don’t have the budget to splurge on updates that won’t give you a guaranteed return.
When in doubt, there’s one guiding rule to keep top of mind – if someone can’t see the improvement, then it’s unlikely to add value. So you really want to be avoiding hidden, expensive works that won’t be apparent come sale day, and keep your focus firmly on the highly visible improvements that count.
The other important thing is to make sure your renovation is in step with what buyers in your suburb are after. And that can differ greatly depending where you live. Providing off-street parking is critical in some suburbs, but a mere luxury in others.
So let’s take a look at some of the things that most typically won’t add value
1. Spending on extravagances that aren’t valued
While gold-plated taps and spa baths might top your own list of must-haves, chances are your average buyer is going to prioritise more practical features like an inviting outdoor area and a modern kitchen. So before you go splurging on things like fancy tapware, lush carpets, designer light fittings, etc, think carefully about the cheaper alternatives that will still look grea but cost a fraction of the price.
2. Spending on expensive remedial works
This is where your due diligence pays off when you’re sizing up a fixer-upper to buy – especially if you’re only planning a quick cosmetic makeover. If you suddenly find the place is eaten out by termites, needs rewiring, restumping, a new roof, is riddled with asbestos… fixing these issues is expensive and you are unlikely to see any return for your efforts as the results are largely hidden.
3. Spending on lavish landscaping
Sure, you can spend up big on fancy paving, tiles, elevated garden beds, planting hundreds of mature plants, putting in a new driveway, etc, but the cost can run into tens of thousands of dollars. Think how far you could stretch that money on dead practical improvements like a new deck or beautiful planted pots? Expensive landscaping is unnecessary. Just aim for “neat and tidy”.
4. Putting in a swimming pool
There are some suburbs where every second house has a pool. If that’s the suburb norm and local agents assure you it’s what buyers expect, then a pool it is. This goes to my earlier point about making sure your improvements are in step with what buyers are after. However, for the most part, pools are seen as just a whole of lot of expensive upkeep.
5. Investing in misguided DIY
Sloppy workmanship can definitely devalue a place, especially when it’s really visible, like a bad paint job, wonky tiling or a poorly installed kitchen. Think twice before trying to save money with a bit of misguided DIY. I always recommend investing your time and energy in project managing your renovation, and letting the pros do their stuff.
When in doubt, there’s one guiding rule to keep top of mind – if someone can’t see the improvement, then it’s unlikely to add value.
So they’re the things that won’t add value. Let’s do a quick recap of the projects that generally always add value.
- Bathroom and kitchen renos are virtually guaranteed to give you a great return. Any more than two bedrooms and buyers these days expect 2 bathrooms (main + ensuite)
- Getting rid of a boxy layout and creating open plan is always a winner.
- Establishing a connection with the outside is really important, whether it’s building a deck, or creating a beautiful courtyard or patio. You want it to feel like an extension of the inside. To keep costs down, you can go for simple French or sliding doors rather than stacking glass doors.
- Creating killer street appeal. It’s those vital first impressions that will lure potential buyers in.
- Using the power of paint. It’s one of the cheapest and most radical differences you can make. It’s what I call “liquid gold” and is the backbone of most cosmetic makeovers. Painting the property throughout is standard, but there’s many, many other applications that will give you amazing results for next to nothing. Rather than putting in a new driveway, for example, you can use paving paint to spruce up an old concrete driveway or paths. It can be tinted to any colour ($100/tin vs several thousand dollars for a new driveway). For an old bathroom, you may get away with painting the tiles, bath, vanity, etc, using White Knight specialty paints.