Renovating to Sell – don’t listen to the experts!


When considering selling your property, one of the first questions you’ll ask yourself is (or should be) about how you might best present it to your buyers.

What should you do? How far should you go for the best bang for your buck? From the projects I’ve been involved with, it’s clear to me that making the right changes to your property will make it stand out for the right reasons in the eyes of your potential buyers; and this is the difference between a quick, profitable sale and one that takes months and months and still without a positive result.

I have a fairly controversial opinion on what parts of your property you should spend your money on when renovating to sell. Most renovation ‘gurus’ would say that it’s kitchens and bathrooms that sell homes. However, I disagree. My view is that this is an opinion that has been passed down/across from expert to expert and has not really been questioned enough.

I believe that when you sell, the areas that people emotionally connect with (in order of importance to them) are generally; Exterior front of the house, Kitchen, Interior living spaces, Exterior living spaces (depending on location of the property), Bathrooms and the rest of the house

That isn’t to say that bathrooms (and the rest of the home) don’t get a look in. They would typically get some level of loving, just a little less than other renovation experts might generally advise.

I have proven this theory time and time again.  Think back to when you first saw the place you live in now (whether you own the home or are renting). The first parts of the property you probably saw (other than via photos perhaps) were the front of the house from the street, the living spaces and then the kitchen. These are the ‘first impression spaces’ where you can make people fall in love with your property (or not). As long as the bathrooms are of an acceptable appearance, buyers often will compromise on them in order to buy an otherwise all-boxes-ticked property.

Following are some nifty things you can do to create a property that draws crowds of buyers who are willing to spend well over what you might anticipate. I have covered only Exterior Front (street frontage) and Kitchens for this blog, but with 24 years of interior/exterior design experience and more than 600 clients so far, I have plenty of ideas, tips and tricks for every other space around a house too!

First things first though; Who your target buyers? This is really important to know before you begin your renovation. Are they young families? Are they families with teenagers perhaps? Maybe they’re empty nesters who have children and/or grandchildren visiting. Single mums? Maybe your target market are retirees. You may have one or two primary target markets.

If you need help to find who your target market is, call several real estate agents in your area or look at demographic statistics online. Many agents will say ‘anyone’ is your target market, but a good agent will have a handle on the primary demographic looking to buy properties in your area.

What do these buyers want and need in a house? It could be the little things like great security and a fenced in back yard for kids and pets to play. Maybe it’s a particular type of flooring that is suitable for their family and the climate in your area. Who is going to buy your house and what will they generally want in a home? How many boxes does your house tick now? Can you help them tick any more boxes with some simple, quick and inexpensive alterations?

How a property looks is important, but its just as important to appeal to the practical side of how a buyer is planning to live in the house. Don’t get me wrong; I love, love, love great interior and exterior design, but it is the balance between great looking and practical, use-able spaces that sells.

Exterior Front
Applying a lick of paint is probably the most basic and predictable thing you could do to improve a property. I don’t need to tell you that! However, maybe that means changing the colours entirely or only refreshing an already acceptable, but tired, colour.

I thrive on transforming houses with minor modifications (in this case with paint) and if you head to my Before and Afters page, you’ll see many examples of what my clients have done. You often don’t need to paint the entire exterior of a home, for example. I’ve transformed homes by modifying just the trim colours of the windows, window sills, guttering and fascias. Selection of the right colours (whether just the trims or the entire home) can accentuate and modernise your property in a way you may never have imagined.

Sometimes a major overall is required, but I don’t typically recommend this immediately prior to selling unless you are really confident of the return you’ll get.

Landscaping is another great way to update and modernise a property. This could be by thinning out overgrown trees and bushes or by adding in some new structured plans to give a clean and modern edge to the property.

A new kitchen may be a ‘must have’ in your eyes; but it may not be in reality. Or it may really be a ‘must have’! Regardless; it’s a good idea to work out what your predicted sell price is going to be (vs current value/probable sell price) to ascertain how much you should be allocating to your renovation.

If you can afford a new kitchen and the house needs one, then that’s great. However, if you need to work with what you’ve got, then take heart; I’ve seen many many kitchens transformed for less than a few thousand dollars. When you are selling this is often the angle you need to take. I can’t stand cheap finishes (like DIY resurfacing of bench-tops for example), so my advice is always to do everything well, using good quality finishes. You might need to change fewer things in order to stay within your budget, and this is where the eye of a design professional like Hotspace can really help. Our role often involves identifying the key elements within a space that will benefit most significantly from modification – eliminating the need to rip the entire room to pieces to start from scratch again.

Remember through this process, the difference between renovating to sell (do a little to gain a lot) and renovating your own home (spend a bit more and make it fantastic) are entirely different kettles of fish.

With ‘fresh eyes’ assess your property to ascertain where and what will benefit most from an upgrade.  Do what we do – don’t run with the heard. Research what the qualities are of the properties that sell quickest and for the most money in your suburb.

And of course, head over to our Before and After case studies page for plenty of inspiration from people who have successfully renovated and sold their homes more quickly and for more money than if they’d ‘run with the herd’ themselves.