Should You Spruce Up Your Unit Before Selling It? Does a Renovation Help Boost Your Asking Price?

When it comes to an upgrade, it depends on the seller, the buyer and the apartment (iStock).

Picture this: You’ve lived in your apartment for 15 years and now you’re ready to move.  You love the kitchen you put in when you moved in,  but now it’s a little tired.  

So what do you do?  Do you spend the money to renovate and offer your apartment with a spanking new, ready–to-use kitchen. Or do you mark down the price a little and let the buyer install their own dream kitchen?

Upgrade or Not?

It depends on the seller, the buyer and the apartment.  Dorothy Somekh, an associate broker with Halstead Property, a major New York City home broker, says, “Anything that’s old, sellers always seem to renovate to try to get a higher price.  It didn’t used to be that way.  People used to sell “as-is” [and] buyers liked to do their own renovations. But now sellers feel they will get a higher price if they renovate.”

But will they?  The Today show posted an online article on this subject and found that, “while kitchens and bathrooms can increase the value of a home, you won’t get a large return on investment if you do a major renovation just before selling.  Minor renovations, on the other hand, may help you sell your home for a higher price. New countertops or new appliances may be just the kind of bait you need to reel in a buyer.”

Somehk confirms these assertions made by Today.  “I think you would get about the same amount, or a little more,” she says.  “I don’t know if you would get much more because some buyers like to do their own renovations.  But, sellers feel they will get more and that’s why they do it.  They usually will get back at least what they put in.”  

She also cautions that in New York City, “a lot depends on price range.  There is no single standard.”  Wealthier buyers, she explains, are more likely to make changes to their own taste as they can afford it.  

Another Alternative

Another possibility is what’s known as staging, which is strictly sprucing up, according to Somekh.  It involves the furniture and making a place look better.  Staging might involve removing or replacing various pieces of furniture or other accents to make a unit more attractive to buyers.  It is also used with vacant apartments.  Say, for instance, the sellers have already moved out and taken their furnishings with them.  Brokers will recommend that the seller bring in some rented furniture to liven up the place.  “It’s always easier to sell a place with furniture,” says Somekh.

A seller must weigh the pros and cons and the cost involved with each option.  While brokers will often encourage sellers to optimize their situation to command the highest price, and that might involve some renovation, upgrading, and/or staging, ultimately says Somekh, “I don’t think that someone would live in an apartment that’s old and then replace the kitchen or bath just to get a higher price.  I think they would have done it for themselves, for their own enjoyment, and then perhaps sell it later.”  

In the end, the choice is the seller’s.  One can sell ‘as-is’, spruce-up, or renovate.  As Somekh says, “there is no single standard.”  

So seller, beware!  Do your due diligence, and don’t spend more than you will get back for the effort you’ve made.

A.J. Sidransky is a novelist and a staff writer for The Cooperator.

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