Renovate your home now and worry about resale later

March 28

We recently purchased a home which is large for our growing family. Although the home is beautiful, the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen are outdated. I really want to update them and have the resources to do so.

Should we wait at least five to 10 years to do the updates (to keep it looking fresh) as we may want to downsize when kids move out in the future or take the risk of updating now but having it look dated 15 to 20 years down the line?

Our first thought is that you should take advantage now of your ability to update the home and enjoy it. You intend to live in the home for quite some time. Why not enjoy the home to the fullest extent and update it? You don’t know what styles will be like in the future, and any updating you make to the home years before you sell may not be to the liking of some of your potential buyers.

Before you go crazy, we recommend that you consider carefully which improvements you want to make and not personalize the home in a way that will diminish its value.

We recently saw a home that was extensively renovated by its owners, but those upgrades were so particular and odd that the home’s interior is worse now than before the owners took over. This particular owner decided to cover an entire bathroom with large mirror, pale pink marble and small white bathroom cabinets. The end result is a bathroom that most people walk into and want to walk out of almost immediately.

They also put in a new kitchen and added a rear entertainment room. But these homeowners decided to move the existing kitchen of the home to a side portion of the home where the kitchen no longer had any logical flow. Even though the kitchen has newer appliances, the kitchen seemed to have been located in leftover space on the first floor of the home. The odd design and layout of the kitchen turns buyers off.

These changes and other odd designs have kept the home unsold for the last several years.

We also know of a homeowner who took a four-bedroom, single-family house and turned it into what is essentially a one-bedroom home with a small maid’s quarters. Whoever buys the property is likely going to have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars de-converting it back to a standard four-bedroom house.

So as you consider your renovations, make sure they’ll still appeal to buyers. A well-designed and decorated home generally will always sell better than other homes. Your goal is to balance resale potential with your own taste. If you do that, you should be able to update your home, enjoy the upgrades and still have a beautiful home down the line to sell when you decide to downsize.

We think it would be a mistake to wait until you are close to moving to renovate the home. You should also know that many home renovations don’t give back to the homeowner the amount of money they put into the home. So if you put $10,000 into upgrading the home, in most cases, you shouldn’t expect to get $10,000 more when you sell. Knowing that, if you spend the $10,000, make sure you enjoy it for many years to come.

Certainly, investors that are buying homes to upgrade will find the right home at the right price and will put in just enough money to allow them to make a profit. But most homeowners shouldn’t expect to get back what they put into their homes. However, what they can get is the full use and enjoyment of an upgraded home.

Ilyce R. Glink ’s latest book is “Buy, Close, Move In! Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate lawyer. If you have questions, you can call Glink’s radio show (800-972-8255) any Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact Glink and Tamkin through the Web site www.thinkglink.com.

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