The residential housing market is heating up, but before you post that "for sale" sign, consider making upgrades that add style and value to your home. With many buyers seeking wood floors, kitchen upgrades and other add-ons, it's important for homeowners to highlight these features so their property stands out from the competition.
"It all comes down to dollars and sense," says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center (www.hardwoodinfo.com). "In addition to warmth, beauty and durability, hardwood features increase your home's resale value. Even with a modest budget, if you take the time and price your options, updating worn floors, dated cabinetry and lackluster walls will make a significant difference. And it's easier and less expensive than you think."
When it's time to sell, hardwood floors not only add good looks, they increase the value of your home. According to a nationwide survey of real estate agents commissioned by the National Wood Flooring Association in 2012, 99 percent of respondents agreed that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell. In addition, 90 percent said these homes sell for more money.
"Absolutely true," says Bob Strader, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty in Atlanta. "Between two similar properties, buyers will gravitate toward the home with hardwood floors, and that home will sell in half the time."
Debbie Gartner, known as "The Flooring Girl" by customers at her New York-based flooring store, says quality increases value. "Hardwood sells," Gartner says, and homeowners who find a hardwood floor hiding under a carpet are lucky. "Clients are shocked when I tell them it's almost always less expensive to refinish a hardwood floor than it is to recarpet a room."
Floors aren't the only upgrades that can increase the saleability of a home. Strader advises homeowners to upgrade their kitchens before putting their houses on the market because potential buyers perceive kitchen renovations to be expensive and inconvenient. "Homes without updated kitchens will take longer to sell, and will sell for less," he says.
Gerry Henley, president of Kitchen Solvers, a national kitchen and bath remodeling franchise, suggests simple cabinetry updates aren't expensive and generally provide a good return on the investment. And hardwood products offer lots of options.
"Many homeowners overlook the low cost and high impact of refacing their existing kitchen cabinets," he says. "By swapping outdated doors and drawer pulls, a homeowner can get the look of an updated kitchen and save up to 50 percent of the cost of a complete overhaul. Cabinet refacing is a quick-moving project, and the kitchen remains functional throughout installation."
Architectural details — hardwood crown molding, baseboards and other millwork — add depth and character, provide a finished look and change lackluster to beautiful. According to the 2012 study "What Home Buyers Really Want" commissioned by the National Association of Home Builders, crown molding ranks higher than other luxury features such as fireplaces, kitchen seating and window seats.
Strader agrees. "From my experience, millwork adds the 'wow' factor that stays in a buyer's mind, and most sellers are unaware that a custom look can be obtained relatively inexpensively with off-the-shelf molding patterns available at home improvement stores."
The American Hardwood Information Center offers some additional tips to keep costs low. For decorative moldings, consider using a less expensive type of wood such as poplar. Where durability is a must (baseboards, door casings and chair rails), consider a harder wood such as white oak.