Q: I have owned my three-bedroom home for about 15 years. Over that period the house has substantially increased in value, but it’s nevertheless starting to show its age. Contractors have given me estimates ranging from $45,000 to remodel the kitchen all the way up to $250,000 to renovate my entire home. I have no immediate plans to move, so should I be concerned about how the improvements may affect resale value? If I stay in the house for another decade, will the updates even be considered improvements anymore? And which improvements have the biggest impact on property value?
A: As someone who bought a home that needed to be completely remodeled, I definitely understand the work and costs involved. I also understand your reluctance to spend a lot on improvements that, yes, may be outdated by the time you do want to sell. However, if you walk into your bathroom every morning and grimace at the green paisley wallpaper, go ahead and change it. Though your home is an investment, it’s also your sanctuary, and few buyers would fault you for ushering your living space into the 21st century.
Given that you have no specific plans to sell, any improvements you undertake should be for you. But remember that your tastes may change just as readily as those of future homebuyers. There’s a reason that classic finishes like subway tiles and hardwood floors are indeed classic: they’ve been stylish for decades and are likely to remain so for decades more. Let your personal flair come through in elements like light fixtures and paint colour, which can be easily swapped in favour of more neutral styles whenever you do put your home on the market.
Naturally, modest updates are more affordable than whole-room or whole-home renovations. While kitchen and bathroom upgrades generally add the most value to a home, they are also areas where an owner can get carried away and costs can spiral out of control. The law of diminishing returns applies here: You may appreciate ultra-high-end everything, but when it comes time to sell, you won’t likely recoup the full cost of that electronic toilet or Sub-Zero fridge.