Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have questions on real estate investing, DIY, home buying/selling, or other housing inquiries email your questions to [email protected].
Q1. Caroline from Huntsville, AL writes. Hi Brian. My husband and I have been considering upgrading our home for the last year, now that the kids are out of the house, do you have any ideas as to where we should start, he suggests upgrading the bathrooms but I think we should start with the kitchen, what are your thoughts?
A1. Hello Caroline. You have a great question that many other readers probably have on their minds as well. The short answer is the kitchen comes first because when and if you sell your home a kitchen remodel is likely to increase the value the most. However, the right answer is that it depends (not a short answer). The best answer begins by understanding if you plan living in the home for several more years or are considering selling. Also consider other uses for your money for basic functions such as a new roof, new furnace, or new windows. If the basic structure of your home needs attention your money is better spent on these regardless if you plan to sell or stay.
If you’re staying in your home, your return on investment becomes your personal pleasure and comfort in the home rather than a ROI for cash. Caroline, you and your husband will need to come to some agreements here. You can choose the colors, fixtures, and appliances based on your own preferences, pleasure, and comfort. The kids being gone opens up even more options. You have fewer people living in the home, which means less wear and tear. You won’t have teenagers and their friends raiding the refrigerator or primping in the bathroom. You may want to make choices based more on style than durability. If you’re planning to stay in the home for another 4 or 5 years, decide between the kitchen or bathrooms, as well as the specific upgrades, based on your personal choices. If you have the funds, maybe upgrade the kitchen and master bath but leave other bathrooms for another time.
If you’re planning to sell, you want the remodel to add value and be attractive to as many potential buyers as possible. Assuming the materials, fixtures, and appliances are from the same era in both the kitchen and bathroom, you want to remodel the kitchen first based on the historic return on investment. Again, make sure the roof, furnace, and other basics are in good working order before choosing cosmetic upgrades. Cosmetic upgrades for resale are mostly dependent on the norm for the neighborhood. You’ll waste your money by installing tile floors in the bathroom and granite kitchen counters if most homes in the neighborhood have vinyl and linoleum. The only reason to go with high-end upgrades would be if you want your house to stand out in the neighborhood but it will be at a financial cost to you. The other thing you need to do for resale is go with neutral colors. Resale is not a time to go with your personal preferences.
A hybrid approach is remodeling for your own pleasure with an eye towards selling the home in a year or two. This is often the best approach from a purely financial viewpoint. Seldom does a remodel recover all of the cost. A major kitchen remodel ($20,000) typically returns between 85% and 95% of what you spend. A bathroom remodel ($15,000) returns 80% on average. By using the hybrid approach you enjoy the remodel yourself for a couple of years before selling at a price that recovers most of what you spent.
Q 2. TBD.
Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have questions on real estate investing, DIY, home buying/selling, and other housing inquiries email your questions to [email protected]. We welcome your comments and suggestions.