5 Things You Shouldn’t Renovate Before Selling — Because a Buyer Will Anyway

You want to put your best foot forward when you’re getting ready to list your house. A fresh coat of paint, shiny new appliances, spa-like bathrooms — the list of home staging renovations goes on and on. It’s tempting to want to try every one in the hopes of driving the list price up. But there’s a ceiling on pre-listing renovation ROI. And not everything is going to pay off on closing day, especially if the potential buyer is eyeing your lovingly updated home as a design issue that needs to be fixed.

Four real estate agents shared the changes they advise you to skip — and how they’d update to demonstrate potential, not show off design prowess, to get the most out of your listing.

Polish — Don’t Replace — the Flooring

“Have your hardwood floors shined and polished before the first open house or staging,” suggests Theresa Raymond, principal broker and owner with Tennessee Smoky Mountain Realty.

Don’t go the extra mile of pulling up perfectly good flooring just to mimic what you’ve seen on Insta-worthy open houses. “Your next owner may just tear it up and set something trendy like vinyl flooring or decorative flooring instead of hardwood,” says Raymond.

Present the Kitchen With Potential, But Don’t Redo It

If you have a kitchen that hasn’t been touched since 1940, you may need to make some updates. But if you’re looking at a kitchen that’s dated but functional, just make sure it’s clean and clutter-free. Raymond explains, “Eight out of 10 buyers prefer customizing their kitchen. No matter how you stage it or make a renovation, current homebuyers will prefer to arrange the kitchen room in their way.” She suggests presenting it as a space with potential that could be easily customized to the buyer’s preferences, rather than throwing a dart at the wall with a total redo.

Don’t Knock Down Walls Just Yet

It’s easier to take walls out than add walls back in. Let the buyer envision how they might open the space up without doing it for them. “Buyers prefer more of a customizable space or room,” says Martin Carreon, broker and owner with Soco Wine Country Properties. You can’t anticipate whether a buyer will want to carve out a home office or create a separate dining area, so let them put their own stamp on it.

Leave the Kitchen Cabinets As Is

Painting kitchen cabinets can cost a pretty penny, and it’s at the top of the list for many buyers as soon as they get into their new home. But that doesn’t mean you should spend your own money painting them before you list. 

Kurtis Forster, a real estate agent with Nu-Vista Premiere Realty, explains, “People are painting cabinets red, blue, green, and more. I like this trend, but everyone has a different style so doing this right before selling isn’t always the best idea.”

You may think that new sage green is going to grab a buyer’s attention when they’re scrolling through Zillow, but they may see it as another $5,000 they’re going to have to spend painting them blue, or white, or whatever their heart desires. Leave them as is and you’ll spare the cabinets another layer of paint.

A Fresh Coat of Paint Is All You Need

“If you want to give the interior of your home a fresh coat of paint before selling, I’d recommend keeping things neutral,” Foster says. You don’t want to spend significant money on bold paint choices that you think look great… right before you sell (so you won’t even get to enjoy it!). A buyer may look at it and see it as another renovation they need to make, whereas a neutral is an expected blank canvas.

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