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Massive renovations don’t always deliver the best return on investment when you’re selling your home, so if you’re borrowing money to make home improvements, consider those relatively inexpensive aesthetic changes that can substantially increase its appeal.
“Most property experts agree that first impressions really count and a house that looks clean, cared for and is well maintained will sell for more than an equivalent property that isn’t,” says DirectAxis marketing head, Marlies Kappers.
Kitchens feature near the top of most industry insiders’ lists. Most people still consider the kitchen the heart of the home and it’s often the first space potential buyers look at. Simple upgrades such as adding new door handles, replacing old light fittings with modern, brighter lights, fitting or refacing cupboard doors or installing modern taps can help transform a kitchen.
Bathrooms are also a priority feature, but to keep costs down avoid changes that involve reconfiguring the plumbing. Again, replacing taps or lighting can make a big difference. You may consider upgrading old, chipped or damaged baths and sinks, regrouting tiles and replacing old-fashioned built-in cupboards and other fixtures with modern, freestanding units.
When making improvements use off-the-shelf products. Customised features are expensive and often require specialist installation.
The same keep-it-simple philosophy applies to colour and design choices. Most surfaces look better after a coat of white paint. Neutral colours and a simple, elegant style are most appealing to prospective buyers, who are able to imagine what they would do with the space.
Also try to use everyday materials in creative ways. For example multiple coats of high-gloss paint will make standard wooden doors gleam. An affordable piece of zinc or Perspex can make a perfect kitchen splashback.
“The secret in getting the best value for the money you spend is to upgrade, not overhaul,” says Marlies.
The same applies to floors and other surfaces: Repaint or refresh rather than replace. Ripping up old floors or re-carpeting is expensive. Varnishing or polishing wooden floors and getting carpets professionally cleaned can make all the difference at a fraction of the cost.
“It’s worth checking what’s under a tatty carpet,” says Marlies. “I know of someone who lifted a stained, threadbare carpet to find that it had been laid over a beautiful, original parquet floor.”
If you are laying a new floor, consider concrete. Polished concrete floors can look fantastic and are much cheaper and easier to maintain than wood.
Lindsay Beck, Southern Suburbs Branch manager for Pam Golding Properties, says curb appeal is important.
“If the exterior looks good, the garden is well-cared for and the lawn mowed, the approach is swept, weed-free and clear of overhanging branches and the front door freshly painted with a bright new knocker it will certainly add to the property’s attractiveness.
“On the subject of gardens, landscape wisely. Plants can hide a multitude of sins. Again, avoid major earthworks. Use woodchips to cover sparse borders and position shrubs and flowers to enliven views from the windows.
“Homes in a neighbourhood tend to vary by as much as 10% from house to house if all other things are equal, so some simple improvements could make a big difference in how quickly your house sells and what you get for it,” says Pam Golding’s Beck.