Kya deLongchamps argues that improving to sell should be carefully weighed and perfectly executed.
It’s an unsettling question, and one that troubles many house owners. Does an eye-watering spend on improvements guarantee a higher return when selling up?
According to the Property Price Index (cso.ie), prices achieved for all properties nationally rose 2% in the year to August (down 0.3% on July), but achieved 6.1% in the south-east and a decent 3.4% in the south- west (4.4% nationally outside Dublin).
The third quarter House Price Report by Daft.ie, shows a massive 6.1% leap in that quarter for Co Waterford at 6.2%. We still only have some speculative idea of the influence of Brexit on market and stock futures. With interest rates on investment and savings products for private individuals on the floor, there might be a temptation to take a loan or precious nest egg and venture it all back at the house.
We’re certainly not afraid to put money back into our houses and apartments in Cork. With €2,471m spent through the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme between 2013 and the end of 2018, the choice of projects is revealing.
The two-year rake back on 13.5% Vat in a tax credit was deployed as follows: 34% was ventured on extensions (more usable space just makes sense). General repair and renovations accounted for 25%; window replacement was used for 11%; and kitchen replacement 10%. €269.14m was invested directly by house owners in Co Cork, well over 10% of the national spend (figures cif.ie).
That 66% on projects doing up the building rather than simply growing the footprint (rentals were included from 2014) is significant. It’s worth remembering the long-held wisdom to make any home improvements first and foremost to improve the immediate comfort and enjoyment of the home, before banking on an inflated, future capital return.
Unlike the US which operates a multiple-listing system, buyers here don’t approach houses as priced by the square yard. What most of us do expect is attention to detail. A good kitchen and sleek bathroom is standard. A condensing boiler with zone controls, porcelain flooring and en-suites to even secondary bedrooms — are all now regarded as run of the mill.
Tom J Crosse of GVM Auctioneers in Limerick, is unequivocal.
“Agents will normally recommend a sale guide/reserve to vendors based on comparable evidence in the locality. Condition/improvements/ extensions/a good BER/ immediate locality/ amenities — all influence value," he says.
"Orientation is a growing requirement among home buyers seeking a south-west facing rear garden/natural light as seen on RTÉ’s Room to Improve. Dermot Bannon has a lot to answer for! Small improvements can take the BER up one level.
For improvements, large or small, it’s all in the planning. Sit down and work out a budget with a 15% contingency. Engaging a quantity surveyor on a larger project when dealing with elements cemented into place, can give comforting savings on materials and stress; scsi.ie.
Regular updating? It’s simply expected, and the vast majority of house owners appear to be keeping their homes ‘farm fresh’. A recent survey by the Hardware Association of Ireland, revealed that 67% of those questioned were planning renovating or redecorating their houses in the coming year from October of last year.
With a potential spend of €5,000 to €15,000, 61% of people planned to do the work themselves, 81% citing that the work was necessary for refurbishing and updating the house.
There’s a short Formula One track between the sight of a minute damp patch on an otherwise immaculate run of plaster, and the decision in a potential buyer’s head, that this house is horribly neglected. Peel back the boards and dig into the walls — god knows.
A house has materials, mechanics and aesthetic elements that require annual assessment. Where 25% of the house is being improved, or extensions executed — ensure you have a full understanding of the new Part L regulations to planning and energy efficiency demands that came into effect in October.
There is an argument for having a building survey done at your own expense to head off the buyer’s (sale-subject-to) survey. At the very least, take care of visible, general DIY moments — clean the gutters, refresh the paintwork, lag the pipes (the BER assessor will cast a wry eye around your central heating) and replace broken tiles — broken anything.
Wrap up the house and garden over weeks as one project using Vat registered recommended trades as needed. By the time you’ve finished, the dominating thought should be: do we even want to sell this gorgeous house?
Where money is tight and the project pressing look to renovate before replacing fixtures and fittings. Paint is the single cheapest way to ring changes over large square metres of the house. Perfectly prepped and painted pale walls (the newcomers of rain greys are superb) working with neutral, one-colour quality carpeting will appeal to the majority of buyers.
Walls and flooring take up the greatest volume of any designer’s mood-board fora reason. If you can’t handle even water based eggshell over the second-fix wood-work (stairs/doors surrounds/skirting) pay for a professional to take the scratches out of the plaster before they even start.
Perceived space conjured using great décor and clever storage can surprise and inspire. It’s possible to take the groove out of a dated patterned carpet with large rugs so ripping out the 1980’s wool blend is probably not necessary. However, it is difficult to steam new life into a truly exhausted, bald stained, synthetic carpet.
Buyers do clock what’s underfoot. New doors in standard sizes with new soft close mechanisms and fresh worktops to good base and wall cabinetry — a fraction of the cost of ripping out the entire kitchen. A good carpenter will ensure a lean, perfect, level finish.
This is not about you.Bespoke, unusual eccentric houses have a boutique,limited range of buyers. Most houses should be presented to appeal to the widest audience of buyers possible. Playing to its architectural strengths and let the house sell itself to viewers.
A family home should say, cheerily ‘welcome family’ with durable materials, all bedrooms arranged as bedrooms, and a few touching stories of joyous multi-generational life here uploaded to the estate agent. Often the flow of a house, room to room, the position of the suite downstairs or the orientation of the bed can be interrupting really great spaces.
There’s a myopia present when you’ve lived in a place for years, surrounded by the things you love. The art of visualisation is not given to all. Squinting past highly personal ballast and dodgy wallpapers doesn’t come as naturally as some sellers believe. Have your rudest friend or neighbour do a walk through from the front gate to the back bins. Tell them to reach for words like ‘outdated’ and ‘illogical’ and take it on the chin.
Then there’s your stuff — the intimacies. Keep/ dump/ donate — the three box mechanism to order a room is a straightforward way to start looking towards a move and minimise the interrupting visual weight of too many disparate things.
Storage lockers are an excellent option: Ustore IT, Cork, offers two men and removal truck from €50, ustoreit.ie.
Making laser-accurate,strategic decisions when reinvesting serious money in a particular house is key. Clamping a glass aquarium wing or 6KW of photovoltaic panels on a house in an area that has an expected ceiling for a standard semi-D might make you a profiting pioneer.
However, the wait to achieve a groundbreaking number for this location (the one detail on the spec’ we cannot change) could be a long one. Reasonable, expected prices that reflect prices achieved for multiple properties of a similar finish and size in this neighbourhood in the recent past, will according to the agents we have spoken to — elicit reasonably quick sales.
Anyone can check up the Property Price Register,and the online portals of MyHome.ie and Daft.ie are transparent when it comes to lowering of prices in real time by the agent. That sort of public climb down from a miscalculated asking price can be nerve mincing.
Find the right agent for your needs and lean on their experience in balancing price and the speed to sale you are expecting. Communicate to them any anxieties you have regarding the valuation, following with a discussion of potential low to mid-range spends that might be executed to lift that number.
Thanks to designer Celene Collins and Tom J Crosse GVM Auctioneers, Limerick
Cork designer Celene Collins, has wide experience in bringing ordinary and seriously out of date houses to a more eye-catching saleable position. Historically, agents would have sold homes ‘as is’, but the place of the stager in the selling process, has developed along with universal online marketing.
‘If the asking price is right and the seller is happy with it, then the influence that staging a property can have, (initially on- line) is a powerful tool. People who are looking for new homes to downsize to or raise their children in can’t imagine how it is going it to be. They only know what they see. So, it’s important to get their attention from the get go.
‘We are currently relying on agents to advise potential sellers of the power of using home staging. It’s a win-win situation’ Celene argues ‘- for the agent, seller and all concerned. A visit to the property and a walk through costs as little as €200 (ex.VAT).
At the meeting we discuss the rooms and the needs of the property in detail and how to achieve and take care of the repairs/decluttering and how to stage it using their own furniture or furniture rented from us (a minimum of two months).’
Celene is equally emphatic about the importance of price setting, even for staged homes. ‘There is no point in making big investment in the property if you are not going to see it in your asking price. Staging is not a guarantee to a sale. Asking price is crucial.’