Home RemodelingSARASOTA, Fla. – Dec. 12, 2017 – Home renovations as an investment for a future sale with hopes of recovering the improvement costs are a dicey prospect at best. Real estate agents and remodeling construction specialists caution against that assumption.
“Hardly anything will offer a net profit,” says Barry Grooms, Realtor, broker and co-owner of SaraBay Real Estate with his wife, Sherry. But some improvements “will help sell the property faster and will fetch a higher sales price.”
On the flip side, renovations for personal and lifestyle inclinations or remodeling an older residence after a purchase are commonplace and prudent. The popularity of HGTV’s portfolio of “reno” shows reflects public interest, but solid evidence comes from BuildFax. The data analytics firm has a new report showing residential remodeling outpacing new construction spending.
“Residential remodeling activity has increased by 30 percent since 2010,” BuildFax reported, though that began trending down in the Southeast during the last half of 2016.
Denny Yoder, president of Yoder Homes & Remodeling, is well acquainted with remodeling motivations. “The majority of our clients are improving their homes for personal lifestyle reasons,” he said. “About a third of our clients have just purchased the property or are converting it from a rental to a retirement home.
“While the concern for appropriate investment and not over improving is always important, we advise clients the more years they plan on keeping the property the less important this consideration is.”
While cosmetic and lifestyle enhancements are attractive and advantageous to homeowners, prospective buyers will take a different view should those renovations be unappealing.
The return on investment for an updated kitchen averages about 60 percent, a bathroom remodel around 68 percent and a master suite addition about 53 percent, Grooms said.
Michael Moulton, a broker-associate with Michael Saunders & Company, cites expensive new marble and/or wood floors as iffy. Those are “too much of a gamble that a new owner may want something other than what you install.” Plus, he said, “not all buyers would appreciate” expensive windows such as Pella and Anderson.
Basic infrastructure upgrades could prove valuable, though.
“The best improvements a home seller can make are replacing the roof, HVAC, electrical and plumbing,” Grooms said. “The reason for this is that most home buyers will have a professional inspection and most homes require homeowners insurance, and if the aforementioned items are not in good condition, it may increase carrying costs for the new buyer or an immediate out-of-pocket burden that is too much and break up a deal.”
Moulton emphasizes re-plumbing a house in neighborhoods where that is typically needed and replacing an aging roof.
That falls in line with the “Remodeling 2017 Cost vs. Value Report.” The website – – compares the average cost for 29 popular remodeling projects with the value those upgrades retain at resale in 99 U.S. markets, including the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice region. Nationally, home maintenance projects, such as siding replacement, paid off best.
Curiously, every one of those projects undertaken in Southwest Florida, for example, paid back a higher return on investment than the national average. The highest differential came in at 27 percentage points – a garage door replacement – 104.1 percent here versus 69.3 percent nationwide.
“In general,” the report stated, “the hotter the market, the bigger the payback.”
This is the 30th anniversary of Remodeling Magazine’s first such survey, undertaken with the goal of providing an unbiased, third-party report on how much it costs for a professional to do a typical remodeling project as well as how much a real estate pro believes that project will increase a home’s value if it’s sold within a year of when the work was completed.
The methodology includes such factors as the cost of materials and labor in each market, subcontractor payments, taxes and additional considerations. The study compares the costs for the same hypothetical project in all 99 markets surveyed. Nationally, the 29 projects in this year’s survey paid an average of 64.3 cents on the dollar in resale value. The study broken down into 19 mid-range and 10 upscale projects.
Overall, the report found that newer and older trends continued. Improvements to the outside of a home produce higher returns on investment than interior projects. Curb appeal upgrades sell, be they to doors, windows or siding. Replacing those features proved better than a remodel, real estate pros said.
On the lifestyle front, Yoder cited bathroom remodels as “very common,” with hand-held and multiple shower heads being very popular. “Other popular requests in bathrooms are replacing bathtubs with walk-in showers and stand-alone tubs,” he said.
“Next in popularity are kitchen remodels followed by closet organization,” he added.
In several areas that Remodeling did not address, Grooms did. “Landscaping on average can return up to 150 percent of a return of investment,” he said. “Fencing may return up to 95 percent.”
The fence issue brings up an important matter. “The other area that I have observed that often helps a home sell faster and for more money is homes that are ‘pet friendly’,” Grooms said – which translates into wood, tile or laminate flooring, fenced yard or large yards. “More than 65 percent of homebuyers have pets, so making a home friendlier or decreasing the maintenance may help a buyer choose your home over one that is not!”
In the Sarasota market, Remodeling Magazine, published by Hanley Wood, reported only four projects with positive resale values. The installation of fiberglass attic insulation scored the best, with 124.4 percent rate of return. That is followed by replacing the entry door with a steel one (106.9 percent), installing a new garage door (104.1 percent), replacing the garage door with an upscale model (104 percent) and replacing the siding (100.9 percent).
Of the 2017 national averages, only attic insulation recouped more than the job cost, at 107.7 percent.
In upscale projects in SW Florida, a bathroom remodel (61.8 percent), a bathroom addition (64.1 percent), a master suite expansion (65.9 percent) and a major kitchen remodel (69.1 percent) scored the worst ROI (return on investment).
“Consumers often are surprised to see that some of the most common remodeling projects recoup the least costs,” the report said. The rate on investment for a mid-range bathroom addition scored the worst payback at only a 53.8 percent average across the country. “Not a single kitchen or bath project ranked higher than 17th out of the 29 projects,” Remodeling found.
The magazine’s research put quantitative figures on the value of curb appeal. Exterior projects had an average payback of 74.9 percent nationally, while interior projects returned 63.5 percent, the study said. Almost an identical percentage differential separated replacement and repair costs from remodeling improvement projects.
Plus, kitchen and bath upgrades require more costly skill and labor. “As a general rule,” the study said, “the simpler the job, the cheaper it is and the more likely it will have a high ROI.”
Here in hurricane country, a backup power generator holds a lot of appeal. The addition of that piece of equipment came in dead last among mid-range projects in Sarasota at 66.4 percent.
But the survey’s information was gathered before Irma knocked out electricity to thousands of households in September, and residents scrambled to purchase those units.
“Timing also figures here,” the study stated. Generator popularity surged after Superstorm Sandy struck, soaring some 20 percentage points. ROI has been slipping since then, but Hurricane Irma served as a reminder of the value of that equipment.
The remodeling and replacement industry continues to reach new heights. One only needs to check the large audiences for HGTV’s numerous programs that highlight home overhauls. “Fixer Upper” – HGTV’s highest-rated show ever – has made media darlings and design icons out of Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their Waco retail business has skyrocketed and their 40-acre farm made the Texas city a destination.
This year, with an average of more than 30,000 visitors a week, their Magnolia Market business, complete with grain silos, should draw about 1.6 million people, according to the Waco Convention and Visitors bureau.
Their “blockbuster” series ranked as one of the top two most-watched cable telecasts in Nielsen data that covered their season four finale this past summer. Two of HGTV’s other home renovation series, “Property Brothers” and “Flip or Flop,” have also fueled the network’s rise even as ratings for other cable television companies fell.
One common denominator of these shows is ripping out walls to unite kitchen, dining and living rooms. Moulton supports the open floor plan as a positive on home values.
by Michelle L. Anderson, MBA, REALTOR, RE/MAX Metro
Most of the year, Florida enjoys an active real estate market. Unlike states to the north that are not active in cold winter months, Florida benefits from our fabulous winters and our snowbirds. The short answer to this question is that late winter – early summer are the BEST times to put a house on the market. But the only time I advise sellers to NOT list a house is the 2nd half of December through the first week of January. The reality is that real estate activity slows to a crawl during the holidays. However, at any given time there are lots of people who need to move and homes sell all year long. There are a few things to consider when defining what is the “best” time, because is it best to sell the fastest, or at the highest price or do these factors coincide?
I looked at the numbers for Pinellas County for 2014 – October 2018* to see exactly what the sales trend looks like by month. Below is a graph that shows the number of closed sales for each month. Keep in mind that homes that closed likely went on the market two months prior. The average days homes have been on the market in the past year is 26 days and on average, most contracts close in 30 days.
You will see that sales consistently spike in the spring and summer. They also consistently die down in the fall and have a short spike again right at the end of the year. I hypothesize the end of the year spike is due to people making purchases prior to the end of the year in order to qualify for homesteading or investors looking to acquire a tax deduction. Another factor may be people from up north looking to buy in time to enjoy their new home for the winter.
The absorption rate is pretty much what it sounds like. It is the rate that listings are selling and it is calculated by dividing the number of closed sales by the number of active listings. A lower rate means that homes are selling slower (buyer’s market) while a higher rate means that homes are selling quickly (seller’s market). One of the highest rates in recent years was 44% in June 2016 and I can attest to encountering numerous bidding wars for homes at that time.
When the absorption rate is going up, sellers can list their homes at a higher price. However, when the absorption rate is declining, homes shouldn’t be listed at a higher price. In other words, a declining rate indicates that it isn’t a time to “push the market higher,” and that demand is decreasing.
From 2014 – 2018, the absorption rate has been trending upward. The rate also seems to follow a similar pattern with the number of listings, the number of sales and the median sales price. Homes that are on the market over the holidays sit the longest and the absorption rate tends to peak for the year in the spring and summer.
Home appraisers do factor absorption rate into their valuations. This means that when the rate is climbing, they may add additional value to a home. However, when the absorption rate is declining, they are less likely to increase value for market factors.
While the median sales price has been trending upward at a high rate over the last few years, the trend is not a perfectly straight path. Below are some charts that show the median sale price by month. Interestingly, each year the highest median price for the year occurs in the spring/early summer and dips down in the fall with another small spike prior to the year end. This trend mirrors the trends of the number of closed sales, number of listings and days on market.
How much difference in price does it make? An article on CNBC says that on average, homes that sell at peak times sell for $1,500 more. The article also says that the best time to list homes in warm weather markets like Florida is March.
Days on Market / Median Time to Contract
The median number of days homes were on the market prior to going under contract follows a similar trend with the longest average time falling around the holidays and beginning of the year and then declining until reaching a low point in early summer.
Want to know what day of the week is best to put a house on the market? Visit my previous blog: Best Day to List a Home
*Numbers as reported from the Pinellas Realtor Organization. Statistical calcualations and analysis conducted by Michelle L. Anderson
Graziosi, Dean. “What Is Absorption Rate in Real Estate and Why Is It Important?” Huffington Post 12/6/17 0
Olick, Diana. “Homes sell fastest during these two weeks” CNBC. 3/2/2017
The day your home is listed on the market does matter.
When working with sellers, I always try to schedule the listing to go live during the middle of the week. So when I stumbled on this article that substantiates this practice, I decided to turn it into a post to reinforce this practice.
This article explains that listing a home in the middle of the week allows for optimal showings and statistics show that houses listed in the middle of the week actually sell for a higher price. The timing allows the home to be included in buyers scheduled showings over the weekend and allows for timely scheduling of open houses.
When a home is listed over the weekend or early in the week, it does not allow for buyers to schedule weekend showings. This equates to wasted days on market and statistics show that the longer a house is on the market, the lower the sales price is. When selling a home, it is ideal to hit the market running and make every day count.
Want to know what time of year is best to put a home on the market for sale? Read my blogpost – When is the Best Time of Year to List a House for Sale?