Just when you think your client is ready to sell, they say something like, “I want to sell, but I need to do a few upgrades first.”

And you think, “Great, I guess I’ll talk to you in a year.”

**sigh**

While it’s true that updates, upgrades and renovations can be beneficial to a home’s resale value, sellers often think they need to do more than is necessary, wasting precious time and resources. When homeowners get stuck in this mindset, the smartest thing you can do is step in and be the voice of reason. Before sellers start going all “HGTV” and maxing out credit cards, help them decide which projects are genuinely worth the time and money.

Are renovations necessary for resale? Not always.

Here’s a quick guide to some common upgrades and how they affect the resale value:

Bathroom Remodel – Not Worth It

Unless there are fixtures that do not function or leaks that will cause a red flag on the inspection, it’s probably not worth the investment. The cost to redo a bathroom is far more than the return you will get in resale value. Often the buyer will have different aesthetic tastes than the seller anyway, so cosmetic changes may not even be appreciated. Make sure all bathrooms are clean and functional and call it good.

Exterior Paint – Do It

Curb appeal is more important than ever when selling a home. Most buyers will do a drive-by of a listing they’re interested in before they even call an agent about it. Their first impression will be largely influenced by the exterior of the house. If the paint is fading, chipping, or just downright ugly, they probably won’t even take the time to see the inside. The cost-to-benefit ratio leans strongly in favor of the benefit when it comes to exterior paint color. While it doesn’t cost much to paint a single-family home, it could increase the sale price significantly. Plus, it will be much easier to line up showings when the first impression is a good one.

Elaborate Landscaping – Not Worth It

Apart from basic curb appeal, there aren’t many reasons to update the yard for resale. The front yard should look presentable enough to encourage buyer interest, but that could be as easy as pulling some weeds and laying sod – both of which are relatively inexpensive. For many buyers, a blank slate in the back yard is preferable to high-maintenance landscaping. Planting a garden, installing a pool or putting down concrete will not make a home sell faster. What it will do is put a dent in the homeowner’s bank account and eat up too much time and effort to justify the cost. Make sure it’s clean and presentable and move on.

Updating the Kitchen – Do It, but Don’t Go Crazy

Kitchens can make or break a home sale. Old, outdated appliances can be a big turnoff to buyers, but it can be an easy fix for sellers. Suggest to your seller that they find a decent package deal for a whole set and have them installed. Buyers will appreciate the “move-in readiness” of a brand new matching set of appliances. As for cupboards and countertops, neutral colors combined with functional hardware is a seller’s safest bet. Updating counter and storage space could be as simple as applying a coat of paint and a little caulking. Caution over-zealous sellers against gutting the whole space or knocking down walls. An open floor plan might very well be all the rage, but it’s not worth the investment for resale. And it might not be what buyers want!

Of course, there will be situations where these rules don’t apply, but a good rule of thumb is to invite your sellers to think like a buyer. What factors play the largest roles in their home-buying decisions? What makes sense to keep “as-is” in a new home, and what do they prefer to update themselves? Most of the time, a clean, functional home without too much customization will attract buyers and sell more quickly.