For years now, many of America’s home-buying trends have been shifting away from new-construction suburbs, exurbs and gated communities and back toward established neighborhoods where the trees are large, the urban amenities nearby, and the homes… well, older than most of the people buying them.
Enter the remodeling craze, which — if the reports of higher interest rates and stagnant housing starts are to be believed — shows no sign of slowing down. And while it may often be more economical than purchasing or building, updating an older home is rarely easy. And if you don’t do it right you may wind up losing money on the remodel come sale time.
So, in observance of the trend and in consideration of our agent friends who may be trying to remodel or sell an older home, here are a handful of must-have improvements we like to see on any “mature” listing.
The quickest way to send any potential buyer packing (or any visiting guests, for that matter) is to keep loud, gas- or electricity-guzzling HVAC equipment around. Besides the fact that they’re ugly, out-of-date ductwork, heating units and drafty windows make a house uncomfortable and cost a bundle in monthly utilities. Whether you’re staying or selling, new HVAC and energy saving windows will instantly add an air of modern sensibility and comfort to any old home without sacrificing any of the charm or tradition. Want to go farther? Install LED lighting, a smart-home system, or double down on insulation.
Almost any old home that is well taken care of is going to have curb appeal — it’s practically a given. What you need to focus on is showing it off, which means power washing that siding or brick, making sure the landscaping compliments the home without overpowering it (no one wants to buy the bizarre begonia lady’s house), and adding touches that will make it memorable, which can be as easy as adding a charming new mailbox or painting your front door or porch. Bonus points for picket fences, detached garages and shining bay windows.
No Guts, No Glory
Okay, this isn’t the sexiest of conversations, but we have to have it: Wiring and plumbing have GOT to be addressed. What’s worse than a cold house? A cold shower, or even a warm shower that you can’t feel because the water pressure is zilch. And what’s worse than THAT? A house where the wiring isn’t up to code. If you’re selling or refurbishing an old home, you simply have to bring the plumbing and electrical work up to snuff… if you don’t do it, it’s quite possible an inspector will and the most inopportune of moments.
Modernize Where it Matters
Kitchens and bathrooms. Bathrooms and kitchens. People may not want an older home to look like a modern home, but they want the spaces where they cook their food and spend their private time to be comfortable and convenient. Don’t think a modern kitchen can’t LOOK rustic; just pay attention to the materials, colors and accessories you use there. And an old-world bathroom doesn’t have to include a clunky clawfoot tub and halo shower curtain. Because older bathrooms tend to have less space, make your walk-in shower small but mighty with dual shower heads and smoked glass.
Preserve Where Possible
You’re obviously buying an older home for a reason, right? That means you appreciate the aesthetic of the era in which the house was built, which means all that can (and should) be preserved about it must stay, right? That means floorplans, architectural details and — in most cases — the actual floors are going to need to be refurbished, not chucked out with the mauve carpet and paisley wallpaper. Get someone who knows what they’re doing to refurbish original floors, banisters and features including wainscotting and doorframes. It will cost a bit extra but you — and your buyers — are going to be glad you did it.