Buying a house can be a great investment, though nobody can control how the ebb and flow of the property market might impact your property value. One sure-fire way to grow value is to increase it yourself! That means exploring which renovations and upgrades are worth the time and effort.
New Zealand is a do-it-yourself (DIY) nation – it’s a part of our collective DNA.
Renovating your home is an emotional decision, but done right, it can also be a financial one. You may have been dreaming of remodelling the kitchen for a sleek open feel or extending the backyard deck for summer entertaining. Well, the good news is, renovations are not a sunk cost, theoretically they are an investment.
Whether you buy a brand-new home or one that’s already been lived in, there are always upgrades and renovations you can take on to improve the space.
“Any changes you make on your house now should increase your home value later," says Kermit Baker, project director of Harvard University’s Remodelling Futures programme. To figure out how to do this effectively, you’ll need to fight the temptation of losing yourself in a sea of home improvement dreams, and instead try and rationally evaluate which pursuits come with the highest return on investment (ROI). That should mean you not only improve your space for you and your family, but for potential future buyers as well.
The question is, what renovations will see the best return on investment? From a simple fresh coat of paint to a full kitchen renovation, here are 12 projects that will help to increase your property’s value and add comfort and convenience to your life as a homeowner.
1. A Good Old Paint Job
Painting your home is not a minor renovation, as it involves time, care, and finicky work. Yet the aesthetic improvement is huge and can add immense value to prospective buyers.
A professional painter won’t be cheap in New Zealand, so if you have the time and skills, get your overalls on and go for it. It will generally cost a minimum of $150 per square metre (including materials) and the complexity of the job to paint a home in New Zealand. Jobs that require primer, painting fixings and the roof could cost closer to $380+ per square metre.
2. Kitchen Reno!
A win-win for the homeowner and the eventual buyer! Who doesn’t love a modern-feeling kitchen? Simply remodelling cabinetry, sinks & tap fixtures, appliances and if you so need it – flooring (luxury vinyl can be a great bet) will add a huge desirability price tag to your home.
Kitchen renos can be costly but some tricks can make an immediate difference, we recommend getting a new kitchen splashback - It’s cheap but makes an immediate difference.
Minor Kitchen Upgrades
• A new splashback
• Refinishing cabinets
• Updating light fixtures
• Adding an island bench
• Increasing storage space
• Upgrading faucets
Major Kitchen Renovations
• New cabinetry and countertops
• Installing wood, laminate, or tile flooring
• Adding windows or doors
• Upgrading to high-end appliances
• Adding seating, dining, storage, or cooking space
As always, stick within your budget and keep the space functional and relevant to the rest of the property. For example, if you live in a character home with plenty of old-fashioned charm, a modern restaurant-style kitchen with industrial appliances might feel out of place and could be a turn-off for prospective buyers.
Remember it is about return on investment. It may be tempting to put in marble benches or the most expensive taps, but you need to prioritize upgrades that generate the greatest ROI.
3. Bathroom Makeover
According to Real Simple, bathroom renovations can provide a return of up to 64 per cent. Improving existing sinks, toilets, showers, and bathtubs can simply require a recoat of ceramic or porcelain. If you choose to go the whole hog and upgrade your fixtures, choose timeless pieces, and avoid kitschy bathroom trends. Alike the kitchen, upgrading the cabinetry to be sleek and modern goes a long way. A great image to keep in mind when reno-ing your bathroom is that you want to create an atmosphere of calm and cleanliness.
Another option is to add a bathroom or ensuite to your home, especially if you only have one to begin with. Homes with multiple bathrooms are a hot commodity in the real estate market, and you’ll likely appreciate the convenience as well.
Popular ways to add a bathroom include adding an ensuite to a master bedroom or turning a closet or other under-stair space into a half-bathroom on the main floor.
4. Invest in Heating
We have frosty winters in New Zealand, especially if you live down south or in windy Wellington. Investing in heating is always a safe option as it is practical to boot. Double glazing makes a world of difference to the heat retention of a home as it creates insulation, the cost isn’t cheap, however. Archipro state that it will cost an average of $35,000 to double-glaze a 100m2 home in Auckland. Cheaper options exist such as retrofitting or installing secondary glazing.
If you fit the criteria for a low-income household there are substantial government grants to cover the cost of warmer living. The Warmer Kiwi Homes programme will provide subsidies of up to 80% for ceiling & underfloor insulation, ground moisture barrier and a heat pump (capped at $3,000 inc GST for heat pump) until June 2023. Get in while you still can.
Make Your Home Compliant as a Rental Property
If you can, get your home up to the healthy homes standards for rental properties. The healthy homes standards are specific and minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture ingress and drainage, and draught stopping in rental properties.
If your property meets these codes, then it could one day provide more appeal to a potential buyer who wants to tenant the property. In the meantime, it’ll probably also be more comfortable for you to live in too!
Investing in good landscaping should never be underestimated. Done well, landscaping can completely transform a property – creating privacy, ambience and a sense of tranquillity. In New Zealand, working with landscapers skilled in native planting is a fantastic idea. Native seedlings are not overly expensive but mature natives are worth their weight in gold. For example, a mere 110cm Nikau palm is worth $455, planting with intention and waiting five years or more can see the value of your garden skyrocket. General maintenance is also hugely important. Keep on top of your weeds, attend to shrubs at least yearly and have those lawns looking sharp.
6. Creating Space
Sometimes knocking down a wall is all you need to vastly improve a space. Removing a wall can create a bigger and sometimes lighter space, creating a more open-plan feel. If you have the funds, extending your house is a very smart idea. Adding square footage to your house will improve its value immensely and it is a cheaper option than buying a bigger property.
Plus, it’s typically much less expensive than adding additional floor space to your home and can often be done without a costly and time-consuming resource consent.
7. A Simple Clean
You may scoff at this as generally people keep their homes clean and tidy. Yet a deep clean is taking things to a whole new level and can really add shine back into a dull home affected by the general wear and tear of living. Give your windows some good TLC, climb up a ladder and tend to the ceilings and lampshade. If the budget allows, hiring a professional cleaning service will really get that true sparkle.
Most kiwis will be excited about this one, the pinnacle of the quarter-acre dream – a big old deck perfect for BBQ’s is actually a great investment for your home. Decks exaggerate the indoor-outdoor flow of a home, which buyers in New Zealand absolutely love.
If you already have a deck or patio, waterblast it and refinish it if necessary. Repair or replace any old, rotting boards or broken pavers, and strip flaking paint and stain it. Sprucing up your existing outdoor structures is a low-cost way to increase your home’s appeal to buyers and add to the overall desirability of your property.
9. Smart Home Automation
Smart home devices are becoming increasingly popular, helping to boost home values and add new appeal for prospective buyers. Some of the most in-demand smart home upgrades are:
• Smart thermostats
• Smart home security systems like doorbell cameras
• Smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
• Smart lighting
10. Add Energy-Efficient Extras
Energy-efficient appliances and building materials come with a host of benefits. Not only do they help to save money on energy costs, but they can also reduce your home’s environmental impact. Here are some projects you might consider:
• Install solar panels
• Purchase Energy Star appliances
• Invest in a smart thermostat
• Swap out poorly insulated exterior doors
11. Interior Design
A little interior design goes a long way. Simple and straightforward design updates help to stage your home for sale and can come with relatively small price tags.
If you’re looking for some easy but worthwhile home improvement projects to increase your property’s overall value and entice buyers, consider:
• Updating light fixtures
• Replacing light covers and heat registers
• Swapping out old doorknobs and hardware
• Installing custom window coverings, such as blinds
• Modernising your paint colours
• Repainting trim, ceilings, and interior doors
Although these jobs may seem less impressive than large-scale renovations, don’t underestimate how much the visual appeal of your home can affect its value.
12. Boost Curb Appeal
Your home’s curb appeal is directly related to whether it makes a positive first impression on potential buyers. And there are a variety of different ways you can make your home stand out, even from the street.
Some of the best home projects for improving curb appeal are some of the most cost effective, and include:
• Painting or purchasing a new front door
• Replacing or painting a weathered garage door
• Adding stone veneer to your entryway
• Installing new lighting
• Water blasting your driveway, and even the pavement outside your home
According to a widely cited US report, simply painting your front door a darker colour, such as black or charcoal, can increase your home’s sale price by more than US$6,000 and we think the results would be the same in New Zealand too. That’s pretty impressive, considering a can of paint typically costs less than $100.
The Bottom Line: Improve Your Home Value
While it can be hard to determine exactly how much value any given upgrade might add to your home, local real estate agents should be able to help you price your home accordingly and provide a couple of tips on where to get started.
Home improvement projects can be difficult to prioritise and budget for, which is why it’s important to take the time to choose the ones that should deliver you the most bang for your buck.
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