The Best Use of Your Money When Renovating Your House Before a Sale in Lake Forest Park, WA

Thinking about renovating your house before you put it on the market to sell?

This may, or may not be a good idea! It’s NOT a foregone conclusion that you’ll get your money back if you do expensive repairs.

This article is meant to help you decide whether or not you should invest in those repair projects (big and small) before listing your home for sale in Lake Forest Park, WA.

If you’re considering putting your house on the market, you probably know that you’ll need to make some repairs and renovations before listing in order to get top dollar.

But which ones?

Read this article, and consider giving us a call for a professional opinion. If you want to maximize your profits… more repairs are not always better!

Some renovations may help you sell, but some may not.

In addition, certain renovations will yield a good return on the investment at sale time, but others will be just a money sink.

Before and after home renovations shoreline washington
Sometimes small repairs can make a big difference in the before – and – after look of your home.

Need Help Managing and/or Paying For Repairs?

If you need help getting your repairs done, we are happy to facilitate that for you. We work with a contractor who will do all the project management of any home renovations on property to be listed, and delay payment until the home sells, if that is helpful. For more information about this concierge-level service, click here.

The trick is to know which renovations to make and which to avoid. Read on to discover the best use of your money when renovating your house before a sale in Lake Forest Park, WA.

Should You Renovate?

When trying to determine whether you should be renovating your house before a sale in Lake Forest Park, the decision depends largely on your personal financial situation.

We know the repairs will probably make the house look better but… can you afford to do them and what is the ROI (Return on Investment) on the time, money, and hassle you put into getting the job done?

If you are going to put $10,000; $30,000 or even more into home repairs, are you going to get that $10,000 or $30,000 out of the property? What is the risk and what is the value of your time and energy coordinating all that work?

Download A Professional NAR Study That Answers These Questions

Here you can download a study from the National Association of Realtors showing the most-wanted and highest-return repairs you can focus on when renovating your house.

Should I sell "as is" or renovate my Shoreline, Washington house?
Should I sell “as-is” or renovate my Lake Forest Park, WA home? Sometimes, some prudent updating can completely change the look and feel of your home in the eyes of potential buyers.

There are other important factors to take into account, such as . . . 

The Local Housing Market

First, find out if your area is experiencing a red-hot seller’s market or a slower buyer’s market.

Here in Lake Forest Park, WA, we are still in a seller’s market at the time of this writing. Even though the market has slowed down since peak levels in 2022, we still have low inventory and short days on market. As long as homes are selling in less than 4-6 months on average, it’s considered a “Seller’s Market.”

In a seller’s market, you don’t “have to” renovate your home in order to get it sold. But if the carpet smells like dog hair, the paint is stained with nicotine, and the wood-paneled living room is a dark, dark brown, you will find your home sells for more money and faster with some modernizing updates.

Median Home Prices In Lake Forest Park, WA
Median Home Prices In Lake Forest Park, WA Have Gone Up And Down Over The Past Several Years

In a slower buyer’s market, you may need to make more significant improvements to incentivize buyers to choose your home.

However, the bottom line here is that any home will sell in any condition IF it is PRICED correctly.

We can help you determine that with a CMA – or Comparable Market Analysis. Available for free when you fill out your address here.

Know What Buyers Want

You also need to consider what buyers in your local market want and what they are looking for.

I have many millennial home buyer clients who tell me that they are looking for new construction or – if they can’t afford it – they will buy an older home that has been extensively renovated.

Often they are fearful of a home that needs repair because they don’t know how to do a lot of home maintenance, or they simply don’t want to pay for unexpected repairs or big projects.

If most local buyers want a move-in ready home, then renovating your house is almost a must-do. If, on the other hand, many buyers are fix-and-flip investors, then you may not have to renovate much, if at all.

In our case, here in Lake Forest Park, WA many buyers are what I call “move-up buyers…” meaning it’s not their first home purchase, since this is a more expensive area.

While they may not be afraid of an older home, move up buyers will appreciate a house that is well-maintained and shows pride of ownership. Consider their needs and wants when renovating your house, and choose something neutral rather than leaning too strongly to your own tastes and preferences.

Think about how a builder’s model home would look, and aim for something like that.

Happy First Time Home Buyers
Happy First Time Home Buyers In Their New Home. These gutsy folks weren’t afraid of taking on a few projects and got a great deal in return. Thei awesome love-letter telling the seller how they were first responders and excited to buy their first home also helped them seal the deal in a competitive bidding situation.

Your Real Estate Agent’s Opinion

A good local Lake Forest Park, WA real estate agent will know what’s happening in the local market and what local buyers want. An agent will be happy to tell you what you need to do to make your home sell quickly for a maximum price.

I always tell potential seller’s I’m happy to walk through their property, even months before they plan to sell, and discuss the Pros and Cons of tackling different projects they are considering, so they can decide what’s most important and should be at the top of their repair list.

A realtor will help you pinpoint which areas in your home will deliver the biggest renovation bang for your buck. For example, they’ll be able to tell you how much you can sell your home for if you redo the kitchen and whether it’s worth it.

To consult a Lake Forest Park real estate agent before renovating your house, just call (206) 578-3438.

real estate agent lake forest park WA
Your local real estate agent can help you make the best decisions when renovating your house before a sale.

Best Bang-for-the-Buck Renovations

Now, let’s take a look at what you can do to get the best use of your money when renovating your house before a sale in Lake Forest Park, WA.

Painting The Interior

Seattle real estate investor
My mom and I painted most of my home’s interior with paint rollers. If you’re painting in winter like we were, I recommend getting some great lights – like job lights – so you can tell if the paint is going on evenly.

Almost every home that’s been lived in for more than 5 years could benefit from a freshening of the interior paint before sale. That goes double for homes with big dogs or small kids.

Painting is the lowest cost improvement with the highest rate of return, so it’s not surprising that 36% of home sellers choose to do it . . .

When trying to sell, a nice coat of neutral paint can give the entire house a facelift, and buyers really love to see a fresh blank canvas. Go for neutrals, and paint over any extreme accent walls. Those pops of color in the kitchen or the kids bedrooms can be fun, but chances are they won’t be to the buyer’s taste.

Consider getting color recommendations from a trained professional since paint colors can be tricky depending on lighting and other features in the house such as cabinets and flooring.

When my husband and I built our house in Lake Forest Park, WA, we had a consultant help us coordinate cabinets, counter tops, tile and paint. It helped me feel that the tan paint we chose was the “right” color tan! We’ve been thrilled with how it turned out.

Professional painting will run you from $4,000 to $10,000, depending on the square footage of your home and the difficulty of the job. You’ll hit the upper end if you have difficult vaulted ceilings or are doing a lot of detail work. When we painted my house, my dad helped me build a scaffolding out of 2×4’s and plywood to paint our 2-story entry way, but I think at this time in my life, I’d hire a professional if I had to do it again.

But painting is something you can easily DIY. If you’re willing to put in the time, all you’ll be out is the cost of the paint, brushes, and rollers – and you’ll see a handsome investment return. You can also rent a paint-spraying machine to help the paint go on smoothly and quickly.

Landscaping Your Yard

Landscaping your yard is another great use of your money when renovating your house to sell.

Remember, curb appeal is what creates that critical first impression when buyers pull up to view your house. Many homes sell during the spring season, in part because sellers like to put their houses on the market in Spring when their flowers and lawns are looking fantastic.

If the yard and outside of your home look attractive, then buyers will want to go inside and see more. 

Although professional landscaping isn’t cheap, it remains one of the renovations that promises a good return on the investment. But, as with painting, it’s also something you can do yourself.

Focus on trimming plants back from the house, mowing and edging the lawn, getting rid of weeds, and putting down the wood chip mulch anywhere that needs a little fresh covering. You want the yard to look tidy, and low-maintenance.

Just don’t use the steer manure mulch. I’ve been to nice-looking houses that start smelling like a barnyard when the sun starts shining and the ground warms up. You don’t want to make that mistake! It will give the buyers the wrong first impression for sure!

Shoreline WA - Landscaped Home
Great landscaping helps make a home look well-cared for and inviting. If gardening isn’t your thing, bring in a professional service to manicure the lawn and cover the beds in a generous amount of beauty bark or woodchip mulch.

Repairing or Replacing Flooring

Once you’ve removed or replaced old carpet in a home, you know how gross it can be. All sorts of hair and dust and mold can get trapped in the carpet fibers and pad. Multiply that over several years and the ick-factor just adds up.

In addition, squeaky floors make some home buyers nervous and whether they are consciously aware of it or not, they will wonder about the age and condition of the home. Many buyers ask me about squeaks in the floor that they notice when walking through a home. Although it’s usually something as simple as a flooring nail that has loosened over time, it does appear on their mental radar when doing their walk-throughs. If you are going through the effort of replacing your carpeting while renovating your home, make sure you screw down those squeaky spots to give your future buyers peace of mind.

The appearance of floors is important to potential buyers, so this should be near the top of your list when renovating your house. In fact, over a quarter of all home sellers choose to replace carpet and/or repair the flooring.

It is cheapest to replace old carpet with new carpet, which can give a home that new-house smell. The cost may be around $5 per square foot. It’s good to price out your options when renovating your home so you can weigh the total costs of the project against the benefit of the upgrades.

However, many sellers are choosing to go with Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring now, which is very popular with buyers, easy to clean, durable for kids, pets and tenants, and attractive – often with the look of real hardwood flooring.

However, mixing many different floor types is usually not preferred. I’ve been in homes where it seems the owner must have renovated with remants from different job sights because every room has a different style of flooring. It makes buyers feel off-kilter like they are in a fun house, or house of mirrors.

In fact, here’s what industry pros recommend renovating your home. . . 

If you’ve got lots of rooms with many types of flooring, you might want to bite the bullet and invest in new flooring for all to create a seamless feel throughout the house.

Wood floors, or even faux-wood floors (LVP), are preferable to carpeting even though those options can be more costly when renovating your home. If, however, you can’t afford to upgrade to wood, new carpeting is still a major selling point. And just like with painting walls, a good neutral color is best. Avoid dark brown or other vivid colors which, although stain-resistant, make the house look dark and dated. (Says the lady who grew up in a house with orange shag and green shag carpeted bedrooms!)

Lake Forest Park, WA
The Sellers Of This Home Replaced Much Of Their Flooring and Painted Throughout To Get The Home Looking Its Best Before Putting It On The Market.

Updating Light Fixtures

Always consider updating light fixtures when renovating your house. It’s easy to do, and the investment is small (compared to other possible renovations). And updating light fixtures can greatly impact the appearance of your home’s interior.

If, however, updating fixtures throughout your home sounds too expensive, you can at least remove the largest and most outdated fixtures. If, for example, that giant 1980s chandelier is eclipsing the living room, don’t feel like you have to replace it with something fancy – just take it out. The buyer can easily imagine for themselves what they’d like in the space, and you don’t have to spend a dime.

Some of my sellers want to take their fancy light fixtures with them when they move. I always tell them we can make a note that the fixtures don’t convey with the sale, but that the home will look it’s best, and show better, with the best light fixtures installed.

One of my pet-peeves when showing a home during our dark winter months is walking into bedrooms or living rooms with no lighting at all. There was a period of time in which ceiling lights were apparently not popular. If your rooms rely on lamp-lighting to look their best, make sure you or your stager includes plenty of lamps to make the room look great at any time of day or night.

2908 153rd ST SW Lynnwood - Living Room
The Home Sellers Added Extra Ceiling Light In Their Living Room, Making It Easier To Read. Even Though The Room Had Two Walls of Windows, It Was Shaded By A Front Porch and a Greenbelt in Back. Renovating your house to include a good lighting plan is essential in our darker climate.

Consult a Lake Forest Park, WA Real Estate Agent When Renovating Your House

Emily Cressey - HomeSmart, Real Estate Broker
Buy a house in Lake Forest Park, WA with Real Estate agent Emily Cressey.

As we mentioned early on, local market conditions will play a large role in determining the best use of your money when renovating your house in LFP or surrounding Seattle neighborhoods.

That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced local agent in your corner, an agent with intimate knowledge of your market. So when you’re looking to renovate your house before a sale in Lake Forest Park, WA, contact us at (206) 578-3438.

Emily Cressey

Emily Cressey is a real estate broker residing in Lake Forest Park, WA who services the Greater Seattle area including Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Lynnwood, Kenmore, Bothell and Edmonds, WA.

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