This is my beautiful house...
August 8, 2006 9:53 PM   Subscribe

How do you figure out a real estate buyer profile? We've purchased a home and will be doing some updates. We don't know how high end to go.

We just bought a 10-year-old condo in an upscale neighbourhood. It needs updating -- flooring, appliances, kitchen countertop, paint. There's nothing really comparable in the neighbourhood in terms of value. New places are going for $200k more or even higher, but have dream kitchens/bathrooms and are way over the top. I'm having trouble understanding the kind of people who would consider buying our place in 5 years or 10 years.

Obviously, no one can predict the future. But I know we aren't on par with the brand new places or those being built in the next little while. However, we do have a 3BR+den and that's pretty rare. So a plus there.

We think that, for ourselves, we'd like granite or Silestone countertops. But I could live with new arborite. But how do I know if I've got to go to town with backsplashes and stuff like that? How do I figure out how high end to go? The place has very nice designer cabinets in white thermafoil, but would buyers turn up their noses at these?

I guess I just don't know what middle class and upper middle class people expect these days. I'm not looking to position my home for the rich and I'm not going to run up huge bills to pay for things. But how do I know what kind of buyer will -- in 5 or 7 years -- want a 15 or 17-year-old condo in a very pricey area with newer condos? People always say you should buy the cheapest home in the best neighbourhood you can afford. Still, condos depreciate in a way that's different from houses, so I don't know how that all works.

I don't mean that I need design or renovation advice. I guess it's more about knowing how low end I can be! Obviously, we bought this place as is, but I would like to make sure it has good potential for eventual resale. And I understand everything will look dated in a few years.
posted by acoutu to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The cabinets shouldn't be an issue in five years as long as you keep them clean and keep them in good shape.

Counters/backsplashes - just keep the colors neutral. Don't get crazy with color on stuff that is firmly attached and will stay when you decide to sell. You will want to stay neutral on flooring colors as well. If you want color on the floor then get an area rug.

You can go batshit with paint on walls and ceilings because that is fairly easy and inexpensive to change right before you decide to sell.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:18 PM on August 8, 2006

Don't let resale value dominate your thoughts. This kind of stuff is nearly impossible to predict, but if you do what you like, odds are someone else will like it too.
posted by knave at 10:38 PM on August 8, 2006

you say you just bought your place. did you use an agent? perhaps he/she can provide some insight. as you said, nobody has a crystal ball but he/she should know something about the market and neighborhood trends.
posted by killy willy at 10:47 PM on August 8, 2006

Response by poster: No, I know. But it's stuff like whether we need a Kitchenaid stove for $1500 or a Frigidaire for $1000. A Silestone countertop for $5000 or arborite for $1500. A generic kitchen faucet (tap) for $100 or a fancy generic for $300 or a Moen for more than that.

Obviously, my budget will help limit these things. But I just don't want to "cheap out" on something that will limit resale value.

For example, I know someone who owns a middle of the road condo. They renovated and put in white appliances and a new bathroom and kitchen and whatnot. Their realtor said they should have spent the extra $1000 to do all stainless appliances and another $1500 to do an upscale bathroom sink/faucet, since it would have added a lot to resale value.
posted by acoutu at 10:49 PM on August 8, 2006

First of all - congratulations! Sounds like you negotiated a wonderful deal and it's clearly got lots of potential.

Since you purchased it primarily to live in, furnish it to your tastes and budget, and your tastes and budget alone.

If you were purchasing it for resale, then your speculation would be relevant. However a great deal can happen to a local housing market in the time period you've quoted, and even more on the national level. There is a good chance in five years overall prices may have changed significantly, and perhaps not to your benefit.

I'm a cheap bastard myself, and when I purchased my flat here in London I had to renovate most of the ground floor. I did the work myself using "as cheap as I could stand" materials. After all, I'm the only person that has to look at it regularly.
posted by Mutant at 11:15 PM on August 8, 2006

You can go a step above for your kitchen/bathroom faucets and it'll cost about $130. They'll look nicer for you AND will age better than the most generic faucet available.

Stainless appliances are super "in" RIGHT NOW. That doesn't mean they will be in five years +. If you want to spend extra money on appliances get something with cosmetic fronts/sides that can be switched out later. The one appliance in the kitchen that you might wish to be extra choosy about is the dishwasher. Spend the extra $200-$500 for a model that is QUIET (a bosch or ariston, etc). That will be good for you and it will last.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:27 PM on August 8, 2006

Put in what you like and will enjoy using. Chances are the next person will rip it out anyway at some point, regardless of how well thought out your plan to cater to them is. Everyone's tastes are different and who knows what will be trendy/luxury in 10 years. When I looked at buying, there was only one kitchen (out of dozens) that I did not consider changing in some way.
posted by ml98tu at 6:24 AM on August 9, 2006

If you're not moving for 7-10 years, don't worry about stylishness. Whatever you do now will look outdated by then. (personally, I think that nothing will say "ten years ago" more than stainless appliances)
DO spend money on a stove and refrigerator you like, and on quality fixtures (they don't have to be the latest, just solid and functional).
When you are ready to sell, be prepared to spend some money updating, so that things will look refreshed. Many higher-end buyers want to make their own mark anyway, and will simply avoid appliances/a look that is "too tired".
posted by dbmcd at 8:11 AM on August 9, 2006

Best answer: I would guess that the people who will buy your place in 5 - 7 years when you are thinking of moving up, will be in a similar situation to what you are in now. Probably a couple, moving out of a 450 sq ft box, maybe with a kid on the way, who are more concerned with space than anything. So really, the size of your place and number of bedrooms will be the biggest selling feature.

Updating your kitchen gives you the greatest return on your money - according to my realtor, it's 97% - so it's a fairly safe investment. That said, it's best to keep it neutral, and white kitchens never go out of style. Keep it simple and easy to clean - I would do white appliances, white backsplash tile, a nice granite countertop. Spend a little extra on a fancy faucet and nice lightfixtures: they're like the jewelry of your kitchen. Perhaps update the knobs on your cabinets to match your faucet.

I personally wouldn't go through the bother of changing your cabinets if they're only ten years old - especially if they're not junky laminate ones. Renovating a kitchen in anyplace is a huge pain, and especially so in a condo (personal experience!).

If you're looking at flooring, I would first check your condo regulations to see if there's any restrictions - I know some places limit flooring choices due to noise issues. If you can put something nice in, like hardwood and tile, I would go for it. Laminate is very durable, but it still gives an impression of being "cheap". Also, many people are shying away from carpeting due to allergy issues these days, and they are difficult to get really clean, and off-gas toxic fumes for quite a while.

Another suggestion for if you're putting in new flooring is to get some nice baseboards, as it makes a room look much more finished than if you have none or little skinny ones. One more suggestion is to make the place look cohesive - ie, don't have a 30k kitchen and raggedy old carpet. Spread your money around. As for paint, do anything you want. When you come to sell it, you'll probably repaint anyway, especially if your child takes to drawing on the walls like most kids I know.

Finally, congratulations on your new place!
posted by meringue at 8:19 AM on August 9, 2006

Updating your kitchen gives you the greatest return on your money - according to my realtor, it's 97% - so it's a fairly safe investment.

One word of caution - be very wary of ROI percentages for home renovations. They're highly variable (a 97% return on a kitchen for one person might equate a 10% ROI for a house just down the street), and there's no way to verify them objectively.

To chime in with what others have said - if you're planning on renovating, focus on your own tastes and budget. You're planning on living in the place for 5-10 years, so worry most about what will most make the place "home" for that time.
posted by gwenzel at 10:15 AM on August 9, 2006

Prioritize on things that will make you happy for the next 5-7 years. Do you cook a lot? Start in the kitchen with good appliances. Do you love to lounge in a really hot bath? Start in the master bathroom. Do you wish the closets were a bit bigger or better organized? Who doesn't! Can't stand looking at the wallpaper, or hate the green paint in the dining room? Start with the walls.

Get the idea? Stop looking at this place as a medium term investment and remember that it is the place you will be calling home for several years. You might as well enjoy it.

Oh, and be aware that kitchen countertops are a major PITA. Nobody will give you a firm quote until tearing out your old ones and making precise measurements. And then it will take several weeks for your granite or silestone or whatever to arrive. This means several weeks of no functional kitchen. Even formica is a long ordeal, but it can be relatively inexpensively refinished in the course of an afternoon (for recommendations, call a few random apartment complexes and ask the manager who her countertop resurfacing vendor is and what she thinks of his work). We cheaped/wimped out and removed the ceramic tile from our countertops, replacing it with granite (floor) tiles from Home Depot. It was about 10% the cost of solid surface and took a weekend.
posted by ilsa at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks. We renovated our previous (current) condo, so we totally understand the PITA parts of renovating. You've all given great tips, many of which are some comfort to me!

Meringue's comments were the closest to what I'm getting at:
I would guess that the people who will buy your place in 5 - 7 years when you are thinking of moving up, will be in a similar situation to what you are in now. Probably a couple, moving out of a 450 sq ft box, maybe with a kid on the way, who are more concerned with space than anything. So really, the size of your place and number of bedrooms will be the biggest selling feature.

We're moving out of an 800-sq-ft place at few blocks away, because we have one toddler and a home business and may want another child. This new place is closer to the water and in a less dodgy neighbourhood. The concierge provides some security, too, and all the surrounding buildings have concierges, which helps. There's a playground, community centre, waterpark, park, etc., as a school is planned for a block or so away. So we think it's a great place to raise a kid without leaving the area. However, most of the people who live in the neighbourhood are living the empty-nester lifestyle, doing the resort property thing, having a pied a terre, or renting. So we aren't totally sure how to figure out what we be important to some future buyer. I guess I was just worried that we need to get a silestone counter and silestone backsplash, fancy Moen fixtures, all Kitchenaid/Bosch/Wolf/etc appliances, etc. I like the idea of doing some little updates when we do eventually sell, but I am unsure whether we need to do an upscale kitchen reno. Yet 3BR+den+2bath+balcony places are almost non-existent, so it seems that alone is a selling point....
posted by acoutu at 2:07 PM on August 9, 2006

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