As a Realtor®, I give a lot of advice on what home renovations are worth doing…and which are not. I like to see my clients get AT LEAST a 100% return on their investment, ideally more. After all, your time and effort (and tolerance for having your house and schedule disrupted) are worth a lot.
What should you focus on?
My husband and I had talked for years about things we longed to do in our own home…upgrade our Primary Bath (which we’d made look quite nice but hadn’t paid for any upgrades when we built our house 20 years ago), give a facelift to our Boys’ Bathroom, refinish our hardwood floors for a more updated look, and paint our kitchen cabinets. These are the jobs most Realtors® agree will give you the best ROI, and we wanted to enjoy the end result of our efforts for at least several years before selling our home.
It was a lot to tackle, which is why we had put it off for years. However, we recently hired a contractor and embarked upon the project at just the right time…right after our boys set off for college. We were empty nesters! Did we take a trip? No. Did we play a lot of golf? Well, just a little. Did we catch up with friends? Not enough. What did we do? The week after we dropped off our boys at school for the semester, we started visiting kitchen and bath shops!
The company we chose to work with, Loudoun Property Solutions (which came highly recommended), only handles the labor. Therefore, their proposal/bid submitted to us included just the cost of labor. It was up to us to visit their suggested vendors (or others of our choosing) to select tile, countertops, cabinetry, flooring, paint, fixtures, appliances, mirrors, lighting, etc. That took us several weeks. The nice thing is that they passed on their “contractor pricing” with their vendor partners on to us, the customer.
What can you expect with a job of this magnitude?
It was a bit more time-consuming than working with a “one stop shop,” but in the end, we were so pleased with the quality of the work. Once we started the job, it took 10 weeks. The job was finished to our satisfaction (and beyond), on time, and on budget (except for some “scope creep” which we were responsible for!). Loudoun Property Solutions’ workers are all employees, not sub-contractors. They were so nice, polite, respectful, and clean (at least keeping things as clean as you can expect from renovation work!).
Before embarking on a job of this nature, be sure one spouse or the other can be present each day. We had contractors arriving at our home at 8 am 5-6 days per week for 10 weeks. Admittedly, it was a bit difficult to juggle with work, phone calls, appointments, and other things that beckoned outside our home. But it was important for us to be present, as contractors were coming and going and questions always needed to be answered. You want to be supervising so that things get done right the first time and don’t need to be redone.
With this investment of time and project management, things turned out great, and I’m convinced we will realize a 2-to-1 return on our investment, since we focused on the “big things”…that is, kitchen, bathrooms, flooring.
The Primary Bath: A Big Focus for Buyers
The biggest project was probably our Primary Bathroom. Being on a budget at the time we had originally built our home, we had invested our money in structural additions instead of a lot of design upgrades. We had not upgraded the tile in our Bath, expanded the shower, or done much of anything. We dressed it up with a beautiful mirror and paint, but it was still builder-grade tile and basic countertops.
Fast forward almost 20 years later, and we pretty much gutted everything…we expanded the shower, and replaced the jetted tub (which I actually did love) with a free-standing tub that’s all the rage now. We added quartz countertops, chose new “sand” colored cabinets with cabinet “towers” above for added storage, and covered the floors, shower stall, and area around the tub in gorgeous neutral-toned tile. We loved the mosaic tile that was an accent in the shower so much that we had the tile crew run a border of that around the tub area and frame out the mirrors with the same mosaic. It sure beat the ridiculously expensive or boring mirrors we were seeing in stores. Here is the end result….
And here are the BEFORE photos.
Secondary Baths: It’s Nice to Give Them a Facelift
We also gave our Boys’ Bath a facelift. Like our bathroom, we hadn’t done much when we built the home (see photo below), although we added some interest with nice paint.
In this case, we kept the toilet (which had already been replaced), the bathtub, and the cabinets…but added decorative tile on the floor, tile and accent tile on the walls of the tub/shower, PAINTED the cabinets for a fresh look, and replaced the large mirror and recessed medicine cabinet with 2 individual “his” and “his” medicine cabinets. We also replaced the countertop and refreshed the lighting. The new look is more modern, clean, and upscale, for sure. I think our boys were bummed we didn’t do this while they were living here, but to be honest, I would not recommend doing major home renovations with kids in the house. We lost the use of most rooms of our home during this project. It was hard enough for my husband and I to live and work from home during the process…I can’t imagine having the kids displaced from their bedrooms and bathroom for a couple weeks or more, unless it was a school holiday or the summer. Here is the AFTER shot…
Flooring Can Transform a Home…
The other BIG project was re-finishing our hardwood floors. They were in great shape, so we just couldn’t justify replacing them. However, the warm orange-y tone was looking a bit dated. We were hoping for a more on-trend brown-gray tone, and that’s exactly — and surprisingly — what we got. I say surprisingly because even Doug, the owner of LPS, wasn’t sure we could get the warmth out of the floor. So we were prepared for just toning it down. But as it turns out, when the floors were stripped of the stain and sanded, it revealed a floor of both white AND red oak. The warm gray stain we used (applied VERY lightly by the flooring guys) appeared more gray on the white oak planks and more brown on the red oak planks. The effect was perfect, absolutely gorgeous…and almost identical to what you see in many model homes these days. It totally transformed the look of our entire downstairs. It is probably the part of our project I get most excited about. It was a dusty project that involved moving everything out of most of our Main Level into our Family Room (which was carpeted), but the end result is mind-boggling. Here is the BEFORE…
And the AFTER…
Painting the Cabinets Transformed the Whole Kitchen
Of course, as you’ll notice, we also changed the cabinets. But did we replace them? No. We had heard that LPS did a great job painting existing cabinets, so that’s what we did. They remove the doors and spray paint them offsite, so that the finish is even and you don’t have fumes in your home. They roll/paint the remaining cabinetry that can’t be removed. The effect was similar to getting brand new cabinets. Ours were hardwood — maple — and in really good condition, so it worked well. We also had LPS trim out our island to make it look a bit more “finished.” They also replaced our kitchen desk with an area for a wine fridge and wine rack. That turned an unused “wasted” space into something we are putting to good use! We kept our counters (a very dark green called Ubatuba that was VERY popular back in the early 2000s…it essentially looks black). I love the contrast against the white counters. We also kept the backsplash, but I painted some of the warmer colored tiles (YES, you can paint tile, and I got specific instructions on how to do this at my local Benjamin Moore shop!) All in all, it all came together nicely, without the crazy expense of gutting the kitchen altogether. (If you look closely at the floors in this photo, you can see the warm gray tone we achieved.)
Of course, as with many projects, this home renovation had a “domino effect,” which was one more reason we had put it off for so long. Along with re-finishing the floors on the Main Level, we also had to refinish the front steps and front and back staircase rails (stained to match the floors).
We had LPS paint the walls of the foyer, kitchen, and sunroom in a popular “greige” tone to complement the floors. And we needed to get a new valence made for our sunroom…and a new kitchen table/chairs.
My takeaway…upgrades like this are what most Buyers are looking for. They want an updated “move in ready” home that’s on trend, and the kitchen and bathrooms are their focus. Flooring also makes the Top 5 in terms of importance. Just be prepared for having any home renovation of this nature be a part-time job for someone in the household — and be prepared to be disrupted for a while. I typically don’t do well with chaos, but I knew the end result would be worth it, so I kept my eye on the prize, so to speak. Plus, as I said, Doug’s team at LPS made things as smooth as they could possibly be. They were all true artisans and professionals, and I’d happily recommend them. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any specific questions about this job or any home renovations you’re considering.