You’ve worked a long time for that major promotion, or perhaps your talents have been noticed by a competitor. Problem is that the tempting and well-deserved job offer is in another state. For Millennials and Gen-Xers alike, moving up the corporate ladder today often means a change of scenery. As you rush to get your home on the market, beware of making over-improvements that will not offer a decent return on your initial investment. In fact, some seemingly logical upgrades will actually deter some buyers, and that is a demographic you want to keep as all-inclusive as possible! Here are some things to consider as you plan your next steps:

Scope Out the Competition

Start your home selling process with a personal marketing plan. Arm yourself with information about the current home buying climate in your vicinity. Scan the realty websites for your area daily. Who is your competition? For starters, every other home with the same square footage, number of bedrooms, bathroom, garage stalls, and acreage. Is your basement/attic finished? What is the top price for a home with similar features near you? Be sure not to allow a realtor to top that when listing your residence, or you’ll be the last to be seen by prospects and therefore the last to be sold.

Condition Counts

Then there is the matter of condition. How old is your home? Your neighborhood? Traditionally, older, more established neighborhoods will have mature landscaping, more varied architectural styles (i.e. not cookie cutter), and, most important, lower taxes. Next, focus on your home: how old is the roof? What kind of plumbing materials were used- copper, lead, or PVC? Is your foundation poured concrete/rebar or cinder block, which one? Any sign of foundation cracks? Evidence of inside or outside your home? Insect infestation either active or historic?

Location, Always Location

It’s also important to be realistic about where your home is situated. Buyers dream of being near the water, having a close by, being within walking distance to shopping, dining, and their children’s elementary schools. Next to a commercial area, directly across from a school, bordering a cemetery, in an airport flightpath, within hearing distance of a railroad, near a high-crime area are not as desirable as locations that offer more peace and quiet as well as safety and privacy. No upmarket kitchen or finished basement can overcome being situated in a less than optimal neighborhood. Such homes must be priced accordingly, marketing must be vigorous, and owners can expect a longer listing to closing time.

Market Conditions

Is it a buyers or a sellers market? If the former, expect to be inspected and any price point challenged in order to make the sale. Even if it is a sellers market, it is important not to over improve your residence, you’ll probably have to ante up to buy in wherever you are going so save money on the selling end. When marketing your home, if you invest too much improving it thinking you’ll sell at a higher price, buyers will simply look -and buy- elsewhere.

If you have to sell your home during what you consider to be an adverse time, consider any advantages you’ll have such as not getting your asking price when selling, will likely mean paying less when you buy in your new city or town. There is usually a silver lining to these transactions, so look for it and seek ways to benefit from any hiccups in the selling/buying process. Our best advice: Become and stay optimistic and be realistic.

We cannot overstate this point: when upgrading for a sale, don’t overdo it. Here are the leading reasons home buyers cite when rejecting a property, so be sure to think twice before making your residence too good to be sold!

Kitchen Remodel

Today’s buyers may want turnkey but they also want kitchens and bathrooms their way. Those high-end cherry cabinets you installed will not resonate with buyers who are sold on having a clean white contemporary look. Ditto for that name appliance package you bought at the big box store when your neighborhood and buyers’ budget dictates commercial appliances and nothing less. The caveats to this statement are if your kitchen is over 15 years old- then prospects will question if the rest of your home has been well-maintained. Also, if your competitors have renovated their kitchens, you must as well. Or, depending on the market, consider deducting the cost of a kitchen reno from your asking price or offering a modest stipend at closing towards a kitchen remodel.

Unfinished Renovations

It only makes the residence look as if an unskilled DIYer incapable of finishing anything started and then lost interest. Presenting a cohesive home is not only appealing, it also inspires buyer confidence. For example, installing granite in a kitchen with outmoded appliances and cabinets will only point out how worn everything else looks and signal a need for a gut job instead of a more cost-effective renovation. Taste is very personal so making upgrades based on your taste might also deter buyers from pulling the trigger since they are considering having to rip out your upgrades to ‘have it their way’. Buyers see it as paying for your mistakes.

Replacing a Bedroom

Before you remodel your mid Century modern or split ranch by converting a small bedroom into a walk-in closet, think again. You’ll need that bedroom to garner the most money from prospects. Instead, your brochure that details the home’s features can state, “4-bedrooms, 3-baths, ideal for in-law suite, home office, and/or walk-in closet conversion.” Let the new folks tailor their new home to meet their needs. Don’t anticipate what those needs might be and lose important living space in the meantime.


While we are on the subject, think twice before converting your basement into a private suite, adding a bathroom, or home theatre. Most buyers will not want them. Some folks just want storage, and a clean place to do the laundry. Instead, keep it simple. Paint the floors and walls using products just for this purpose, cap the steel posts with inexpensive poly columns, and present a clean canvas for new owners to make their mark. It is especially important not to imply that the space can be used for living quarters as most jurisdiction now require an outside entrance and egress windows along with an approved variance and permit.

Swimming Pools

Once an upgrade that cinched the deal, now swimming pools are viewed by many as a liability. Either the location is not ideal, or the thought of increased taxes, the cost of insurance and maintenance, and its size, shape, and/or construction are red flags to many buyers. If you have one, just make sure you have your costs to maintain, and the name of your maintenance person available. Do not put in a pool to increase your chances of a higher home sale. Unless you live in the Southwest, California, or Florida, today’s cost-conscious home buyers are not interested in this upgrade anymore.

We hope you find this information helpful. Just remember there are many updates that can and will speed the selling process. Most of these will not break the bank. To begin with, a home that has been well-maintained will not require a significant cash outlay to become market-ready, just some decluttering, polish and staging. Be sure to follow these pointers before you contact a realtor to ensure an optimal listing price. After all, your home represents a large financial commitment. It is important, especially if moving to a more expensive region, to pull every possible dollar out of your investment. Best of luck!