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One person's renovation might just be another's deal breaker

July 08, 2007|Kathy Price-Robinson | Special to The Times

For years, the National Assn. of Realtors has reported that people sell their homes and move an average of once every seven years. I thought this number might have gone up -- indicating that in a slower market, homeowners would be more comfortable staying put for a long while -- so I asked the association for a current statistic. I was surprised to find out that people move more often, not less -- once every six years.

That explains why homeowners tend to be so concerned, even obsessed, about the return on their remodeling dollar. It's because they will be selling, on average, pretty soon.

For expert answers to these questions about how potential remodeling projects will affect the salability of a home, I turned to David Kean, a Hancock Park-based Prudential California real estate agent.


Bedroom trumps new dressing area

Question: We are a couple living in a four-bedroom house. I would like to take a bedroom adjacent to the master and turn it into a walk-in closet and dressing area, and use some of the space to enlarge the master bathroom. My husband is concerned that losing a bedroom will decrease our selling price down the line. But I'm convinced that a large dressing area and closet will bring in buyers. What is the reality?

Expert's answer: Giving up a bedroom is a risky proposition. How many does the average home in your neighborhood have? If you reduce the number below the standard, you could hurt your resale value. When buyers ask me to help them find a house, the most important requirements are usually price, location and bedroom count.

Before giving up a bedroom, consider these alternatives: Can you reconfigure the master bathroom to make it function better? Can the existing closet be gutted and professionally designed and built out to better fit your needs? Is the layout such that you can take some square footage from the adjacent bedroom to use for the closet or bathroom while retaining the fourth bedroom?

This would be my suggestion if it works. It may cost more now, but you will be adding to your home's resale value, not reducing it.

Although a great master bathroom and closet can help sell a home, they're just side dishes to the main course -- price, location and bedroom count.


Redoing kitchen? Fix up garage too

Question: I have a galley-style kitchen with a laundry room on one end. I want to move the washer and dryer to the garage, remove the wall separating the laundry room from the kitchen and use that space to make my kitchen bigger. But when I sell the house, will buyers balk at the washer and dryer being in the garage? What will bring the best resale value: a larger kitchen or a laundry room inside the house?

Expert's answer: Your plan sounds like a great idea as long as the garage is attached and convenient to get to with laundry in hand. I believe the value gained from enlarging your kitchen will far exceed the value of a separate laundry room. Kitchens are the heart of the home, so buyers place a premium on one that is up-to-date and sizable.

While you're moving the laundry into the garage, spend some time and money to fix that up as well. Paint the walls, stain or paint the concrete floor, and add storage cabinets with doors. Organizing and dressing up the garage will make it seem more like another room in the house and less like a garage.

You also might consider some other spots for the laundry. An excellent choice is the master bedroom closet, provided it is big enough and has adequate ventilation, or a hall closet.

Consider installing under-counter front-loading units in the kitchen if you have abundant cabinet space. Or, if you have a pantry area, you might consider using that.


Kathy Price-Robinson can be reached at her blog:

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