Upgrades help boost resale

Sure, it’s exciting building your first home — all of the choices, the finishes, the new house smell, not to mention the fact that you can put your personal stamp on everything from flooring to countertops.

But if you are a first-time home builder on a limited budget with plans to move up to a larger home in the next few years, it is important to think about what upgrades will contribute to resale value.

“You have to temper the visceral experience with logic,” says Todd Talbot, co-host of Love It or List It Vancouver. “It’s all about thinking about opportunities to add value.”

But a recent study by Remodeling Magazine, the Farnsworth Group and the National Association of Realtors found that not all upgrades offer equal return on investment when it comes to resale value.

Although the study looked at major U.S. centres and the information was dictated by the U.S. housing market, the basic premise (what features are most attractive to a homebuyer) can be applied to the Calgary housing market with some modifications due to climate and consumer sophistication.

The study found that the top high-value upgrades include fibre-cement siding, anything kitchen, a garage addition, a basement remodel and outdoor decks.

Ross Pavl, a Calgary-based real estate agent with Re/Max would concur with these conclusions, but adds a few twists given the Calgary climate and market.

Here are his top five upgrades to consider with resale in mind when building from scratch:

THINK KITCHEN

It’s the single most important room in the house. It’s where people congregate, where the kids do their homework and where we nurture ourselves and our friends and family.

“This is the place to put your dollars and upgrade, upgrade, upgrade,” says Pavl, adding that the formal dining room is taking on less importance.

Whether it’s stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, a central island or upgraded full-height cabinets, every little bit helps when it comes to attracting a buyer.

“The kitchen is huge — I just sold a house in Aspen that had a massive kitchen; the rest of the house was OK — the buyer came in and saw the kitchen and she didn’t care about anything else.”

The cost varies depending on the upgrade. Caesarstone countertops start at $4,500.

PLANK IT WITH HARDWOOD

“Everyone wants hardwood,” says Pavl. But when building a home from scratch, it’s really important to research the options.

Some builders offer hardwood flooring as a standard feature and others offer it as an upgrade. Pavl suggests choosing a wider plank (4 ¾ inches) rather than a more narrow board.

“It just seems to be the trend right now.”

The cost is $6,000 and up, depending on type and square footage.

COSY FIREPLACE

A fireplace adds an element of warmth to a home, making it more attractive and appealing to a homebuyer, especially in Calgary’s climate. It also adds an architectural element of interest to the home’s interior. Once again, it is important to research the options and the various home builders and home designs.

With some, a fireplace is standard and included in the cost and with others it is an upgrade.

The cost is about $3,000 and up.

GARAGES

When the crisp, cold days of winter hit and the thermometer drops below zero, a garage becomes a necessity in Calgary.

“It’s very important,” says Pavl. “People don’t want to leave their cars outside in Calgary’s winters.”

He says that a garage can be a game-changer when it comes to price. “Depending on the area, a three-car versus a two-car garage can add $100,000 to the price of a home.”

Although with a front-attached design, the price of the garage is built into the price of the home, not so with most laned products, which offer the unattached garage as an upgrade.

If you are going with the garage option, think about adding an upscale garage door.

The remodelling study found that single upgrade recouped almost 103 per cent on the initial average investment of $3,014, not to mention the added curb appeal that it provides.

The cost is $30,000 and up.

DEVELOPING THE BASEMENT

The lower level is the perfect place to create more living space and as most new home designs include an unfinished lower level, the area is ripe with promise.

“If you go on the market without a finished basement, it is harder to sell,” says Pavl, adding that 80 per cent of homeowners have finished their basements within five to 10 years of building a new home.

The cost is $30,000 and up.

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