Renovations aren’t investments

If you plan to stay in your home for five years or more, your renovation is not an investment.



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One of the Smart Cookies did a column recently where she talked about ways to make sure your renovation budget doesn’t implode. With heaps of links to wonderful sites, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I take exception with two things:

1. The idea that when you paint you need to stick with a “tasteful, current, and neutral colour.”

2. The fact that how long you plan to remain in your home is never addressed.

First, point no. 2: If you’re renovating your home for a quick flip, that’s when you have to make sure your reno dollars are all (or mostly) going to come back to you.

If you plan to stay in your home for five years or more, your renovation is not an investment. Hey, you know that fabulous new fridge you put in, those lovely new cupboards, that exquisite crown molding? In five years it won’t be new. Nope. And if you went with what was in fashion when you did your reno, you’ll have to stay in the home for 25 years to catch the retro-rebound.

The things you do to your home that you will use for five years or more before you sell are consumables. You’re getting the benefit from them, the next owner is just as likely to say, “Blech!”

A brand new hardwood floor will look great for years to come, but it’ll hardly produce a big return on investment after six years of kids dropping toys and dogs scurrying to the back door to be let out. When you’re budgeting, stop thinking about return on investment and focus instead on how much pleasure you will derive from the changes. And, of course, you have to have the money in the bank to make those changes, just like if you were buying a new TV or a swishy pair of shoes.

Now to point no. 1: Why is “neutral” more tasteful than real colour? Sure, if you’re prepping your home for resale, repainting in a neutral is a key strategy. And if you love those colours, you should use them, but because you love them, not because you’re hedging your bets on good taste. My home colour choices reflect my vibrant spirit and loud personality. Chocolate brown living/dining (which I use as my office). Red kitchen/family room. My son’s room is always vibrant orange (three homes), and my bedroom is periwinkle.

Colour has never stood in the way of me selling a home. I’ve sold hunter-green living rooms. I’ve sold spicy pumpkin living rooms. And the idea of living with neutrals just in case I end up having to sell my home is a little like perching precariously in my nest.

6 comments on “Renovations aren’t investments

  1. Good to know, because I just stripped the paint from all the 107 year old hardwood features in this room and the bedroom, stained them dark brown, and painted my office cerulean blue with sunshine yellow accents. Crazy? Maybe, but *I* like it that way and that's what counts!


  2. Till debt do us part is my favorite TV show.

    renovations can often be a good investment for your landlord as it can put up your tax rate. Does anyone really own a house or justs rents from the goverment


  3. YES!! Gail, thank you for expressing my pet peeve–that neutral colours are somehow more inherently tasteful than "real" colours! And thank you for calling them real colours!


  4. Yes! definitely not! Renovating your home is satisfying your decoration taste. It can be a investment if you will sell your property after the renovation.


  5. It's a point well made, but I do think there are some cases where a reno or remodel should be considered an investment in the long term, especially if you have the know how to do it yourself. Things like updating old plumbing fixtures, putting in upgraded molding and cabinet hardware. The key here is to pick something CLASSIC, not necessarily on-trend. If you pick the right pieces they will LAST through many years of trends. Definitely get rid of grandma's dusty rose sink bowl in favor of a white one! Some of it you might just break even on, but that's better than waiting months or even years (I've seen that!) for a sale when you're in dire straits because no one else wants to take these things on!


  6. The big issue is that it doesn’t take into consideration the value of the home. A 3000 dollar hardwood floor in a $200,000 home will not return. In a $1,000,000 it will.


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