Regardless of whether you are preparing for a move or looking to update your home, remodelling can be a huge undertaking. Knowing what renovations to do to the house or unit that will yield the highest return is key to getting a higher price when selling the property.
FEI Architect founder and principal Lam Shen Fei says it is important to address the purpose of renovation and the type of residence. Thus, the value can be determined from three aspects — longevity, aesthetics and functionality.
Longevity will allow for easy maintenance, future extension or relocation. This saves costs in the long run for an owner who intends to rent out the unit, says Lam. “Such design focuses on practicality rather than trend-driven aesthetics and may be applied through open ceilings, exposed cable trays, track lighting, dry wall partitions and sliding or folding walls or windows,” he adds.
“These features allow for flexible change of space based on different tenants and lifestyles. Design considerations with protection of the walls and floors, such as sealants and oil-based solutions, ensure the materials will last longer.”
Lam says aesthetic designs give a sense of novelty and thematic setting, and aim to make a photographic impression, with less focus on the longevity and practicality of the materials chosen.This is mostly seen in property sales galleries and fine dining venues that value a good impression.
However, he highlights that this kind of design may be hard to maintain, with dust easily collecting on ornaments and materials deteriorating faster. While this is usually remediated with higher maintenance costs and frequent cleaning, it may not suit everyone’s lifestyle and requirements.
“Alternatively, large spaces can be incorporated to provide a lasting impression. This can be done by having large entrance ways, double-volume heights or long corridors, providing a sense of awe and visual attraction,” he adds.
Another aspect is functionality, which may give a house more functions. Examples include having louvres to block the sun’s rays or as a privacy screen as well as having keyless entry systems, booster pumps, ventilating fans, extra water tanks, cooking facilities, bigger dining capacity, more rooms and good views.
Lam points out that it is important to avoid unnecessary decorations, such as plastic plants, while exposed cabinets or open shelves will result in minimal maintenance and a healthier space.
“With a well-considered spatial layout and circulation, spaces can be designed to suit a specific purpose, whether it is a space for infants, has good ventilation and spatial division for privacy or spatial convenience for the elderly and disabled,” he says.
Getting priorities right
According to IQI Concept Sdn Bhd business development manager Wong Yie Yee, one of the most important factors to consider before renovating is the budget. “Knowing how much money you have set aside or are willing to spend on renovations will prevent you from going over budget. And prepare extra money for any unexpected costs due to the unpredictable nature of renovation.”
She says one should begin with demolition or wet works, such as hacking and extensions. If wet works are not involved, then begin with the living room or kitchen renovation.
The kitchen is the hub of the home for many house owners, Wong says, so functionality is the top priority. People will usually look for an updated and practical kitchen, which may include a kitchen island, one of the most requested features.
An updated bathroom is also a major selling point. “You do not have to spend a lot of money to remodel the bathroom; all you have to do is make it look clean and functional. Minor improvements, such as replacing an outdated vanity and showerhead, fixing old plumbing or changing light fixtures, can significantly increase the value of the house,” says Wong.
Flickering or malfunctioning lights and leakage issues can easily put off a potential buyer, she points out. There is a high chance of older properties having rusty or leaky pipes and outdated wiring, which may not be suitable for modern household appliances. As such, Wong suggests a “comprehensive inspection of the house” to make the necessary repairs and ensuring each area or room has enough power outlets.
In addition, plaster ceilings can conceal a variety of unsightly features, such as air-conditioner ducting, wiring for lights and fans as well as plumbing. Depending on the design and complexity, the cost to update them is usually reasonable.
The exterior of the house is the buyers’ first impression, Wong says, and it strongly affects their purchasing decision. “This is where an old gate can be replaced or outdated doors given a new coat of paint to make the house more appealing. One may also do some landscaping or add plants to the garden.”
In most cases, a home extension would increase the value of the property. “Extensions increase the size of a property and homeowners generally like the idea of gaining a little extra living space to allow for more flexibility in designing their dream home,” says Wong.
Renovation mistakes to avoid
It is a good idea to create something that reflects one’s individuality. However, Wong believes that excessive customisation or bespoke modifications — such as wallpaper, high-end fixtures or painting patterns on the walls — will not raise the home’s value. These personalised features for the current homeowner may not always translate into additional value for the next owner and may also be outdated.
When it comes to renovation, DIY is always the most cost-effective option. “To pull it off successfully, you have to proceed with caution, make thorough preparations and have good workmanship. This is where one can engage professionals to complete complicated jobs such as wiring and plumbing, as the prospective buyer would notice a lack of quality work if these tasks are not done professionally, ultimately lowering the home’s value,” says Wong.
She also notes that while built-ins are good for storage, too many can reduce wall and floor space. Removing any unnecessary built-in cabinets would require additional expense as well as time for the next buyer.
FEI Architect’s Lam says it is important for architects to provide on-the-spot independent advice on future renovations and improvements, including building and planning regulations.
Without a clear plan, a proposed design may not increase the value of the house due to the different lifestyles of the different owners.
“Unless agreed by the purchaser, it is usually recommended to have a minimal and basic renovation with simple paint, fixing of visual defects with no cracks and leaking, and removal of defective electrical and furniture fittings. The sequence of work should be well planned and the painting done after the removal of fittings,” says Lam.
When the property is vacant, he says a vendor has to ensure proper floor and wall protection during the moving of heavy furniture. If the sale of the house includes fittings, then the air-conditioning units, water filter and lighting should be well-maintained and in good working condition.
Renovating a house is no easy task but if done well will allow the seller to reap financial benefits.