Seven-Day Sale Shows Renovation Pays Dividends

On May 12, I posted a column on the coming sale of my home at the Athena. On May 14, it was listed in the MLS for $530,000. The home was under contract in seven days with the first (of many) people who toured (and still tour).

Including my home, there are currently five properties in the Athena for buyers to choose from. The others have been listed between five and nine months – and for less money. Why did my home get buyers’ interest so quickly?  Renovation.

Those who toured left comments that included:

“Absolutely stunning home in the sky! Please let me know if the current contract does not work out!” “It is lovely,” and, “This is a beautiful unit with the finest of materials used on the remodel.” And specific to the Athena, of those I spoke with, all appreciated my having an open balcony.

It’s no secret that buyers want move-in homes. But buyers in the older demographic the Pink Wall trades in really want move-in ready homes.  Properties requiring six-figure renovations with their associated hassles are a lot less appealing.

Several years ago I tracked the age of owners in Dallas high-rises and found an interesting reality. The older the building, the older the residents. It seems that when a building is new it attracts a higher proportion of younger buyers – bright young things want bright new things. But as high-rises age, so do the residents. The reason appears to be an intersection between owners (nearing or into retirement) staying and people wanting to be with people at a similar point in life. It’s probably related to our askance view of a 60-year-old dating a 25-year-old. People, we often think, should stay in their lanes.

This dynamic is true even in single-family homes. At one point there will be scads of young families with children on a street, but as those families age, so does the street. At some point, the downsizers move away leaving room for new families to youthanize the street again. Condos and high-rises differ because older residents have already downsized and are more often waiting for God.

This sets up a situation where, as buildings age, their listings become dominated by units requiring renovation (we’re all guilty of blindness to our own shortcomings). If the unit is the result of an estate sale, would-be inheritors are typically unwilling to plow money into a home to bring it up to snuff. (I wonder if there is a business to be made offering semi-packaged renovations to often remote inheritors to maximize the home’s potential and resale price?)

I’ve also thought that if a building wanted to keep resales moving, HOAs would purchase, renovate and flip downtrodden units themselves. This would ensure a steady stream of new product.

Sellers’ Blindness

Agents out there also know about “the conversation” they have with sellers of outdated homes. How many times does a seller see a tricked-out home only to think their (now rickety) 1970s décor is worth just as much “with a lick of paint”? Unrealistic sellers often interview every agent in Texas trying to get one to support their price. Finally, one naïve agent seeking fame, glory, and a commission bites – and the home sits on the market forever. In the process, that first agent often loses the listing to another agent (who got the price drop the first agent couldn’t).

Perhaps the best medicine is for sellers to binge-watch HGTV’s Buying and Selling with the Property Brothers. That show features sellers who renovate their current home so they can afford a better one. There was another show (can’t remember its name) where sellers eavesdropped on buyers touring their home. The unvarnished truth seemingly woke sellers up to the need to fix-up. (Of course, this is TV and heavily staged, but the points are valid.)

For me, renovation has become a given. I’ve grown to like having things my way. I’ve also always had tastes that habitually outstripped my wallet (which is how I got into renovating my homes in the first place). Space has always mattered more than a home’s condition. In time, I can always fix the bad, but space is a different problem to fix – especially in a condo.

For budgetary reasons, I’m not particularly speedy – as my neighbors will attest. I moved into my current home after the basics of floors and walls had been redone (too much dust to live in). It took another year to save up for the kitchen and even longer to tackle three bathrooms. I had paint chips on my living room wall for over a year before deciding on a color – which I instantly disliked – and another year to shake the procrastination and try again with the current color (that I love). It was only last month that I had the seldom-used second bedroom and bathroom ready to show.

So renovation doesn’t have to be fast, but it does have to be good. But let’s play devil’s advocate (my favorite game). Let’s say that a $100,000 unrenovated home is only worth $150,000 after a $50,000 renovation. On the surface, there appears to be no financial reason not to leave the renovation to the next buyer. But what if the renovated home sold in two weeks versus six-months?  That’s half a year’s property taxes saved. If the property is in an HOA, that’s six months of dues saved. What if it takes longer to sell?  And what if you just need to be out of a property – job change, two mortgages, etc. – time matters.

Sure, renovation takes time too — but done well, there’s a financial as well as time reward at the end. And even if you’re not planning to sell, living in a renovated home that you helped design has its own rewards. Every home I live in is the best home I’ve ever lived in.

Wait until you see my next project.


Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

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