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Adding value: All upgrades are not created equal


All upgrades are not created equal

One thing buyers of new condos often lose sight of is that one day they may want to sell their property. It’s understandable; they’re typically faced with the sometimes overwhelming choice of many optional upgrades.

But the resale value may be quite different from a purchase price plus the cost of any upgrades or renovations the owner has done. It’s important to remember that all upgrades are not created equal.

Fulfilling your dreams and desires is wonderful, as long as you realize they may not be shared by prospective purchasers if you decide to sell. On the flip side, the seller’s reality may not be that of a purchaser either. I’ve talked to many condo owners who had the chance to buy an extra parking space or storage locker or could have upgraded a laminate countertop or kitchen cabinetry but declined, dismissing it as a waste of money. In fact, an investment in such upgrades may pay dividends when you come to sell.

When deciding on upgrades, if you put on a buyer’s hat, the answer to what to invest in will be clearer. Typically, prospective sellers rattle off in detail all the upgrades that make their condo superior to the one down the hall. In reality, many of them add little or no value and some may actually detract from a property’s attractiveness, like gold-plated faucets, brightly coloured cabinetry, sinks, tubs and showers and unique ceramic tile work and flooring. This is not to say these are not valid options for the owner, but rather that their value is likely to be diminished in the eyes of prospective purchasers.

Something as simple as a can of paint can either increase or reduce a unit’s value. Light, neutral colours in small spaces help with continuity and make the space seem larger. Most ceilings start off white, however, if you paint the ceiling and walls in a warmer colour with a contrasting crisp, white trim you can change the space and create a warmer feel to the room. For a different effect and an even warmer, cosier feel, paint the walls and ceiling the same light colour and the trim with one-quarter of that colour mixed in with white. This gives definition without cutting the space up visually. How you use paint will determine if you have added value to your home. And the nice thing about paint? If you don’t get it right the first time, you can also change it. If you really love that dramatic red wall or turquoise bathroom, enjoy it until you’re ready to sell. Then change it to a light, neutral colour.

Unfortunately, changing it is not so easy for floor or kitchen cabinet upgrades. Now, in general, these upgrades add value at resale unless you choose colours or styles that scream time warp. Avocados are great in the kitchen, just not as a colour for the appliances. Speaking of style, try to choose one that is consistent with the building style, which is what, more than anything, will attract prospective buyers to your condo when you want to sell. If the building is extremely contemporary, do not inflict a country kitchen on your condo, even if you get a good buy on it. Don’t lose sight of the bottom line — resale value.

Getting back to investing in that extra parking space: Even if you are doing your bit for the environment and have a single vehicle, remember that most couples downsizing to a condo will have two. Offering a condo for sale with two parking spots included increases its value. If you don’t need a second spot, think about renting it to another condo owner. Will you recoup the initial price of the extra space? Perhaps. But you will certainly set your property apart from the competition. The same goes for an extra storage locker. Depending on how well you negotiated the initial purchase, you are likely to make up the initial cost at sale time.

If you are like most of us, you will be caught up in a flurry of emotions when you purchase a new condominium. Excitement, misgivings and uncertainty all conspire to complicate your decision-making. Take time to step back and analyse your goals and then upgrade to achieve them.

Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 23 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. Brokerage, an Exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. She can be reached through

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