4 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Renovating My Condo to Sell It

published Sep 4, 2021
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As a dedicated Apartment Therapy reader and contributor, I can’t fathom how many hours I’ve spent poring over the ins and outs of real estate tips and tricks. Despite the ample resources at my disposal, nothing could have prepared me for living in a one-bedroom condo-turned-construction site (with a 10-month-old crazed puppy, I might add!). But in order to stay on track to list my condo during this seller’s market, certain renovations had to be made.  

With limited space, neighbors living just on the other sides of my walls, and the daily demands of life — remote working, dog walking, snack eating — my updates caused some serious commotion. Now that the renovations are finished and my condo is officially listed (hooray!), allow me to share four lessons I learned along the way.

Plan your meals ahead of time.

For my pre-listing renovations, I planned to replace the flooring in my entire living space, as well as install stainless steel appliances in my galley kitchen. With sawdust covering my countertops, contractors navigating the nooks and crannies of my kitchen, and separate delivery workers installing my refrigerator and oven range, preparing meals was not an option. 

As the great and powerful Cher declared, “If I could turn back time.” After budgeting for renovations, I had little disposable income left until my next paycheck, and preparing food was impossible given the obstacles on my floor and countertops. For those attempting any kitchen renovation, I recommend adding a few days of takeout, or at least strategic meal-prepping, to a budget and a to-do list. The last thing anyone living in a torn-apart condo needs is low blood sugar. Taking care of yourself will give you the power to push through the inconveniences of home renovation.

Check in with your neighbors.

I was so close to getting this one right. Happily, I have an excellent rapport with my neighbors in the surrounding units on my floor, so I made sure to mention the oncoming renovations to prepare them for some unavoidable commotion. However, in the midst of the chaos of table saws and hammering, I totally neglected to give my upstairs and downstairs neighbors a heads-up. This led to my downstairs neighbor popping upstairs to share her thoughts on the noise with my contractors — and she did NOT mince words. 

Remember to consider the folks neighboring all sides of your unit, and make a conscious effort to leave a note on their door with the estimated duration of the task at hand, as well as your phone number. If your renovations are particularly noisy and time-consuming — especially now that so many folks continue to work remotely from home — perhaps a sweet note or token of appreciation for their patience is appropriate once updates wrap up.

Credit: FollowTheFlow | Getty Images

Utilize your contractors as best you can.

I had excellent contractors working in my home for a week, and they were fabulous. They were knowledgeable, efficient, attentive to detail, and had excellent taste in local Dad Rock radio stations. I went into my renovation with two simple goals: replace the flooring and install new appliances. Now that the renovation is complete and my condo has undergone an inspection, I wish I had tackled more projects while I had the opportunity.

Especially if, like me, you’re updating your home to prepare for listing, there’s one handy resource you should absolutely take advantage of: home inspection videos! There are so many details that the average homeowner overlooks, but that a home inspector will identify in no time. Do your homework! Having a general sense of what unexpected features an inspector will examine will allow you to do a little pre-examination of your own. Save yourself the time and trouble of finding and scheduling an expert later down the road, and take care of those “out of sight, out of mind” issues now. 

Consider your comparables.

When my real estate agent and I sat down to determine the listing price of my condo, we first spent a couple of hours looking through comparable condos in my area, their amenities, and their listing and ultimate sale prices. Pay attention to the big selling points: parking spaces included, the age of appliances, bedroom and bathroom sizes, and more.

My previous laminate flooring was dated and did have some damage that could not easily be fixed due to the age and discontinuation of that particular flooring. As such, my agent and I decided the safest bet was to replace it all. However, after listing, I get the feeling that my new appliances were a far more valuable update than the floors. I can’t say for sure if an inspection would have prompted a buyer to request updates, but I definitely might have saved time and energy simply by offering a buyer a credit for flooring replacement and letting them deal with the noise and dust!