In this excerpt from their latest book, “Dream Home,” Jonathan and Drew Scott, the stars of HGTV’s “Property Brothers,” “Property Brothers at Home,” “Buying & Selling,” and “Brother vs. Brother,” reveal which renovations give you the best return on investment and the most enjoyment and functionality in your home and those that don’t.
Open floor plan
Boxed-in tiny kitchens cut off the social function of a house. In the past, you wanted to shut out the noises of the kitchen — but now it’s all part of the enjoyment of family and friends. The majority of older, unrenovated homes in North America are closed off and compartmentalized. The only way to bring a feeling of spaciousness to those homes and make them feel bigger is to open them up.
No matter how we try to downsize, we’ve still got stuff. And home life is more pleasant if there’s a place to put it. Adding storage in the basement, mudroom, bedrooms, and attic (or all of the above!) is a big plus for future buyers, too. Look for creative storage solutions, too, because you can never have too much. For instance, elevated shelving for bicycles and other gear in a garage helps keep lower areas clear. In one house, we built hidden storage drawers inside the first three steps of the stairway to the second floor. It was a great place to keep shoes and boots, dog leashes, gloves, and so on. Likewise, we love putting in toe-kick drawers on the bottom of lower kitchen cabinets; they are the perfect place to store large flat items like serving trays and baking sheets. To one kitchen cabinet toe kick, we added a drawer for the family dog’s dishes. Banquettes and window seats can be built with hinged tops for loads of hidden storage. There is generally enough room on the inside of the pantry door to install storage racks and hooks. Sometimes Jonathan will screw a magnetic plate to the underside of a pantry shelf to hold numerous Mason jars (with metal lids) that can store all sorts of things.
Hot and cool stuff
Up-to-date, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems go a long way toward making life more comfortable — and your monthly utility bills more affordable. These are big-ticket items that add a lot of value.
If there is plenty of space in your attic, it can be pretty easy to vault the ceiling, depending on the roof structure, giving you an additional 5 to 10 feet in the room. High ceilings make a huge difference.
A bath attached to the master bedroom in a house is a pleasant surprise, even for home buyers who don’t put it on their wish list. Sometimes an adjoining room can be converted to create a master bath and even a bigger walk-in closet.
We love materials like quartz and NeoLith for durability and no maintenance, but other products add beauty and value, too, like marble and granite — they just need more maintenance. Try to avoid materials that scratch too easily, because you’ll shed a single tear when you scuff them up within the first week. Solid-surface flooring takes many forms as well. Take your pick of tile, hardwood, single-board laminate, or vinyl plank; most people prefer an easy-to-care-for floor to high-maintenance, allergen-collecting wall-to-wall carpet.
A great closet system, with shelving and multiple height rods, is a bonus for you and future buyers. This is especially true if you have no room in a master bedroom for a walk-in closet. A properly organized closet exploits existing space to its best advantage, and many systems can be installed for only a few hundred dollars.
Real estate pros argue about this one, but we think any time you can add finished storage or living space to a house, it’s worth it. It’s also one of the least-intrusive but big-impact changes you can make to a home. Work can go on downstairs while you’re living upstairs without too much stress and strain on the family. Just don’t cut corners; basements need to be renovated properly or you’ll have moisture problems. And really, really think about the best use of the space. A little extra work, like putting in another bathroom, may separate your place from other houses when you decide to sell.
We’ve yet to meet a buyer who tells us they want a dark house. There’s probably one somewhere, hard at work looking for a good deal on a deep cave, but that person has never been a client of ours. Adding or enlarging windows is generally a safe bet if your home is noticeably dark. In addition to updating your home’s look and enhancing curb appeal, installing new windows can help save on heating and cooling costs. Just be very careful to run the numbers, because this is the one upgrade that can easily get out of control.
Functional, attractive exterior doors
Updating an old manual garage door with a new automatic one adds curb appeal and functionality to your house. Front and back doors do the same. A new front door can really brighten up a house and give it a whole new look without a lot of expense or work. Also consider swapping the back sliding door for beautiful French doors that open to your deck.
Of course, you want to emotionally connect with your home, but you can’t allow emotions to steer the direction of your renovation. Just as there are features that you want in a house, and that increase the value of the space, there are changes that you should not make. These are features that can bite you back when it’s time to sell — and that may even start to annoy you after a while. We don’t want you to make these mistakes. So …
1. Don’t turn a small third bedroom into a walk-in closet.
2. Don’t get rid of the only bathtub.
3. Don’t spend a fortune adding a custom home theater.
4. Don’t convert a garage into a family room.
5. Don’t put in a pool.
6. Don’t build rooms for highly specific uses that can’t be easily changed. A bowling alley, indoor hot tub, indoor basketball court, wine cellar, and cigar room may have extremely limited appeal.