Solving the Dilemma: Renovated vs Not

by | Dec 21, 2020

Expection vs RealityIn real estate, specifically residential properties there is a matching process that happens based on Buyer and Seller expectations.  This matching creates a market in terms of price and pace.  The gap between Buyer and Seller expectations creates a dynamic – hopefully one that is solved through negotiation.  The smaller the gap, the more success potential in negotiation.

In the past 4 years, I’ve witnessed and dealt with a widening gap, one that changes the dynamics considerably.  This gap is created by how “move-in ready” is defined by a contemporary Buyer.  Gone is the day that it was defined as “clean, strong bones, and well presented”.  That’s an old school definition and it doesn’t fit anymore for Buyers today (generally).  This is not to say that such a property doesn’t still have that intrinsic value component – it does – but to the contemporary Buyer they want that plus more.

Buyers prefer (and focus) on buying homes that are “move-in ready” by their definition and ignore, or literally turn up their noses, at the rest.  To the current buyer, that means the décor is contemporary and there are no major expenses for equipment or building maintenance looming any time on the horizon.  They have reasons: limited time, patience, and cash money.

Today, married couples both work.  Add kids and pets to the mix, they simply don’t have time to work on the house.  They are generally more impatient for the same reason; they simply need to live comfortably now so they have a calm home to house the chaos.  Finally, although they may qualify financially for enough money to do a big renovation, the mortgage lender will not advance on unrealized equity.  To the lender the value of the asset is the price paid; they won’t roll in the future equity now.  So, the contemporary Buyer may want your house, its layout, and location because that fits their lifestyle criteria.  But, if it is missing their definition of “move-in ready” they will not pay full price. In their minds, it is legitimate to heavily discount price by the imagined amount to renovate the decor.

However, If the house décor is contemporary, the buyer is willing to pay a premium price.  If they can roll the “cost of contemporary” into a mortgage, they will pay more.  Or, that same Buyer will shift size and location priorities, and buy a smaller, lessor located house.  All this in exchange for the desired contemporary décor.  At that point, the Buyer is likely overpaying just to get new decor within their mortgage budget.

This is in contrast to the Owner, who sees the home as “move-in ready” because it is strong, solid, clean, and all house systems are in good shape.  The decor (or even layout) maybe 40 years out of date or 15 years out of date, but it doesn’t bother them.  They are comfortable in their home.

Buyers and Owners have a common interest – comfort – specifically their own comfort.  People want to be comfortable in their home.  Comfortable is defined differently by different generations, and people within those generations.  As we age, we don’t see a reason to change – to even consider a renovation to stay current.  Life is good, and nothing is broken, so why change?  Herein is our problematic gap that is hurting both sides of the market.

We must try to solve this gap.  Solve this dilemma.  A Seller and a Buyer have the same question to answer for themselves.  Do I want to build wealth (equity ownership in the asset that is also your home)?

When the answer is yes, then the smart Buyer will forgo some short-term vision of comfort and buy for the size and location (lifestyle criteria), to renovate later and get the equity for themselves.

If the answer is yes for the smart Owner (future Seller), they will invest in their asset sooner rather than later and enjoy the updates and the significant increase in equity.  When they do sell, it will be at a higher price and quickly.  For it is harder to change the Buyer mind, so if they will pay a premium for move-in ready why not accommodate them to your benefit?

Design and Renovation ExpertsTo answer all the questions, for both parties that might be interested in having both comfort and wealth building all rolled into one, I reached out to my other experts.  We are getting ready to speak together at a Webinar in February, which you don’t want to miss!  Our topic is: Renovating to Live – how we combine our need for comfort, wealth, and control over our lifestyle.

Because you can have it all – the comfort for lifestyle, and the wealth appreciation.  If you are aging and determined to stay in the family home then there are ways to do so.  If you are planning to move eventually, then why not consider renovating now so you enjoy the changes for awhile and are better prepared, for a better sale?

If you are a Buyer, you can understand your options a little better.  You may consider a different tactic than before after listening to these experts.  Information is so powerful.  I spoke to each of these experts recently as we prepare for February.  So I’d love to share a few insights with you now.




Melissa Tossell and Foti Hatzidemtriou work together a lot.  They have a shared passion for customized projects for lifestyle and have done some outstanding work for elders adapting their space in style, and others with lifetime accessibility challenges to realize dreams they may have fought for all their lives.  Melissa designs and Foti builds.

Melissa has magic inside her which she uses so skillfully.  She focuses on intelligent design, an intuitive approach, and lots of research.  That results in amazing clarity by the time she makes her Proposal.  The results and the joy from her work, and that of Foti, show their honest dedication to knowing their client (and their craft) and creating new realities.  At times, there have been tears of joy all around for the innovation and integrity of their commitment to meet client needs and exceed expectations.  Why?  Well in part because when designing for adaptability and accessibility, knowing how space is accessed and used takes on a whole other dimension. Figuring out things that the client doesn’t even realize becomes critical and it takes a lot of skill.  Dreams suddenly become true.




Claudia Mercedes and Mike Wade represent that group of people expanding and changing properties for their own lifestyle reasons.  Claudia brings her architectural degree and unique design experiences to client work.  Mike brings projects to life using exceptional vision, technical credibility, and client-focused results.

They have never worked together (yet) but I see them as kindred spirits in this group where each professional demonstrates passion and dedication to quality customized experiences and results.

Mike and I talked about the hesitations people have around the renovation question.  I asked what he knew about their hesitation from his experience.  Trust – the word came out first and easily.  Too many shows on TV, and stories of shoddy work and rip-offs.  People may also defer because of perceptions related to the disruption of their lives while renovation starts and goes to completion.  It’s a good thing he has a lot of answers!  Trust comes in many ways, and his wealth of information, skill as a project manager, and genuine demeanor explains why he is a go-to referral for me.  I trust him implicitly.



Emily Miszk is fast becoming one of my favorite financial partners.  I love her entrepreneurial dedication to her business which means her clients.  Since often we share clients, this quality of professionalism matches my primary criteria when I choose to refer partners to help my clients.

We talked about the financing options for renovations, which of course is a key factor.  To make money, and enjoy our space, we must spend money.  But how, when, and which option is best for you.  Those are the questions she has been able to answer for me and I want to share them with you.

When we spoke this week, one of the most important things she talked about was timing.  She has some great advice on what instruments are available to you, what is required for each, and when to implement them.  You may be very surprised, and we don’t want to miss the opportunity to use her advice in your own plan. In fact, this concept of time factors into what each of us wants to convey.  Planning ahead is key – the key to getting what you want not only because financing and permits take time – but also because it is complicated and we need the time to solve those complications for you.  To give you the comfort you have control of this situation.  None of it is a last-minute decision.

This group of speakers has something for each of you.  A Buyer in the market now searching or thinking ahead.  An Owner of a property, who knows they will move/sell sometime, or just needs to make your home more livable or safe.  No matter your reasons, this talk in February is a must-do!  A date will be set soon.  Please email me if you are interested, and I will keep you updated.

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Heather MacDonald

Heather MacDonald

Heather comes to the business of real estate & relocation, 12 years now, with a background in finance, marketing, coaching sports, and a specialty in innovation and service design.
So it’s no surprise she designed her real estate services in a unique, and maybe unprecedented way.
The Migrate Home Program complements her holistic view of quality real estate services.
Originally from BC, she has packed up and moved around enough to really appreciate change, loss, and new beginnings.