Http:// A few years after moving into their single- family home, Trish McMahon and her husband decided the time had come to renovate.
They began by putting a two-storey addition on the back of the house, with a roomy master bedroom on the upper level, that included an ensuite bathroom and a walk-in closet.
On the main floor they built a family room, giving them a bit of extra space for their growing clan (they have a 2 1/2-year-old and a baby on the way). The following year they finished the basement, adding a bathroom, laundry All told, McMahon figures they spent around $200,000 on their home , near Avenue Rd. and Eglinton Ave. W.
She says they undertook the renos because they wanted to remain in the home a while longer. But given that they plan to move eventually, resale value was top of mind.
So before they started the projects, the McMahons did some market research.
"We looked around the neighbourhood and saw that a lot of houses had been renovated," says McMahon. "We wanted to see what renovations people had done, to make sure ours were in keeping with the neighbourhood." Choosing projects that wouldn't be turnoffs for prospective buyers was important, too.
"We were hoping to do things that wouldn't take the house out of contention if someone was looking at it down the road," she says. "Just because you love it, doesn't necessarily mean everyone else is going to." WINNERS AND LOSERS
It's a good time to consider doing renovations.
The housing market has started to rebound and the federal government's Home Renovation Tax Credit and Eco-ENERGY Retrofit Program mean there's a fair bit of money available to help homeowners tackle upgrades. For homeowners looking to sell sometime in the near future, there are certain rules to bear in mind.
Certain renovations are obvious winners at resale: ones that give a home an advantage in a crowded market.
Kitchens and bathrooms top the list here.
Others, like swimming pools or elaborate landscaping, might suit one homeowner's tastes, but could ultimately WHAT PAYS OFF
Ask Stephen Dupuis which renos add the most value to a home, and his answer is simple: "It's all about the kitchen and the bath, the kitchen and the bath, and the kitchen and the bath," says Dupuis, chief executive officer of the Building Industry and Land Development Association, whose membership includes The Appraisal Institute of Canada provides homeowners with a web-based guide, RENOVA, which calculates the average payback of a home improvement project.
RENOVA estimates a $25,000 kitchen remodel – with dual sinks, stainless steel appliances, solid-surface countertops (granite, Corian) and ceramic tile backsplashes – has an average payback rate of between 75 to 100 per cent.
A $7,000 bathroom upgrade – a walk-in dual shower, vaulted ceiling, twin sinks or vanities, stone flooring and countertops – also has a return on investment of between 75 to 100 per cent.
"Sizzle sells," says Tom Lebour, a realtor and president of the Toronto Real Estate Board.
Lower down the list, projects such as a basement remodel or the addition of a deck can run around $6,000 to $7,000 each, with a return of between 50 to 75 per cent, according to RENOVA.
You don't necessarily have to sink a ton of cash into your home to give it pizzazz, though.
Just adding curb appeal can be a cheap, easy way to attract buyers.
"You definitely want to address the curbside first and foremost," says Brendan Charters, development manager for Sprucing up the front could be as simple as cleaning out the gardens and bringing more definition to the main entrance. Adding new siding or stucco can also help.
Inside, a fresh coat of paint can often do wonders.
"People nowadays are fairly picky, so a paint job is really important," says Heidi Kreiner-Ley, a realtor who is in the midst of a long-term renovation on her Richmond Hill home, which she hopes to sell when her daughter finishes Kreiner-Lay's extensive five-year reno project has included remodelling the kitchen and bathrooms, putting on a new roof, redoing her landscaping, installing a new air conditioner and furnace, and replacing the windows.
"You always have to think that what you're doing should add value to the property," she says.
With that in mind, what renovations are money pits? Most experts say swimming pools should be avoided if you're selling.
"It sort of limits your market," says Dupuis. "Some people abhor a pool because of the maintenance, and if they have young kids they're worried about that, too." The Appraisal Institute's RENOVA calculator says a $25,000 in-ground pool will get you a measly $6,300 back at The same goes with major landscaping. It might be something you enjoy while in the home, but a prospective buyer might not appreciate the effort required to keep things looking that way.
RENOVA estimates a $10,000 landscaping job will yield only a 50 per cent resale return.
Other resale-value-unfriendly renos might include: whirlpool tubs, skylights, billiard rooms and home theatres.
"They're not bad things," says Davis, "they just don't necessarily add value." NO EXTREMES
Whatever renovations you decide on, experts say there are a few rules you should bear in mind.
First, ensure your upgrades are in keeping with the standards of your neighbourhood; but avoid over-renovating.
"You don't want to have the most expensive house on the street," says Dupuis. "If you're living on a $500,000 street, don't renovate to an $800,000 value. You won't get it back." Dupuis also recommends steering clear of extremes in design and decor. "Even though a person looking to buy a home is supposed to look past the decor, you can still turn a buyer off by being too outlandish." And do-it-yourselfers beware: quality matters.
"Poorly done renovations may have no positive impact," says Lebour. "They might actually reduce the value of a home. It's almost as if, 'Why bother?' " GREENING YOUR HOME
If you're looking for incentives, the federal government is offering several at the moment.
The much-ballyhooed Home Renovation Tax Credit gives homeowners up to $1,350 toward home upgrades.
Eligible renovation projects include basements, kitchens and bathrooms, new flooring, driveway resurfacing, swimming pools, decks, garages, fences and exterior and interior painting.
On top of this, the ecoENERGY Retrofit — Homes program offers grants up to $5,000 per home to offset the cost of greening your abode. To be eligible, homes must undergo an energy efficiency assessment.
Homeowners fixing to sell would do well to get in on this deal, says Charters at Eurodale Developments – after all, green homes are in vogue these days.
"People are definitely taking the environmental aspect of renovations more seriously now," Charters says. "You could have a great looking house, but if it's grossly inefficient, you won't to be able to sell it." Read more about home renovations: The trouble with minimal decor
Heat's on: Is your furnace ready?
Green your renovation projects
Fall home maintenance tips


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