Upgrading home fixtures and decor before selling adds more value than extensive renovations, property experts say.

The 2014 Westpac Renovation Report reveals the number of residential alteration and addition projects has more than doubled since 2010, increasing by 147 per cent.

But property experts aren’t convinced of the value of renovating, with many home extensions failing to offer a return on investment.

“I have seen vendors lose six months of their time and spend $150,000 on a home to get $150,000 back, with no profit,” says Barry Plant partner and auctioneer Luke Brizzi.

“I have had homes where buyers have walked out and disregarded a home because they hated the new $50,000 kitchen that a vendor put in for sale and couldn’t justify buying the home to replace it with one of their own taste,” Mr Brizzi says.

Investing in professional styling pre-sale (rather than renovating) can bring a modern touch to a tired home and potentially distracted buyers.

“I recently had two identical apartments owned by the same vendor go to auction on the same day; one was styled and dressed and the other was vacant.”

“The styled apartment sold above reserve but the empty one failed to get a bid and sat empty on the market for two months, later selling $50,000 below the other apartment,” Mr Brizzi says.

“Truth is, no buyer connected with an empty apartment.”

More modest approaches to renovating such as paint touch-ups and increased lighting don’t run the risk of contrasting with buyers’ personal taste.

According to Hobbs Jamieson Architecture principal architect Adam Hobbs, “simple techniques like selective wall removal to open up a room, ‘rebranding’ of spaces to change their use, (dark small living area into a bedroom for instance), can make big changes with limited effort.”

“In short, refinish don’t restructure if you’re looking to keep costs down,” says Mr Hobbs.

Ask An Architect manager Cameron Frazer says: “Consider replacing some of the cosmetic elements such as taps, handles, towel rails and shelving.

“These can make such areas appear more modern without a complete renovation,” Frazer says.

As buyers become more concerned with running costs and their home’s environmental impact, investing in these areas can be more valuable than increased space.

“More costly additions include upgrading windows to double glazing to improve heating and cooling efficiency,” Mr Frazer says.

“Adding solar power or solar hot water can also increase the home’s appeal.”

Rara Architecture director Wesley Spencer works with clients looking to increase the value of their home without building an extension.

“We have a client who is investing $500,000 into their home without extending and the projected value increase is $2 million,” says Mr Spencer.

Homes lacking connectivity between rooms can be resolved by reconfiguring room layouts.

“Strategically positioning windows, openings and the television to allow a comfortable flow of space enhance the feeling of connectivity and openness between the rooms,” Mr Spencer says.

For one of Mr Spencer’s clients, this has reduced the scope of works from $200,000 to $50,000.

“The most successful home improvements I’ve seen for a sale are when the owner finally commits to doing the things they wish they had done the whole time they lived there but never got around to,”

“They know the space well and can see its flaws,” says Mr Spencer.

Posted by Amelia Barness – The Age on 2nd February, 2015