When you see it with your own eyes. A new listing for 17 Arnold Street in Havemeyer came on today priced at $819,000 and noting that it was “renovated” in 2002, the year it was bought (for $605,000). In checking its history, however, I see that the 2002 listing listed a 1994 renovation and, when the property was rented back in 2004 the rental listing also gave 1994 as the year of renovation.
It’s possible that the rental listing agent didn’t bother to update her information but that’s an odd thing to do, especially when the owner/landlord is a family member. It’s also possible that she is now taking a more generous view of what comprises a renovation.
The only way to find out is to see for yourself.
71 Richmond Hill Rd
Here we have a house on four acres, built in 1994 and originally put up for sale in 2003 at $4.050 million. It didn’t sell so the owners did something else for five years and brought it back on the market last spring at $3.795. That listing expired two months ago and today it’s back again with a new broker and a new price of $3.495. All that’s fine, but I’m curious that the new listing claims it was “renovated” in 2007 while the previous listing makes no such assertion. Did the previous agent, an experienced woman, fail to notice that her listing had been renovated or did she deem whatever changes the owners had done too insignificant to merit the term? The choice seems to be between an inattentive agent or a difference of opinion as to what makes a renovation. I’d go with the latter, which is what makes comparing houses so difficult, sometimes.
UPDATE: here’s one definition of renovate from the Free Dictionary:
1. To restore to an earlier condition, as by repairing or remodeling.
2. To impart new vigor to; revive.
Merriam-Webster mentions “to clean” in its definition, so perhaps this house has had dust bunnies chased from under its beds and the ashes swept from the fireplace.
41 Will Merry Lane took forever to sell some years ago but finally, after it’s price yo- yoed up and own all over the place, found a buyer in March ’07 for $1.425. Those people did some renovations and have put it back up for sale today at $1.975 million.
This may work out for them but it seems that these days, the “buy it, fix it up, make a profit” plan doesn’t pay the return it used to. My advice to people contemplating fixing up their homes is to do it if they plan to stay in it long enough to enjoy it. Otherwise, save your money.
Okay, that’s a bit over-stated, but here’s an example of someone putting what may prove to be good money after bad. 66 Perkins Road was bought for $2.2 million in 2006 and renovated to some extent (or completely – depends how one interprets realtorese). Returned to the market for $3.6 million in 2007, it was still a house with low ceilings and still didn’t sell. It’s got a new broker now and a new price; $2.750 million. Depending on how much the owners have put into it, the new price seems perilously close to what they paid for it (net sale proceeds after taxes and commissions = < $2.585, less renovation costs). It’s true that they could have given their money to Walt Noel to invest and lost it all so breaking even may not seem like such a bad deal, but my general rule still stands: pay for renovations if you intend to stay and enjoy them; otherwise, move on. There was a time when you could buy a house, update the kitchen and baths and maybe pick up a hundred grand profit – this is not that time.