Cristal's Blog

Home Improvement: Repair, Remodel or Renovate?

August 26, 2020

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Blue home improvement infographic

Americans spend $400 billion annually on remodeling their homes -- not to mention renovation, repair, and minor home improvement projects -- even though many find the idea too overwhelming to even begin. So overwhelming, in fact, that 35% of U.S homeowners say they would rather move than remodel. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little bit of preparation, your remodel or renovation will be complete in no time.

There are many reasons to undertake home improvement projects. The majority of homeowners say they remodel or renovate because they’re ready for a new, updated look. Some homeowners call in a construction crew when they move into a new abode. Others hire a contractor to take care of a naturally worn out room. Then there are those looking for a return on investment because they’re considering listing their home in the near future.

Whatever your reason, start by evaluating the condition of your home. Make sure to check out the strength of the market in your community, too, if you’re remodeling to sell. And consider the potential profit to be made, both with and without updates.  

With the National Association of Realtors® 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, Santa Barbara and Montecito homeowners can take a deep dive into their potential home improvement projects and find the typical cost of 20 top remodeling and renovation tasks. The NAR examines a variety of projects; ranking their appeal in terms of resale or how much joy the finished task creates for the current homeowner. The findings also reveal the reasons for remodeling, the success of taking on various projects, and the increased happiness homeowners enjoy upon completion of the job.

The numbers unveiled in the report are extremely positive for homeowners that go through their home improvement plans. Once the projects are completed, 74% of owners have a greater desire to be in their home, 65% say they experience increased enjoyment, and 77% feel a major sense of accomplishment. Additionally, 58% report a feeling of happiness when they see their completed projects, while 38% say they have a feeling of satisfaction.

Planned renovation of a Open modern kitchen from loft with view on a lush garden

When it comes to updating or upgrading a property to sell, here are the projects that get homeowners the most bang for their buck. Renovations that rank high on ROI include: 

  • New roof — 105% recovered
  • Insulation upgrades — 95% recovered
  • New wood flooring — 91% recovered
  • New garage door — 87% recovered
  • New vinyl siding — 83% recovered
  • New vinyl windows — 80% recovered

Those compelling numbers suggest doing the work before listing. But still, homeowners need to do their due diligence before making any home improvement decisions. Here are some things to ponder:

READ: Preparing Your Santa Barbara Home For Sale

Who buys fixer-uppers?

The words “fixer-upper” might actually be a selling point for some buyers. It will attract buyers who are looking for a deal, those who want a property they can put their stamp on, or those who just can’t afford to buy something turnkey. Then there are the flippers who are searching for a home that needs work. Experts say if your home needs kitchen or bath remodels, a new roof, or foundation repairs, then there’s more than an 80% chance your buyer is going to be an investor. Make sure your real estate professional has those contacts.

The value of an honest assessment

Your real estate agent should be able to give you an honest assessment of your home’s value in its current condition. Listen to what they have to say. Realtor's like me have the knowledge it takes to make recommendations on what will make your home market-ready. Keep in mind, your agent has the same goal as you: to get your home sold at the best possible price.

READ: Selling Luxury Real Estate in Santa Barbara

Be realistic on pricing

Home improvement may make the most sense due to the financial upside. Your real estate agent should be able to show you market comparable, so you can evaluate other properties in your area in varying conditions. This important intel will give you an idea of how much you’d have to spend to get top dollar for your home. You can also find the typical cost of 20 remodeling and replacement projects in the NAR report I mention above.

Modern white interior with color paints. 3d rendering interior

Remodel wisely

Remodeling or renovating may be a labor of love, but it's also an investment that can seriously boost the value of your home. Understanding what’s popular among home buyers today can help home sellers make educated decisions when it comes to those projects. Only by how much? Homeowners should look for a project or projects where they can recoup an average of 64% of what they paid.

Make necessary repairs

There are some basic repairs that should be addressed before you list. It might not be glamorous, but buyers are looking at big-ticket items like the age and condition of the roof, air conditioning, and heating systems, water heater, electrical panel, and pipes. I tell my clients to seriously consider replacing any of these components that are on their last leg Thinking about making a change? Whether your space needs refreshing, or your needs have evolved, a home remodel or renovation might be in order.

Definitely consult a professional

Unless you have the necessary knowledge and experience – not to mention the time – then you should definitely get together with an expert as early on in the process as possible. A pro will not only be able to advise you on design and materials but will also help you steer clear of potential money drains and provide referrals to contractors and craftspeople your project will need.

Tackle the most-used room first

If you’re like most people, then this would be the kitchen. When you start rethinking your kitchen space, begin with the most basic thing: the layout. Consider whether or not the flow works for today’s trends and preferences, and whether you need to expand the space. Everything else – appliances, cabinet styles, countertop material, etc. – will be easier to plan once you have the right layout established.

READ: How to Increase Home Value

Don’t feel like you need to stick to just one design style

If your home is a Spanish Colonial, for example, while you’ll want the design to complement the architecture, you don’t need to go all-out and make your interiors look like they belong in the casa of a California family (not unless that’s what your aim is, of course). Rooms don’t necessarily need to have “themes” either. In fact, that can make them look dated, fast.

Don’t forget about the lighting

Sometimes the only update a space needs is better lighting that allows for more nuances and greater functionality.

Think about energy efficiency

There are many ways to incorporate more energy-efficient features into the design of anything from a bathroom to a pool. You can also opt to go for sustainably sourced materials.

READ: 25 Homeowner Tips for Going Green

If you don’t already have a contractor you trust to take on home improvement projects, I’m happy to share my contacts with you. Or, check out the reviews of the best general contractors in the area on Houzz, the online destination providing the best experience for home renovation and design, connecting homeowners and home professionals with the best tools, resources, and vendors.


6 Do's and Don't's of Home Renovations

Top 7 Home Renovations That Will Pay You Back

Once you list your home, get ready to receive offers based on its condition. If you’re considering listing your home in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities and are wondering about home remodeling or renovation before selling, please call me at + 1 (805) 886-9378 or email me at I’ll give you my honest assessment and happily add your listing to my portfolio of fine homes in the area.


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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch