Greenwich, as we all know, is or was home to many celebrities including actors, directors, producers, fashion designers, models, musicians, authors, sports figures, architects, cartoonists, captains of industry and even a governor and two former presidents. Wealthy individuals and families gravitate toward our town in part because they feel safe and at home in our community, in part because of the proximity -- yet distance -- from Manhattan and, in part, for tax reasons.
It's no surprise when we hear of well-known people shopping for property in Greenwich. One of my relatives from Long Island teased me recently by asking if I was helping Tom Cruise to find a house here. Cruise is rumored to be checking out some of our luxurious properties, including Mel Gibson's former estate at 124 Old Mill Road, which was recently relisted for sale at $32,995,000.
Our town hosts a Who's Who of celebrities, and it helps to make Greenwich even more special. Occasionally, you'll see them shopping or dining along Greenwich Ave., and most people either give them their privacy or don't recognize them.
As a realtor, I love the extra attention our town gets when the media reports on their Greenwich home-buying trips. And Tom, if you're still looking, my contact information is at the end of this column.
Should you remodel your home before selling?
I'm often asked by sellers about remodeling projects they are considering before listing their home for sale. My answers are supported by the National Association of Realtors' annual surveys and a recent survey by Remodeling Magazine. Specifically, homeowners want to know how much value will be added if they perform various upgrades and renovations.
Part A of my answer is that their home may attract more offers and sell sooner if done tastefully and along lines that most buyers will like.
That's the good news. Part B is that unless you are doing the work yourself and valuing your labor at $0, you most likely will only get a fraction of your investment back. I guess that's the bad news -- but you'll enjoy your home more in the meantime. Some people even fall in love with their home all over again and decide not to sell it.
For those intent on renovating before selling the charts that accompany this story show the average national returns that were reported in the 2011-2012 survey taken by Remodeling Magazine. The highest percentage was achieved in an expensive project -- residing with fiber cement shingles such as James Hardie siding -- a 78 percent return. The lowest return, 42.9 percent, was from a home office remodeling. To be sure, these are national averages, not Greenwich costs.
Here are my personal recommendations on projects that will return more than the investment when listing your home for sale. These are the hidden gems in what to spend money on as a seller.
Stage your home including cleaning, de-cluttering, and minimizing furnishings and personal possessions. According to StagedHomes.com, the average increase in total value is 7 percent of the sale. Staging costs by professionals generally run significantly less than one-half of a percent of the sale price.
Paint inside and outside as needed, especially house trim and what's seen from the curb. Use neutral colors inside and out. Linen walls and white trim inside make for a very clean and sophisticated look.
Sand and refinish scratched or worn hardwood floors.
Each of these big three investments will return many multiples of their cost. Every other renovation will return only a fraction of its cost. Also be careful to not over-improve your property beyond what the neighborhood values will support.
On a final note, don't forget that shopping for clothing and shoes under $300 is tax-free in Connecticut through Saturday, Aug. 25.
"I think of everything in this house as ours."
"What about the tools?"
"The tools are ours, I just don't want you touching them."
Ken Edwards is the principal broker for Edwards & Associates and has lived in town since 1974. All opinions expressed in this column are entirely his own and not those of this publisher. Comments, questions and suggestions may be sent to K_W_Edwards@Yahoo.com or by phone or text at 203-918-4444. Questions of general interest will be addressed in this column, while others will receive individual responses.