There are a million competing priorities when you’re preparing to list your home on the real estate market. For example, does your home have adequate curb appeal? Is it worth replacing the worn-out windows in your guest bedroom? How essential are appliances and countertops in the kitchen? How important is flooring?
At the end of the day, your buyers may simply have different tastes than you do — and they might choose to redo the floors regardless of what investments you’ve decided to make. So does it make more sense to leave everything as-is and leave a flooring allowance on the table? Or are key upgrades vital to your sale?
This article will explore how important flooring is when you want to list your home. Likely, tearing up and replacing all of your floors is not needed, nor is it necessary. But we will guide you through the measured investments you can make throughout the property to ensure its appeal to prospective buyers.
If your floors are not in good shape, a buyer may think about what else may be wrong with the home.
How important is flooring when selling a house?
Knowing what improvements will guarantee a return on investment (ROI) at this stage is crucial. You want to ensure that buyers have a good feeling about your property from the start, says Real Estate Broker Melanie Giglio-Vakos, founder and president of Team MVP in Chicago. “If your floors are not in good shape, a buyer may think about what else may be wrong with the home.”
Well-maintained floors signal to prospective buyers that your home has been well-cared for. But are there specific rooms that send this message more strongly than others?
Most important floor spaces for buyers
- Entryway – A buyer establishes their first impression between the curb and the entryway, so these are areas worthy of your most significant investments. Whether your main entrance is into the home’s kitchen, living space, or a mudroom, consider new or refurbished flooring in this space.
- Main living areas – Where do you spend the most time? Is there a great room or a combined kitchen/living space? Giglio-Vakos says these will make or break a buyer’s impression. “Many people don’t care to have carpeting in those main areas,” she explains, adding that carpet may be acceptable for lower-traffic zones of the home.
Less important floor spaces for buyers
- Bedrooms – Buyers may be more accepting of low-cost flooring options in areas like bedrooms that won’t be the focal point of your home. In spaces like these, be sure to refinish and even replace if necessary, but consider spending most of your budget elsewhere.
- Laundry and utility rooms – You may not see these floors every day of the week; they’re not as high-visibility as, say, a kitchen or living room. If you must pass these spaces over or negotiate a flooring allowance for the buyer, consider doing so here.
- Guest bathrooms – Similarly to laundry and utility rooms, guest baths may see less use than other zones of the house. For this reason, you may consider spending your flooring budget in other areas.
Should I replace the carpet before I list my home?
Carpeting is not a death nail in the listing potential of your home, though dirty or dated carpet most certainly could be. “When you are walking into a bedroom with stains all over the carpet,” advises Giglio-Vakos, “even if it’s a really big bedroom, people are turned off by that.”
Be strategic about in which rooms you splurge versus skrimp. Similarly, invest in proper installation and maintenance, no matter the flooring type you choose. Carpeting tends to be the least expensive option, ballparking a median cost of around $2.50 per square foot. Comparatively, hardwoods can cost between $6 and $12 per square foot. So if your budget is limited, consider the rooms and spaces above that are likely to earn the best ROI.
“When (carpet) is laid down properly, it will always look a thousand times better than a worn-out hardwood floor,” advises Giglio-Vakos, stressing that buyers are looking for crisp spaces — “People like to feel like it’s a fresh, clean home.”
What kinds of floors help sell homes?
Hardwoods are the traditional showstopper and are sure to catch a buyer’s attention. In addition to being a go-to, hardwood flooring can be stained and refinished repeatedly to keep with the decor of the home and to suit future buyers’ tastes.
The National Association of Realtors® backs this up, underscoring how the pandemic has changed our living habits, further highlighting why gorgeous hardwoods may move buyers. In addition, data shows that hardwood flooring has been a top home improvement project in recent years — and if buyers see this as already complete, they can visualize themselves in the space even more easily.
Refurbished hardwoods are a fantastic investment if you have flooring that could just use some elbow grease to restore. “If you do have real hardwood, getting it refinished is such a low cost,” says Giglio-Vakos. She advises that at an average of $1.50 per square foot for rehab, the ROI is reliable and often significant.
Engineered wood flooring is another option, though you’ll want to consult your Realtor® before making such an investment.
What kinds of floors hurt home sales?
- Old or worn-out floors (yes, including hardwoods, if they’re in poor shape)
- Too many kinds of floorings mixed: transitions in every room are distracting and may make living areas seem small
- Bold colors or patterns that may not appeal to broad tastes
- DIY projects – We are all for DIY projects that can help sell your home. Flooring probably isn’t the best place to focus your energy, though, unless you have had professional training. This is one major project where professional contractors can truly help your return on investment.
Which floors are more affordable but will still help a home sell?
Hardwoods are not the only flooring option that can help you sell a home. Faux-wood vinyl is an attractive option for many prospective buyers. Floors that mimic wood invite the same look, warmth, and easy maintenance of hardwood without the high cost, so these are especially solid to consider if you are working on a tight budget.
Other flooring types to consider when you are looking to sell include:
- Vinyl flooring, which also includes linoleum, is a favored choice because it’s cost-effective, long-lasting, and low-maintenance.
- New or refreshed carpet (carpet gets a bad rap, but new can add value!). Just be mindful of the allergy risk some buyers may face.
- Laminate can be a good option because it’s resistant to scratch, fade, extremely durable, and easy to clean.
- Pergo – Giglio Vakos says of Pergo that “When you have the right installer, [it can] possibly look like a beautiful hardwood floor and be extremely inexpensive.”
Considering flooring costs
According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) 2022 Remodeling Impact Report, a hardwood flooring refinish or installation can net some of the highest returns on investment over a long list of potential remodeling projects. According to the report, a hardwood flooring refinish can recover as much as 147% of the project’s cost, whether you are selling your home right away or not. Comparatively, new wood flooring also adds reliable value, up to 118% of the project investment.
As we’ve discussed, not all flooring types are created equal. Consequently, not all investments will recover costs equally. “Your ROI on [flooring improvements] will far outweigh anything else that you could do in the home when getting ready to sell,” assures Giglio-Vakos. For example, perhaps you have the budget and vision for hardwoods as a long-term investment. On the other hand, maybe your budget is more restricted but new, and well-installed carpeting can also help sell the home.
When it comes to taking on this project before selling, you may feel tempted to build in a flooring allowance for prospective buyers and call it a day. But tackling this project ahead of the listing is well worth it, says Giglio-Vakos. She likens new flooring to the impact staging may have on buyers. “People need to see what they’re going to get versus imagining what they’re going to get,” she says, and floors make a big impact on the buyer’s vision and opinion of the property.
What flooring do the experts recommend, whether I am selling or not?
Whether you are selling your home or not, aim for consistency as much as possible throughout the house. Of course, just because your bedroom is carpeted does not mean such flooring is a good choice for your dining area. But overall, uninterrupted, uniform flooring lends a sense of continuity to your spaces and can only help the sale.
Whether you plan to list your home a week from now or a decade into the future, maintaining your floors is a worthy investment of your time and money. Caring for a home’s flooring long-term boosts the aesthetic of your living space, but can also help you to retain your property’s value. Properly-maintained floors can also help to minimize allergens or other possible health hazards (mold, excessive moisture) in the home.
Fresh and well-cared-for floors make a positive impact on your home’s market potential. Be sure that your flooring options are sensible (no carpet in the bathroom, please!), clean, and as uniform as possible throughout the home. These efforts can make as big a difference as any when it comes to selling your home for top dollar.
Popular flooring and buyer demand can vary on climate, region, and the latest trends in the market. For reliable expertise in what is most in demand, consult a top local real estate agent to identify and execute the flooring improvements that will impact your home for the best return.
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