Home Improvements That Add the Most Value

Want to make some home improvements, but don’t know where to start? Toronto-based Karen Sealy, owner and lead designer of Sealy Design Inc. and a regular design expert on CityLine, has walked hundreds of clients through the process — and she’s shared her wisdom with us!

By Laura Bickle | 2 minute read

Mar 28

Frederick Post

“Generally, I tell people to be careful of trends. And if you’re going to introduce a trend into your home, do it in a way that you could easily take the trend out.”

Karen Sealy

Generally speaking, what home improvements add the most value?

Kitchens sell houses. Bathrooms sell houses. Most people decide to buy their house on the first floor and hope that the rest of the house supports that decision. 

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Improvements that include lots of great storage add value. Walk-ins and closet systems appeal particularly to women, and women make most buying decisions when it comes to the home. 

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Windows are also a valuable investment. You don’t have to replace them all; pick the windows that are in a state of disrepair and have condensation. 

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Conversely, I’m not big on pools because a lot of people consider it a liability. I would never tell somebody not to get one if it’s important to them and their family, but never think of it as a value-add.

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What advice do you have for homeowners to ensure they are both adding resale value and adding to their enjoyment of their home?

Don’t design for today — design for the time you’re going to be in the home and what’s going to work. Right now, that front hall closet may be fine. But if all of a sudden you have a stroller, or there’s backpacks or scooters, what does that look like? Make sure you don’t start to renovate without thinking about those things. 

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I’m a firm believer in function first. Don’t just put lipstick on a pig. Make sure when you make improvements, you do it right. That can sometimes mean spending more money, but you want to make sure that you get to enjoy your home as well.

karen sealy kitchen improvement

An upgraded kitchen can make your home stand out for prospective buyers.

How can people ensure their design choices have longtime appeal?

Generally, I tell people to be careful of trends. And if you’re going to introduce a trend into your home, do it in a way that you could easily take the trend out. If you want to paint a wall purple, paint it purple. But don’t put purple tile in your front hall because you’re going to hate it in three years. 

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When I put in hardwood flooring in a client’s home, I tend to stay in that kind of mid-tone brown. I tend to not go super blonde, which is popular right now, or super gray, because we know these are trends. So try to stay a little more classic on some of those big and expensive decisions that are also really hard to change, like flooring.

karen sealy family room improvements

Design for the time you’re going to be in the home and what’s going to work.

Any advice for getting the most out of a renovation?

Take advantage of the fact that you’ll have tradespeople at your house and you’re making a mess anyway. For example, if your house is drafty, and you’re renovating, why wouldn’t you put up a vapor barrier and insulation in the wall? Or maybe the electrician can add extra outlets or the plumber can put an extra tap outside.

Laura Bickle

Wahi Writer

Photos: Sealy Design Inc.