Upgrades to get home in shape

There’s nothing quite as exciting as planning a home renovation, but the endless possibilities and design choices out there can be a bit daunting at first. Finding the best combination of value-adding and lifestyle-enhancing upgrades isn’t always easy – particularly on a budget – which is why property professional Tony Clarke finds it useful to give a few tips on the most effective upgrades for the average home.

“Clever renovations don’t have to be hugely costly affairs,” says Clarke, managing director of the Rawson Property Group. “Sometimes a few cosmetic changes can have just as much impact as a complete gut and replacement, and knowing where to spend and where to save can make a big difference to your bottom line.”

General updates

“The simplest and most cost-effective upgrade you can do isn’t actually a renovation at all,” says Clarke. “It’s more of a surface update and refresh of your existing fixtures and fittings, and can have a surprisingly big effect on the overall feel of your home.”

Clarke suggests choosing a more modern colour palette for your walls (neutral tones like greys are very popular), and repainting ceilings and trim. Swapping out any dingy old light fittings, switch plates and plugs for more contemporary alternatives is also a great idea.

“If you have stippled walls, investing a little bit more to get them re-plastered also makes a big difference,” says Clarke, “as does refinishing wooden floors or replacing worn-out tiles and carpets.”

Kitchens & Bathrooms

“Kitchens and bathrooms are the most likely areas to add value to your home while also adding value to your day-to-day lifestyle,” says Clarke. “This makes them a popular choice for home renovations, and they can be worth spending a little more on – but be careful not to go overboard.”

According to Clarke, many kitchens and bathrooms benefit tremendously from simply having their countertops and cupboard doors replaced, with new taps and appliances adding extra bling if budget allows. If your layout or fixtures are beyond saving, however, a more complete overhaul may be required.

“Open-plan kitchens are extremely popular, so if you are doing a full refit in that area, knocking down a non-loadbearing wall or two could be a serious improvement,” says Clarke. “Layout improvements are also more likely to add value than that expensive, imported marble you’ve been eyeing.”

While quality is imperative, Clarke points out that premium, imported fittings and finishes are only really necessary in high-end luxury residences. For the average home, a well-regarded local brand will be just as effective at half the price.


“Modern aesthetics are all about light and space, and the right windows can really make a home,” says Clarke. “A lot of older houses still have relatively small, steel or wooden windows, and replacing these can have a huge impact on interior spaces.”

While aluminium is the most popular, low-maintenance option, Clarke also recommends investigating uPVC if budget allows.

“uPVC windows fitted with double glazing are an excellent energy-saving addition to a home, and have the added benefit of blocking a lot of outside noise, creating an oasis of calm indoors,” he says. “Double glazing isn’t particularly common in South Africa yet, but with climate change and energy conservation becoming a necessity, it could be a very smart way of adding value to your home.”


“Open-plan living areas with a good indoor-outdoor flow are a key component of modern design,” says Clarke. “If your home has lots of separate living areas, like enclosed dining rooms, kitchens, and lounges, you may want to consider breaking through a few walls to open up the spaces.”

While these kinds of renovations tend to be more disruptive and expensive than others, they can make a dramatic difference to the enjoyment of your property, as well as its appeal to future buyers. They are also less expensive than building on new additions, and can have just as much of an impact on your functional, available space.

However you choose to improve your home, Clarke reminds owners to keep the average style, finish and price of other houses in your area in mind.

“Nobody wants to be mediocre,” he says, “but even if your home is far more luxurious than any of your neighbours, you’ll still find your eventual sales price capped by the local averages. To avoid falling into the trap of overcapitalising, focus on creating a beautifully-maintained home that conforms to modern standards within your neighbourhood. Your wallet will thank you today, and your buyers will thank you tomorrow.”

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