Remodel Or Renovate: What To Know Before Selling Your Home In Hawaii

blue ocean off of maui with the island in the background
In Hawaii, most homeowners encounter the difficult choice between remodels and renovations, especially if their plans are flexible.

Is it better to renovate than remodel before selling a house? Do renovations make more sense for personal reasons?

In Hawaii, most homeowners encounter the difficult choice between remodels and renovations, especially if their plans are flexible.

For example, you may be hesitant to complete a large-scale project because of uncertainty with selling the house later on.

Aside from choosing between remodels and renovations, there’s also the problem of picking projects with the best investment returns.

Find out how to solve home-improvement issues with expert insights from Hawai’i Life, the top real estate brokerage in Hawaii.

hawaii coastline with luxury homes and hotels in the background

Homeowners, take note: While remodels and renovations are interchangeable, there are subtle differences between the two.

Ask Questions Before Choosing

It only takes a few questions to determine whether you need to remodel or renovate the house, according to agent LeAnn Auerbach. Keep in mind that while remodels and renovations are interchangeable, there’s a subtle difference.

Most renovations aim to bring back a part of your home to its original state. On the other hand, remodels often involve changes to a room’s intended purpose (e.g. converting a bedroom into a bathroom).

Auerbach even explained that rebuilding a house differs from remodeling it. In general, you may need to rebuild your home if you need to:

  • Add insulation to a single-wall construction
  • Create more living space
  • Install more electrical systems
  • Replace an old plumbing system (i.e., more than 30 years old)

Homeowners should rebuild their properties if they want to add new bathrooms or kitchens. Instead of remodeling an existing space, a new construction project makes “more financial sense,” according to Auerbach.

She also advised homeowners to increase their budgets by approximately 20%, which would cover unforeseen expenses.

If you plan to sell the house after remodeling it, be prepared against delays by adding “around 33% extra in the project timeline.”

A longer-than-expected project duration doesn’t always mean incompetence on the contractors’ part. Most projects become delayed because of labor and supply-chain problems, which may persist in a post-pandemic world.

Homeowners in other states such as New York may notice higher prices of materials and longer projects due to labor shortages.

trailhead in hawaii heading into lush jungle with ocean in the background

Many prospective sellers in Hawaii fail to realize that remodeling a house doesn’t always lead to a higher market value.

Avoid ‘Over Personalizing’ Remodels

Many prospective sellers in Hawaii fail to realize that remodeling a house doesn’t always lead to a higher market value.

If you plan to sell your home, agent Katy Foxwell revealed certain factors to consider before a remodel. For example, some potential buyers may be unwilling to pay the final price that includes the cost of upgrades.

Another one involves splurging on a remodeling project. Foxwell cautions property sellers against overly personalizing remodels unless you live in Maui. She believes that three primary factors determine the values of most properties:

  • Condition
  • Location
  • Price

Most homeowners could only do something about a home’s condition and price such as upgrades or negotiating the final offer. Foxwell cited Maui as an exception, especially when houses offer a seaside view.

You could choose to sell the property without remodels or renovations if you live in a coveted neighborhood. Time also influences your inclination to improve your property before a sale.

Foxwell agreed with Auerbach that a remodel becomes impractical if you can’t devote enough time to it. In some communities, certain regulations prolong the supposed timeline of a remodel.

For example, the Wailea Community Association in Maui reviews every proposal for home improvements. Foxwell said that homeowners must present designs that complement the community’s overall aesthetic.

In other words, the approval process alone makes it almost impossible to remodel and sell a house in Wailea within a short time.

An ideal timeframe should take more than 30 days, which allows you to perform minor renovations with major investment returns.

palm trees frame a rock formation in the ocean on the coast of hawaii

When it comes to home upgrades in Hawii, landscaping projects may yield a 105% return on investment, according to Hawai’i Life.

Small Renovations Offer Big Returns

Simple renovations include an upgraded landscape or a new roof. These projects may “have a quick impact on a home’s value,” according to Hawai’i Life.

Landscaping projects may cost more than $4,700 and yield a 105% return. The same investment return applies to new roofing, which may cost more than $7,600.

If you live in Honolulu, you may recover up to 95.2% of the expenses on a garage door replacement. A typical replacement costs $4,100.

Even something cheaper such as refinishing floors can be profitable as well. You may only spend over $2,500 on refinishing hardwood flooring and recoup 100% of the cost.

Make a conclusive decision between remodels and renovations by consulting a top broker. Click here to find out more about Hawai’i Life.


Randolf Santos has covered different segments of the real estate industry since 2014. He worked at S&P Global Market Intelligence before joining Forbes Global Properties as a contributor. You can reach him at