When selling, hardwood floor beats carpet


If you have carpeting covering up your hardwood floors, consider ripping it up before selling it. And if you don’t have wood floors, installing them might be a smart move.

That’s because most buyers today want them — and they might be more likely to pass up homes with wall-to-wall carpet, said Leslie Piper, a San Francisco-based real-estate agent and Realtor.com’s consumer housing specialist. In fact, she recently helped facilitate a great deal on a home that was overlooked by many people, partially because of its jarring green carpet. The buyers are ripping up the carpet to expose the boards underneath.

What home inspectors don’t tell you

“A majority of home buyers in the marketplace really are looking for, or expecting to find, hardwood floors,” Piper said. As a result, many sellers who have them will point out the feature in the listing details or will make sure any pictures flaunt their floors, she said.

Everyone who grew up in a home with shag carpeting knows hardwood wasn’t always in vogue.

Once upon a time, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development once required wood floors in the homes with mortgages they backed because they contributed to the structural integrity of the home, said Anita Howard, chief operating officer of the National Wood Flooring Association. But in the mid-1960s, the rules were changed, allowing for carpet over a wood subfloor. Carpet was cheaper, and offered a new look customers wanted, she said.

Not anymore.

It’s easy to understand why hardwood has emerged as such a strong consumer preference over the last few decades. Homeowners prefer wood flooring for its clean look, Piper said. It also doesn’t trap allergens the way carpeting does. And in the kitchen, wood floors are softer than tile and, therefore, easier to stand on for long periods of time, said Denis Buch, president of Boone Creek Cabinet & Design in McHenry, Ill.

Before proceeding with a job to install or restore wood flooring, it’s important to know your options, weigh their costs and consider your return on investment. And if you’re a home buyer, it pays to know what floors you’ll be dealing with when you take the keys.


True hardwood floors will often cost from $6.75 up to and above $12.95 per square foot, plus installation costs of between $2.75 to $6.75 per square foot, Buch said.

The wider the planks, the more costly the flooring. Also more expensive: refurbished or reclaimed wood, which people often choose for conservation reasons or to achieve a more unique look, said Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada, a website that helps consumers manage and budget for home improvement and maintenance projects.

One big upside to using hardwood floors is that they can be sanded and refinished a number of times, unlike man-made flooring varieties.

When making the investment, pick a classic wood; white oak, hickory and walnut tend to be popular choices, said Chris Sy, vice president of contractor sales and development for Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. Lighter woods that take stains easily are ideal for those who may want to change the look of the floor down the line. Many homeowners today are staining their floors in whitewashes and shades of gray—and these trends are making a home’s floors more of a design element, Sy said.

A note on restoring existing floors

Refinishing existing wood floors may cost between $2.75 and $4 a square foot, depending on what is chosen for the final finish used to seal the wood, Buch said.

But you also may be paying for a hotel room to stay in while they dry.

“When the final finishes are applied to the floors, the fumes emitted from the finishes, until they flash off, require you to not be in the home for sometimes as long as 36 hours,” Buch said.

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