According to MSN Real Estate, there are 14 home-improvement blunders that can be a problem when it comes time to sell your home. With ownership comes the option to paint, fix-up, alter, add to, upgrade, and change your home the way you’d like within the limits of city and county and HOA ordinances and regulations. But it’s a good idea to think about whether those changes are smart ones. Here is a discussion on 13-1/2 things to consider.
Improving Your Home Too Much
At first glance, this may seem odd; however, if you take into account that the market value of your home is affected by the sold price of other homes in the same neighborhood, it becomes more apparent that too much of a good thing could make your home into an “outlier.” That is to say, the improvements contemplated will make your home too different from other homes in your neighborhood. When buyers are looking to purchase in your neighborhood, there are three things that immediately come to mind for me as an agent: 1) buyers would not think of looking in your neighborhood for a house with improvements like yours; 2) any agent who puts their buyer-client’s interests first are going recommend against paying above neighborhood market values despite all the goodies; and 3) even though an adjustor can make some allowances for the improvements, they don’t have to and it’s likely not to be enough to justify the kind of price your improvements may seem to be worth.
What if a home has a wonderfully upgraded kitchen, but you had to get there by going through a front room with green shag carpet? The likelihood is that a buyer looking at this situation is not going to be too impressed by the kitchen. They are going to be looking at the home as requiring complete upgrade, and they may skip your house because of an emotional resistance to redoing the wonderful kitchen to their own tastes. A more consistent approach to improvements will have more appeal. If you redo the 1970’s paneling with paint, consider similar levels of improvements in the rest of the house. Again, keep in mind the baseline in the neighborhood.
The Porch that No Longer Is
Closing in a large front porch may seem like an opportunity to make another room at your house. If buyers are looking in your neighborhood, they are doing so because the houses there have front porches. A front porch can be a great gathering place for neighborliness, and if you’ve turned it into a room, buyers will look at other houses or make an offer based on what it will cost to turn it back into a front porch. Turning a back patio or a garage into an additional room can have a similar affect.
MSN Real Estate relates the story of a woman who didn’t cook, and so she removed the cabinets out of the kitchen and put the refrigerator in the garage. I cringed reading that because NAR statistics indicate that the kitchen is usually one of the most influential aspects of a house—even if the potential buyers don’t cook. The main point of the story, however, is that the home became too individualized with the changes she made. Keep in mind what people expect to find when they home shop. Even something less radical can be Too You.
Above Ground Pool
I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one—it is a bad idea to try to sell your house with the above-ground pool intact. Appraisers will not add value to your home for an above-ground pool, and it may even count against you. Additionally, buyers aren’t going to assign any value to it, above-ground pools are usually eyesores, and a good buyer’s agent will point out the cost of rehabbing the yard once the expense of removing the pool is done. I’ve even seen in-ground pools turn buyers off because they aren’t interested in taking on the additional maintenance, because of safety concerns, or because they would prefer a yard. The bottom line is this: A buyer looking for a home with a pool, wants an in-ground pool.
Taking On a Job Bigger Than You
Tradesmen that work in a field know the shortcuts, can avoid the pitfalls, and have honed their skills. They may have taken specialized training and have already made a significant investment in the tools of their trade. It may look easy on TV; but if you’ve never done any remodeling, at lease start with something small. Perhaps you can save money, but your time is also worth something too. What if it’s not fun? What if life happens and you can no longer spare the time? A poorly executed or half-finished job could cost your more in the long run. Starting small will let you determine if you want to take on the bigger job as well as allow you to invest in the needed tools incrementally. If you find you love the work, it will be worthwhile. If it turns out not to be your cup of tea, you’ll be glad you started small.
An Eye on Size
Not all of us have the designer gene. Even those with a talent for decorating need to develop that talent into a skill. One common mistake novices make is judging proportion. The sink and cabinet that looks cool in the showroom may be too big for the little guest bath. It may fit according to the measurements, but will the room look out of balance once the sink and cabinet are installed. It could also make the room cramped or feel cramped. If your taste tends towards the ornate, consider adding touches that are not permanent. That way you can easily simplify or scale back when it comes time to sell. Even if buyers have the same taste in decorating, they need to see the home to make a good decision.
But That’s the Trend
Some styles just aren’t going to stay in style long. Does anyone remember the year that red refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers were all the rage only to be passé the next year? Even décor that’s been around for a few years is beginning to pass away. Best advice—avoid the too trendy and be thoughtful about the other stuff.
The Garage That Isn’t
I mentioned this when talking about the front porch. (Now you know why this is a list of 13-1/2 things.) Mostly I see garage conversions in older neighborhoods, circa 1960, but I’ve also encountered it in newer neighborhoods. Even in the older neighborhoods, the homes with the converted garage are the less desirable. A house either has a garage or it doesn’t. And if you are contemplating buying from a new home builder, don’t scrimp and get the house with the 1-car garage because your resell will be seriously affected.
I Don’t Need No Stinking Permits
Is it really a good idea to sneak in a little (or a lot) more square footage without the requisite permit(s). MSN Real Estate reports that when you try to sell, the appraiser may not include the additional square footage in the valuation, it may be difficult to find an insurance company that will insure the addition or even the house at all, and lenders may not lend (or may even devalue) the home for the unpermitted addition. Sounds to me like going around the system could cost in the long run.
The Face Lift That Wasn’t Quite
The agent remarks spoke of all the updating that had been done. But someone forgot about the dated hardware. Yes, it was only the doorknobs, but it was a significant distraction from an otherwise lovely facelift. New fixtures are not that costly and may have been all the facelift that was needed.
I almost mentioned this under it’s Too You, but color needs its own section. Light pink walls may be the seller’s opportunity to have the girly place of her dreams, but what will sell the property. I’ve seen yellow walls that reminded me of French’s mustard, accent walls in so dark in color that they sucked the light out of the room, and paint so bright that I couldn’t help but wonder if batteries were required. Even a color scheme that is beautifully well-matched can still be too unique. Have the color you want while you live in the home, but the first thing to think about when putting your home on the market is to repaint in a neutral tone or color. Not only will you home appeal to a wider audience, but new paint will also provide that fresh smell appealing to so many buyers. The home will sell faster and you may even make up the cost of repainting.
See No Evil
Last but not least is ignoring flaws. In Texas the Property Code requires just about everyone (investors included) to complete a Seller’s Disclosure form. Be honest. Don’t risk a fraud accusation. And besides, it’s just the right thing to do. If you know of a problem and can afford to fix it, you’ll save in the long run. If you can’t afford to fix it, address it head on. If you’ve had an insurance claim, it will show up in the CLUE report, so you better have used the money to fix what you made the claim for.
If you are selling an older property and are concerned what a buyer’s inspection might turn up, consider getting your home pre-inspected. You will need to provide copies of the inspection, and if repairs or adjustments are suggested, show they have been addressed. If you can’t afford to address them, do your homework and know what is a reasonable allowance to offer the buyer.
Most of all ignoring a flaw can give the wrong impression. Buyers and/or their agents may wonder what problems exist that they can’t see. They may even question whether the other side will deal fairly with them.
Lots of factors can go into a homeowner’s decision process around improvements, and resale should always be one of the considerations. Even if the improvements you contemplate are in keeping with the neighborhood, it is a real possibility that you will not get back the dollars you put to make the improvement. So if you’re making changes for while you’ll live in the home, ask yourself if there exists enough non-economic value to go ahead with the project. If not, or if the improvements you envision are too much for a DIY project, or too much for the neighborhood, it may be better to trade up than to make changes in your current home. If you’re getting ready to sell your home, ask your agent what can be done to make the home more appealing and to a wider audience.