The world is your canvas — you know, that part of the world that you now are now obligated to pay a monthly mortgage payment on.
Now, you may have big dreams for that new home, and cool your jets. This is a time for careful consideration, not for the hastily grabbed pins you have from Pinterest on design. There are changes you can make that will update/upgrade your new home and there are others that can devastate its value.
If you thought that ugly entryway light fixture was a real turn-off, just read on to learn about things potential buyers will find extremely unappealing down the road.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Every homeowner will leave a mark on the homes they own, this is a predictable fact. The question you need to ask yourself is if your mark will be a good one. Will you be the homeowner who planted the gorgeous maple tree that eventually turns into a beloved climbing tree or are you the one that glued neon green shag carpet to the hardwood floors? Thanks a lot Betty…
Here is a short list of some of the ways to destroy your home’s value without even trying. And we hope this list helps you avoid these problems when you go to sell. Now, this is an important point (take note): if you’re in your forever home, go hog wild! If you don’t need to sell that home ever, feel free to do whatever excites you. Now, be aware that your outlandish choices could prevent things like refinances and even reverse mortgages down the road.
Having made those disclosures, let’s talk about home value destroying projects!
4 Things That Can Lower Your Home’s Resell Value
You own a house now, people will be giving you all sorts of odd advice. You’re going to have to learn to tune it out, because generally, most people don’t know. Most people own two or three homes in their lives! Which certainly doesn’t give them a whole lot of experience with market values and making upgrades that will make a house really pop.
Realtors (like myself), general contractors and other home pros, on the other hand, make it our business to know what’s just in vogue and what’s a classic, evergreen sort of modification that will stand the test of time.
And, before you even get that far, let’s count down some of the worst ideas for your new home.
Number 4: Really Personalizing the Place
Look, we know you’re eager to make your house your own. Step away from the lime green wallpaper and the orange tiles. Just for a minute. Think this through. Some buyers can see past over-personalization, others simply cannot. There’s a reason Realtors used to advise sellers to paint everything beige, it creates a blank pallet for a buyer to start from (now we say Gray).
If you want to use unusual wallpaper, choose something that’s easy to remove when you go to sell. You may want to choose a tile that is mostly neutral and scatter those orange ones in just here and there like confetti. In short, tone it down a bit. However, feel free to paint whatever wild colors you like — just plan to repaint before you put the house on the market. Might I suggest Gray?
When a buyer walks into your home, the first impression they have informs every other thought they have as they walk through. They’re simultaneously calculating two things in their heads: “How much can I afford to pay for this house?” and “How much will I have to pay to fix this place?” And these numbers will be hugely exaggerated! Each unbearable thing they encounter, like that orange tile, is another thing that goes in the repair budget. As it grows, the price they’re willing to pay goes down.
Oh, the flamingo wallpaper you left in your bedroom? The repair budget’s getting hefty. And these are just the immediately visible things, they haven’t yet gotten to the inspection period. The point here is: you do you, and do it in a way that can be reversed before anyone shows the house.
Number 3: Converting the Garage to Anything Else
There’s a difference between using your garage as a gym and making it a gym permanently. When it’s a permanent gym, you can’t push stuff out of the way and pull the car in real quick to get it out of the rain. In fact, where is the garage door!?
Homeowners turning their garages into master suites, home gyms, playrooms and home offices, not considering the long-term ramifications happens a lot. Then, after dumping thousands of dollars into the project, they find out that it’s extremely difficult to resell their home. So, they pay for that project twice!
No matter how professionally the conversion was done (and some are done very well), the buyer says to themselves, “Where am I going to stash my lawnmower?” Even if the yard’s a postage stamp, it’s still a valid question.
Buyers come into a transaction with a certain set of expectations and, frankly, when they’re looking at houses in certain areas or certain prices that typically come with garages, it sort of breaks their brains to find one that doesn’t quite fit the model. That’s the beginning of the price chopping main event. Eventually you’ll discount the house much more than you ever intended or just give up on selling or even not move at all.
Number 2: Tearing Down (Some) Walls
This one is not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes walls should come out. And don’t make this call without consulting with an architect and/or a general contractor because there are several things to consider, including the structural integrity and flow of the home.
The walls that you should never tear out are the ones that reduce bathroom or bedroom number, unless you have something like five or more beds and three or more baths. If you maintain the American standard of a three-bedroom, two bath home (or whatever is standard in your neighborhood), you’re probably ok.
However, turning a three-bedroom home into a two-bedroom home because you wanted to expand a bedroom is a value killer. If you think about it from a market perspective, it might make a bit more sense. A larger, or more mature, family is most likely to buy a three-bedroom home. They’re going to have a bigger budget because there are two incomes, they need more separated spaces because there are possibly teenagers involved.
The same house with the same square footage, but with two bedrooms, is more likely to be shown to young families with small children, possibly only one income while one parent stays home to raise the toddlers, or even single people. Their budgets are smaller, which means that the two-bedroom market simply doesn’t support the higher prices of the three-bedroom market.
When your home is appraised, your appraiser will be pulling comparable homes based on things like neighborhood, square footage and numbers of bedrooms and baths. So, if the other two-bedroom homes are selling for $30k less than three bedrooms, that means yours is going to appraise somewhere well below where you might expect.
Bottom line: Don’t knock out walls without professional consultations with your Realtor and an architect or general contractor at minimum so you can understand the full impact of this decision.
And Number 1: Unprofessional DIY Repairs
There are two kinds of DIYers: those with significant trade experience and those without. If your main qualifications involve eighth grade shop class, you probably should not try to handle any big jobs on your own. Start small and work your way up, watch lots of YouTube videos, practice on test materials that don’t affect your home and for the sake of your house and your financial future, recognize and accept when you’re in over your head.
A home pro is often less expensive than you might imagine if you just call them in first. When they’re asked to clean up a bad repair and still make the original correction, it can cost a lot extra.
Finding these sorts of obvious DIY repairs in a home is a terrifying prospect for potential buyers. When they see them, they wonder what else you’ve tried to repair on your own. Did you rewire the electrical box? Is the house going to burn down in the night because you did something to the HVAC?
Because they don’t know you or your level of competency, they just see that one botched repair and hyperfocus on it until they either run away or submit an offer significantly lower than what you were expecting.
Protecting Your Home’s Value is Simple!
It’s really quite simple to protect your home’s value. Just ask yourself two simple questions: “Can I really do this myself?” and “Is this decision one that will stand the test of time? If not, is it easy to undo?” When you’re not sure call your trusted Realtor.
It’s always better to go into projects with your eyes wide open, even if the answer you get isn’t one you like. One simple click could save you tens of thousands of dollars down the line by preventing you from making a terrible decision that would have hurt your home’s value for years, or decades, to come.