Saturday Finances—Home Renovations That Hurt Value

Inspired by an article from Country Living_by Elizabeth Florio_11 April 2016

10 Big Home Renovation Mistakes

In case you ever want to sell the place

Almost finished!  The gazebo & fence that were squashed
during a storm last month.

1.  Pay attention to the demands of your market.  Stick with whatever is in character with the neighborhood.  Don't over-improve.  A cute updated bungalow will sell just as well, or better, than a kludged together mini-mansion.

2.  Knocking out too many walls.  It seemed like a good idea at the time...  Removing walls, or taking out the wrong wall, not only compromises the original design of the house, but it has the potential to make the living space feel oddly empty, like a bowling alley or a warehouse effect.  A half-wall can be a better compromise for opening up both light & flow between closed off rooms.

3.  Losing a bedroom to create a master suite.  First of all, think about the size of the suite.  Is it consistent with the scale of the rest of the house?  Secondly, bedrooms are valuable features in any house.  A bedroom can be used for many purposes (e.g. guestroom, study, home theater, craft /hobby room, etc.).  Either move, or build a professionally designed addition that is in character and in proportion to the rest of the house.  

4.  A built-in pool.  Gigantic pain-in-the-ass.  I can speak to this one from experience.  We bought a house with a pool & immediately had to pay for a new fence, a keyed retractable pool cover, and door alarms just to make it safe for the kids & the pets.  Then, we installed a solar heater on our roof to heat the pool.  Then, there's the maintenance:
  • Brushing & sweeping the pool, cleaning the pool filter, keeping the chemicals balanced, replacing tiles, repairs to the in-pool lighting, cracks and leaks in the shell, cracked underground plumbing, deck restoration, and motor replacement.  Take it from me, it's no fun to drain a pool.  
  • Pools have expiration dates, and eventually they have to be removed.  This requires the service of a professional pool demo company and will cost several thousand dollars. 

Even with a fence, privacy is an issue.  

Unless a pool is relatively new (ours was only 3 years old when we bought the house), it is not a selling point for a house.  

Stick with a neighborhood pool membership.

5.  Updating only one room in the house.   This is a bigee when it comes to paint & flooring.  Avoid the patchwork look.  If you're going to update, it is worth it to save up and do a large-scale renovation rather than one room at a time.  

6.  Putting a box on top.  This applies to garage conversions, as well.  An addition that looks like a box is unimaginative and just plain horrible.  This is a particular pet-peeve of mine because I live next door to one.  An addition should look as good from the outside as it does from the inside, and it should incorporate the same architectural features as the rest of the house.  

A good upstairs addition should also be quiet from the lower level.  

Also, keep in mind that adding a staircase takes up more room than you think.  Think about how much space you will sacrifice downstairs.        

Bottom line:  Hire a reputable architect to come up with an elegant design that improves curb appeal.  Then, hire an experienced reputable builder to do it right.

7.  Installing high-end upgrades in a mid-range home.  Upgrades are relative to the overall value of the home.  An upgraded bathroom with expensive high-end features that you'd typically find in a million-dollar home is not going to substantially raise the value of a $400,000 home.  Keep upgrades in proportion to the overall value of the home.

8.  Embracing trends before they are mainstream.  When you're selling a home, you want to cast a wide net and appeal to the largest number of potential buyers.  Trendy is not necessarily a selling point.  A recently replaced roof, for instance, built with untested composite material is a feature that will scare off savvy home buyers.  A new deck built with the latest recycled materials could mean a total replacement just a few years down the line.

Some people really prefer modern & trendy, but when it comes to home upgrades, stick with upgrades that have been out for a while and have withstood the test of time.

9.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  When you are putting a house on the market, make sure that everything works.  The home needs to stand up to a home inspection and pass with flying colors, but beyond that, you don't need to do expensive replacements in order to sell a house.  

Fix what needs to be fixed, and fix the things that buyers will notice.  When I flipped my dad's house, I replaced a worn out plastic kitchen sink with an affordable modern steel sink & faucet combo.  It spruced up the whole kitchen & made the outdated counters look good.

Little things do make a difference as far as showing the house.  It is worth it to replace screens, for example.  Everybody is going to notice torn window screens.  But, an older roof, for instance, may be in perfectly good condition and not need to be replaced.  With older systems (a/c, furnace, major appliances, water heaters, kitchen & bathroom counters, etc.), it is worth investing in quality repairs, versus total replacements.

10.  Over-Landscaping.  Curb appeal is important.  If you have big trees, hire a certified arborist to prune them.  Seriously, don't be a miser and cheap out on caring for large trees.  This extends the life of the trees and adds to the overall appeal (as well as the value) of the property.  

Many times, buyers will say that they fell in love with a home because of the big, beautiful trees. It is very reassuring to buyers if they know that the trees have been cared for.  It's a bonus if the house comes with a referral to an arborist who already knows the property.  

Trim back rangey shrubs, plant showy perennials, clean up parkways, and put in new mulch.  Stage the yard.

The mistake that a lot of homeowners make is adding too many trees, especially fruit trees.  Remove anything that is too close to the house.  Remove fruit trees that are past their productive lifespan.  

Allow 2 to 3 feet of unplanted border around the perimeter of the house.  Utilize open space, which makes the property look bigger and requires less maintenance.

Don't overcrowd the front porch with too many cutesys. Angels, no.  Planters that look like the heads of Roman gods, no.  Shabby shit, no.  A bright, colorful, potted geranium is fine.  A Tole-painted welcome sign that displays the family name and cartoony little figures for every member of the family—hell no.  :)

• invest • wisely •

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