8 Ways To Keep From Committing Equity Killers

Hey you – the one putting electric green shag carpet in all the bedrooms. The one turning the dining room into a bedroom – without a closet. The one transforming your kitchen into an homage to Arabian Nights. The one painting all the walls black and replacing all the wood baseboards with Lucite.

What are you thinking?!

home equity
Yes, your home is your personal sanctuary. You want it to reflect your taste and your style. But if your design aesthetic is classified as “vampire chic,” or if your idea of a fashionable home could be confused for a junk pile art installation, you might want to take it down a notch.

“We always talk about over-personalization as the great equity killer,” said Justin Thomas, a southern California REALTOR® specializing in first-time and first-time move-up buyers. “Your bright blue countertops or strange floorplan configuration can be a turnoff to the average buyer.”

Here are 8 ways to keep from committing equity killers.

1. Measure your family’s needs against the “average” family’s needs.

Don’t know what the “average” family wants? They probably want a fireplace, so before you go covering yours up, you might want to consider the ramifications. If you really hate the fireplace, you can always configure your furniture so that it’s concealed. Your Realtor should be able to weigh in on smart—or not-so-smart—updates and renos. Or, check out this Houzz survey.

2. Measure your likes against today’s trends.

You may hate the idea of open plans, but not as much as you’ll hate tearing down the walls you put up when you go to sell.

“Have you ever wandered into an open house and wondered what the owners were thinking as you faced an ultra-modern kitchen or a futuristic fireplace, said Freshome. “These design choices will be difficult to sell to the average buyer with a more mainstream style and most buyers will be thinking about ripping out a kitchen and redoing it to their liking. It will take someone with a similar aesthetic to be interested in a home with such design specific features. Keep that in mind when you contemplate any renovations.”

If you just have to turn your dining room into a bedroom sans closet (which technically won’t be considered a bedroom away), try to do so carefully. If you protect the floor and also take precautions with the ceiling, HVAC, and any other critical elements in the room, you may be able to take the wall back down before you list your house with limited fuss.

3. Consider your neighborhood.

So you want urban style with concrete floors and exposed ductwork but you live in a typical suburban single-family neighborhood? That might not go over big.

Tamer changes that bring in an urban, sophisticated feel—and especially those that don’t mess with the structure of the house—might be a smarter choice. Concrete floors are fine, so long as you’re willing to cover them when you sell, as your Realtor will undoubtedly recommend.

4. Be careful when changing out basic conveniences.

A three-car garage is a selling point. A three-car garage that’s been turned into an unpermitted Chicago Cubs-themed man room in a house with limited driveway space and no street parking…not so much.

5. And speaking of permits…make sure you get one.

Adding on without the proper paperwork can be a huge equity eater. Unpermitted add-ons won’t count toward square footage, which can affect your sales price. An unpermitted addition or renovation can also cause your home to fall out of escrow once it’s discovered by the seller. And it will be discovered.

“If you are considering purchasing a home with unpermitted square footage, you may have a problem with your appraisal,” said Eller the Seller. “When a home has a third bedroom that is unpermitted, it will usually show as a two bedroom in the tax records. Because of this, appraisers will not value the home in the same way they would if the house had a legal third bedroom. Instead, the unpermitted space will likely be valued as some kind of ‘bonus room.’ In addition to appraisal issues, you may have problems getting a loan on a house with unpermitted additions if you are purchasing with specific types of loans such as FHA or VA loans.”

6. Make smart edits.

Just because you’re always wanted a pool doesn’t mean you should take up every inch of your yard to build one. All pool, no yard could affect your resale value.

7. Trash the trash.

Live like a slob all you want, just not when you’re selling your home. Being messy and dirty will definitely affect your home sale. And being unkempt to the point of destructive will only cost you. For example, old crusty filters can harm your air conditioning unit, and a buyer will undoubtedly expect you to be on the hook for repair/replacement costs.

8. Don’t indulge your dark fantasies for all to see.

Hey, whatever you’re into is fine by us. But maybe keep the dungeons under wraps when you list your home. And that goes for Dungeons & Dragons too.

“Extreme homeowners are the one who uses their home as a showcase for their oddities,” said Thomas. “You don’t want to be known as the weird house. Or the scary house. Nor do you want to make changes to the home that would be so extensive and expensive to change back in the event you had to list your home. If you’re intent on personalizing to your heart’s content despite the potential downside, perhaps it’s best to keep anything that might freak out visitors to one space that can be easily cleaned up or out when potential buyers are touring the home.”

Author: Jaymi Naciri

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