Seven Costly Homeowner Mistakes

A great read that could save you thousands when thinking about doing a remodel!

Patricia Rattray, Renovat’d Editorial Team
September 11, 2013

Costly Home Owner Mistakes

I doubt anyone buys a home determined to make it lose value. In fact, homeowners can actually become obsessed with thinking about their home as an investment that should be increasing in value year after year.

So, why do many people miss the mark when making home improvement decisions? Maybe it is a lack of understanding about the key drivers of value within a specific price range. Or perhaps they are just getting advice from the wrong people. Maybe some have just grown accustomed to dated home improvement habits that are difficult to break.

Regardless of what decision you are making, the best home improvements are specifically tailored to the region, style and price point of your home. So, use caution before acting upon general home improvement advice that does not apply to your situation. Here are seven common mistakes homeowners are making in the Northeast.

1. Ignoring the Style and Period of Your Home

Many homeowners fail to research the history of their home, including the development of their home’s style as well as the neighborhood and region in which it was built. The history of your home is a valuable piece of information that will excite most buyers and help you maximize value and impact.

Consider the fascinating history of events that shaped our nation and transpired in this area of the country, including pivotal moments in our political, architectural, social and industrial development. Do you have remnants of farm on your property worth preserving and photographing? Do you have an old map of your land that can be framed? Is there a story you can tell about an old barn or how a large piece of property came to be split into parcels?

Parlor Ceiling Brown Living Room
Julia Brasesco, Real Estate Agent

By becoming aware of and highlighting the historical details that surround your home and property, you will create the perception of a truly unique home that stands out among the rest.

2. The Wrong New Kitchen

It might seem counter-intuitive, but often a new kitchen is the wrong option when it comes to adding value to your home. If you want to preserve market value, make sure to add kitchens that work on many levels. This means using quality materials and creating the most functional space that suits the style and period of your home. Since kitchen features change often, we recommend working with a a design professional to ensure your kitchen is complete and current.

If you don’t have the budget to implement the optimal kitchen design, there are ways to update and refresh a kitchen while keeping the most expensive elements in place. Instead, make affordable repairs and add order, decorations and paint. Aim for a well maintained, organized, and functional kitchen that feels cozy and well lit.

Avoid doing the half way remodel or using low quality materials and craftsmanship. Partial updates never adequately suggest what a great future kitchen would look like. They can also serve to emphasize how dated most elements of the kitchen actually are. You are much better off with an older kitchen in great condition that does not detract from other great qualities of your home, rather than the wrong new kitchen.

3. Disregarding Your Neighbors

You don’t have to be best friends with your neighbors to help each other improve and maintain property values. Through the occasional hello and friendly smile, you can develop a cordial relationship that can help you in a variety of ways.

First, neighbors can be a good source of referrals for home improvement professionals. By collaborating to secure services such as lawn care and snow removal you might be able to acquire more affordable rates.

Brick House Exterior Landscape
Julia Brasesco, Real Estate Agent
Design Smith Interiors

Second, some neighbors can provide information about what is happening in your community that might impact property values. If your appearance at a zoning meeting will help influence a development decision, you will want to know about it and show up.

Third, neighbors are also more likely to take the occasional suggestion from you if you are consistently friendly without being intrusive. Making the right suggestions when a neighbor needs help with a home improvement can save you both from hastily chosen design options that can impact the entire neighborhood.

4. Letting Your Culture Dominate Your Design

We all have cultural backgrounds that we are proud of, but there are ways to celebrate that culture that do not negatively impact property values. The Northeast of the US is home to a diverse population, and not everyone shares the same taste and cultural preferences. When decorating to express or showcase your culture, make sure to decorate with removable items rather than immovable items that might be expensive or damaging to remove.

Also, don’t over-do the cultural motif in your home. This can create a home in which every room feels the same and no room comes across as special. If you really want cultural themes throughout your home, make sure to change it up from room to room with different sub-themes, color palettes, materials, and varying strategies for incorporating empty space. For example, go with a minimalist design approach in some rooms and a more decorative or collage approach in others.

5. Transforming Fixer Uppers for the Wrong Buyer

Homeowners that purchase fixer-uppers have an exciting opportunity to create a home that many future buyers would want. When renovating a home just to re-sell, it is important to accurately project who is expected to buy the home after it has been transformed. Most likely you are anticipating that the future buyer will be one that can afford a home in a much higher price range compared to the price point at which you purchased the fixer-upper.

If so, it is possible that this buyer might want a different floor plan or neighborhood. For example, let’s say a home purchased for $1.5M in your area generally has at least 3-4 full bathrooms plus a half bath. If you buy a fixer upper with 2 full baths and aim to sell it for $1.5M after renovations, you must make sure to find a way to add the extra bathrooms. In this case, completing high-end renovations without adding bathrooms could lead to very low demand for the home upon completion.

Mistakes in over-renovating for the neighborhood also reflect a misjudgment about the future buyer of a home. Often, a new large home built on a cul-de-sac of small homes is a recipe for disaster for the larger home’s value. By making accurate and detailed projections, you can avoid creating a home that just does not fit well within a neighborhood or price point.

Curved Hardwood Stairs Red Runner
Julia Brasesco, Real Estate Agent

6. Overlooking regional differences

Often homeowners move to a new area and continue to make design and floor plan options that don’t suit their new location as much as they did their previous one. When you move to a new area, make sure to view local homes that are considered fully designed and current, even if they don’t fall into your price range. This will help you incorporate regional approaches when remodeling.

Open houses, experienced realtors and local web sites will all help provide insight regarding what works best in your region when it comes to maximizing your home’s value today and in the future. For example, home features such as pools, carpet, vinyl flooring, laminate countertops and cluster homes are not as popular in the North East as they are in many other parts of the country. So, think twice before you do those familiar things you did in prior location.

7. Disorganization

There is more than one reason to get organized if you want to maximize home value. The first is that organization often requires the re-arranging and installation of storage components. Once your storage needs are satisfied, you have a much better starting point for developing a design.

Secondly, maintenance is simpler once you have order throughout your home. It is easier to stay on top of seasonal maintenance and decorating schedules when you know where the tools you need are located.

Finally, when selling your home, meticulous organization sends a message to future buyers that you really love and appreciate your home. It hints that you stay on top of your responsibilities and you have not neglected unseen things. In general, buyers perceive the organized home as a better maintained, more beautiful, and more valuable home compared to a similar home that is in disarray.

What are some mistakes you’ve seen? Let us know below!

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