10 Surprising Things That Lower the Value of a Home

by Kentin Waits on 24 April 2014 1 comment

The real estate market is making a comeback in most parts of the nation, and sellers are once again enjoying a relatively healthy home-buying market. But in spite of the recovery, there are still some factors that can hurt your home's value. Here are 10 surprising features that can devalue your dwelling. (See also: Home Improvements That Add the Most Value)

1. Swimming Pool

While swimming pools are a necessary luxury in many of the country, in other regions, pools can often make the value of your home take a dip.

In-ground pools mean constant maintenance — an unattractive prospect for retirees or those looking to simplify their lives. Likewise, when a piece of pool equipment breaks or needs replacing, the associated costs can be daunting. Potential buyers who may already be stretching their budgets to afford the home of their dreams can easily be scared off by the thought of another recurring liability. (See also: Costly Things New Homeowners Don’t Prepare For)

Safety is another big pool-related issue. Many families with young children hate the "what-ifs" that pools represent and will steer clear of homes with this added supervision requirement.

2. Single Garage or No Garage

In the U.S., we love our garages almost as much as we love the cars that go in them. Garages have evolved from practical places to park and protect our cars to essential overflow storage for sports equipment, bikes, seasonal decorations, and lawn equipment. Homes with no garage space have limited appeal. And those with only a single garage will restrict a seller's market to one-car families — typically, retirees and singles. (See also: How to Organize Your Garage)

3. Multi-Story Homes

Although multi-story homes pack more square footage into a smaller footprint, they aren't always an attractive selling feature for homebuyers. For obvious reasons, families with toddlers and older buyers tend to shy away from homes with stairs. Multi-story homes that feature a bedroom and bath on the main level fare better than those without.

4. Sub-Par Schools

Being in a top-notch school district remains a top priority for many homebuyers for a range of reasons. Living near a low-performing school can drive down home values and limit the market to those buyers without school-aged children or those who can afford the added expense of a private education.

5. Unfortunate Positioning: T-Intersection or End of Cul-de-Sac

While cul-de-sacs are often viewed as safer neighborhood street design, being at the end of one means constantly having cars turn around in front of your house and getting used to headlights sweeping through your windows at all hours of the night. The same effect can devalue houses positioned at the end of T-intersections. Savvy house hunters will immediately see the potential for a not-so-quiet home life with these properties.

6. Proximity to Airport, Interstate, or Train

While there's an argument to be made for easy access to freeways, commuter trains, and other forms of mass transit, it can be a tough sell. Buyers like a convenient location, but not when it comes at the expense of their peace and quiet and air quality. Homes that are too close to airports, freeways, and trains suffer from skittish buyers scared off by exhaust fumes and the constant hum of traffic.

7. Corner Lot

Often larger than their standard counterparts, corner lots get quite a bit of positive press in the real estate world, but there's a downside. Sure, homes on corner lots have neighbors on only one side, but they have traffic on two. Also, corner lots typically have sidewalks cutting through the lawn in two directions — and that means more snow-shoveling in the winter.

8. Sloped Lot

Homes on sloped lots can be a challenging sell for a few different reasons. First, lawn maintenance becomes an issue, especially with steep slopes. Particularly for older homeowners, mowing grass and raking leaves take on a whole new dynamic when you're struggling to maintain your balance. Second, depending on the position of the home, sloped lots can often pose runoff or drainage issues from the higher elevations. Finally, skiing and sledding notwithstanding, yards with a dramatic slope can limit outdoor recreation options too — a bummer for active families with young kids.

9. Towering Trees Too Close

Large trees planted too close to a house mean complex root systems may eventually pose a threat to the home's foundation. Additionally, mature trees that tower over the roofline require diligent pruning to avoid damage from falling limbs during storms. A good rule of thumb is to plant smaller breed trees about 15' from the foundation of a home. Larger varieties should be planted at least 20' from the foundation. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors has lots more good advice about tree dangers homeowners and buyers should consider. (See also: Landscaping for Your Climate)

10. Properties With Easements

An easement gives someone the right to use land they don't own. Easements are limited in scope and usually involve situations where adjoining properties need to share a single driveway, or neighbors being granted rights to cross land that's not theirs in order to access public parks or bodies of water. Understandably, properties with attached easements can make some buyers uneasy; the idea of being required to share property in even a highly-specific way can be unsettling. In addition, easements can limit or prohibit certain types of redevelopment.

If you're a seller facing one or more of these real estate marketing challenges, it's easy to feel powerless to shift the odds in your favor. But remember, what's seen as a negative to one buyer may be a striking positive to another. Help your cause by hiring a real estate professional with a proven track record in marketing and selling properties of all types. Be upfront about your home's challenges; use staging to maximize its pluses; and if possible, be flexible about the terms of the sale. With a little creativity and an assertive sales strategy, you can find a buyer who's the perfect fit for your little slice of heaven.

How did you overcome a real estate challenge and successfully sell your home? What perceived negatives turned out to be positives to your buyers?

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We currently live on a corner lot and our yard is positioned to the side away from neighbors. We love the privacy!