15 Dumb Ways You Are Destroying the Value of Your Home

By Emily Guy Birken, Wise Bread on 12 June 2018 0 comments
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15 Dumb Ways You Are Destroying the Value of Your Home

In addition to being home sweet home, your house is probably your biggest asset. That means you want to do what you can to increase (or at least maintain) the value of your home.

While some aspects of home value are out of your control — such as the value of neighboring houses, the quality of the local school district, and proximity to businesses or transportation — many homeowners believe that any work they do on their home can only help increase the house's value. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and well-meaning homeowners who simply want to improve their houses can end up destroying their home value without realizing it.

To ensure that you won't face any unpleasant surprises when it comes time to sell, avoid making any of these 15 mistakes that can sink your home's value.

See our guide for best credit cards for home renovation.

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1. Upgrades without a permit

It may seem like going through the rigmarole of getting permits to finish your basement or turn a powder room into a full bath is more trouble than it's worth. There is a financial and time cost (not to mention a bureaucratic headache) involved when you apply for the proper permits, and if your home improvement project is relatively small, you might wonder what the big deal is in skipping that part of the process. In addition, some homeowners might forgo permits in order to keep the luxurious upgrades off of their tax assessment, thereby keeping their property taxes at the pre-renovation level.

But doing any upgrades or renovations to your home without a permit can make your house completely unsalable. Appraisers, home inspectors, and even the mortgage lender can and often will ask for record of the permits for your home renovation. Not having permits on record can stop a sale in its tracks — and even if the sale does go through, it leaves you open to a lawsuit in the future if there's a problem down the road for the new owners.

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2. Making too many upgrades

You might think that if making one or two improvements to your house is good for its market value, then making lots and lots of improvements must be great for its value. But this kind of thinking can backfire for homeowners, because a home's value is tied to the value of its neighbors. Similar homes within the same neighborhood generally sell within a 20 percent price range of each other — which means adding upgrades that would make your house stand out from the rest of the homes on your block could make it harder to sell. That's because a buyer does not want to have a house that is already at the top of its potential value, since they are unlikely to see as much increase in value.

That's not to say you shouldn't upgrade your house to make it the home you want to live in. But if you put $100,000 worth of upgrades into a house, you can't expect to get that much out of your home when you sell it, especially if houses on your block are worth $250,000 or less. And if you do spend that kind of money on wanted upgrades, recognize that it could make your home tougher to sell down the road.

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3. Over-customization

You may have always dreamed of having a kitchen completely devoted to the Ohio State University, including Brutus the Buckeye-shaped cabinetry. While there's nothing wrong with customizing your home to make it exactly what you want, you do need to recognize that over-customization can lower the value of your home.

Unless you're lucky enough to find a buyer who is just as happy to keep canned soup in a cabinet shaped like Brutus's head, most potential buyers will see this kind of customization as a net cost to them, since they will plan on ripping out whatever you have customized. So before you start making custom changes to your home, think long and hard about whether or not you plan to stay there forever.

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4. Unprofessional DIY remodeling

You might think that years of watching HGTV have prepared you to do your own repairs or remodeling, but if you do not have the skills or tools necessary to do your repair right, you probably don't want to do it yourself. DIY projects can help you save money while improving your home, but they can also drag down the value of your home if they are done improperly or look unprofessional. Homebuyers will notice any repairs that look shoddy or unusual, and that will reduce the value of your home.

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5. Converting the garage into living space

Turning your garage into a gym or a mother-in-law suite can seem like a nice upgrade to your home that increases the living space. But homebuyers consider a garage an important feature, and would rather have a space to park their cars instead of place to break a sweat or welcome an in-law. Converting your garage into living space will cost you money for the remodel, and cost you in home value when it comes time to sell.

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6. Adding a swimming pool

If you live in Florida or Southern California or another area where in-ground swimming pools are the norm, adding a pool to your home can potentially increase its value. But if you live in a cooler area of the country, a pool can actually lower your home value.

That's because pools need a great deal of maintenance, which many homebuyers are unwilling to sign up for. There are also costs associated with pool maintenance, including everything from equipment repair to additional insurance, that can turn off potential buyers. Finally, because pools can be a safety hazard for families with small children, the addition of a pool can mean young families will be less interested in buying your home.

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7. Personal collections

A few months ago, a real estate listing made the rounds on Facebook because of the way the house was decorated. Every single room was filled with Disney paraphernalia — from statues, snow globes, and plates, to artwork, curtains, and linens.

While it was fun to look through the very personalized way this family had decorated their house, having these kinds of personal collections in your home can devalue it. That's because a homebuyer wants to envision him or herself in your house, which is much more difficult if every surface is covered with Dale Earnhardt memorabilia or your clown collection. If you're a collector who is hoping to sell your home, make sure you clear out your collection before putting your house for sale, or you may find that your favorite things lower the home value.

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8. Converting a bedroom into a home office

With more and more people working from home, it can seem like converting an unused bedroom into a home office is a no-brainer. By adding a built-in desk and built-in shelving units, you get an elegant dedicated space to work while you live in the house — and you can advertise the home office as a perk when you sell the house.

But changing a bedroom into a dedicated office can be a costly mistake, since reducing the number of bedrooms in your home reduces its value, and potentially keeps buyers from even looking at your house if it has fewer bedrooms than they want.

If you do decide to use a bedroom as a home office, use furniture to create your ideal workspace, rather than spending money to remodel the room into an office.

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9. Unusual paint colors

It's not necessary to paint your entire house beige to maintain its value, but it is important to think about the consequences of your paint choices.

If you absolutely love lime green and fuchsia together, there's no reason you shouldn't paint your living room in those colors. Just be prepared to paint over them when it comes time to sell.

And think through how difficult it will be to cover your paint job with a more neutral shade when the time comes. Both bright and deep colors can be difficult to paint over, which can slow down the process of readying your house for sale, or can reduce your home's value if you leave the unusual colors in place.

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10. Venting your bathroom fan into the attic

Proper venting of bathroom fans helps keep excess moisture out of your home. However, a common shortcut for this kind of exhaust fan is to vent it into the attic or a crawl space. This often happens when it would be onerous to vent the fan to the outside, which is the standard practice.

But when such an exhaust fan is vented into an interior space, it can cause moisture to build up inside, potentially leading to mold, rot, or other problems that don't become apparent until there is an inspection. Homeowners should double check that their bathroom fans are properly vented outside.

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11. Neglecting to clean out your gutters

Clearing your gutters is the kind of chore that's easy to put off each year. It's hardly anyone's idea of fun having to clean out soggy leaves while balancing on a ladder, and homeowners can often find that they have forgotten to cross this chore off their honey-do list for multiple seasons in a row.

But a clogged gutter can cause big problems, because they are designed to carry water away from the roof, the walls, and the foundation. If the gutter is clogged, the water will follow the path of least resistance, potentially seeping into the foundation or the walls — and causing water damage.

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12. Installing built-in electronics

You may have always dreamed of having a movie theater in your home, but you might want to think twice before you build-in your high-tech projection equipment. For one thing, buyers are often put off by built-in or customized electronics that force a space into a specific purpose, such as a home theater. If a buyer cannot use the space for anything else, the lack of flexibility hurts your home value. In addition, technology can quickly become out-of-date, and installing built-in electronics is a sure way to decrease your home's value as soon as the tech changes.

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13. Pet smells

You may not notice that Mittens and Rover have irrevocably altered the odor of the living room, but potential buyers certainly will. If your pets have had any accidents in your home, make sure you invest in a deep cleaning of the area so that your home doesn't remain haunted by the smell. After the cleaning, ask a non-pet-owning friend to tell you truthfully if your house still smells of eau-de-cat-pee so you can potentially replace carpeting or other items that cannot be cleared of the smell. Otherwise, you might wonder why no buyers are interested in your otherwise perfect house.

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14. High-maintenance landscaping

Putting some time and effort into your yard is an important part of increasing the curb appeal of your home, but some homeowners can inadvertently shoot themselves in the foot if they choose landscaping that requires a great deal of maintenance. Potential buyers may be initially intrigued by the decorative additions you make to the yard or garden, but they will be turned off by the amount of work required to maintain it.

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15. Feuding with your neighbors

It's common for neighbors to have conflicts with each other, and it's important for homeowners to figure how to handle such situations with civility. If you are consistently getting into arguments with neighbors, that could potentially affect your home's value when it comes time to sell your house, since those neighbors may decide to make trouble for your sale by letting their lawn grow over, parking a car on their yard, or blasting music during showings. Maintaining a civil relationship with your neighbors can ensure that your house sells for its full value when the time comes.

This article by Emily Guy Birken was originally published by Wise Bread.