12 Home Improvements You Should Think Twice About

Tony Buckwell
May 31, 2019

If you’re looking to sell at any point in the future, there’s no doubt you want buyers to love your home and be excited about buying it.

But if you want to improve the marketability or increase the value of your property, there are certain things that have been shown to add value, and others that might be best to avoid.

Let’s ‘dive in’ and look at some improvements you might want to avoid:

1. Installing a Pool

Pool Installation in renovation

While you might enjoy lounging by the pool or going for a swim on a hot day, not everybody feels the same way about owning a pool. Buyers know that swimming pools and spas may require a lot of time to maintain, not to mention the additional expense. Buyers may also have a concern around the safety obligations of pool ownership. Buyers who don’t want a pool may be put off because they realise that they will likely expect a higher price because of the pool, even though they might not want it. Some buyers will actually reduce their offer to cover the cost of removing the pool!

2. Redevelopment Potential

home renovation vs. demolition

If your home is in a high-demand area, or on a sub-dividable site, it might attract interest from property developers who see future capital gains in developing the site. They might need to demolish or remove the existing dwelling and any other buildings, demolish fences, and uproot your landscaped gardens. Perhaps they need to clear the land to erect several new homes or an apartment block. If the primary attraction of your property is likely to be its redevelopment potential you may be wasting your money if you renovate or upgrade your current home.

3. Expressing Your Personality

Home renovation unique

Some homeowners renovate their homes in a way that reflects their own unique personality, or to make a statement to the world. This can lead to some interesting results, such as erecting a huge fountain on the front lawn, installing windows made out of recycled bottles, or even concreting an entire front lawn. The problem is that these ‘improvements’ are unlikely to appeal to a wide range of buyers. These homeowners will not recoup their investment on the sale price, and again, the buyer might actually reduce their offer to cover the cost of removing these features.

4. Loud Colours

I’ve seen some pretty interesting colour schemes in my time in real estate. While there is a place for a feature wall, very few buyers will want a house where every room is painted in vivid, bright colours. If you want to appeal to a wider range of buyers, paint your rooms in ‘quiet colours’ such as soft or neutral tones of white, cream, or ivory. If you prefer wallpaper, again opt for soft tones. You can then add splashes of colour through accessories such as plants, cushions, towels and bed coverings. Potential buyers may not share your artistic vision or appreciate that you can name all your bedrooms by a different fruit! Buyers need to be able to picture themselves in your property to create a place of their own. That’s so hard for them to do if your home’s fixed colour scheme is unique to your taste.

5. Replacing Fittings

You might have taps, light fittings or chattels that are broken, outdated or in need of replacement. In general, this is a good idea prior to marketing your property. However, be careful about what you replace them with. Does your property warrant top-of-the-line fittings or should you use something more basic? The idea is to aim to at least recover the cost of your improvements, if not more. But you don’t want to do something so extravagant or inappropriate that you will lose money – or buyers!

6. Uncovering Hidden Problems

home renovation carpet removal

You might decide to enthusiastically rip up your carpets so you can restore the ‘beautiful floorboards’ underneath to their former glory. Unfortunately, you might discover the timber has been damaged by borer, or that half the rooms have chipboard floors! It might be worth a trip under the house with a torch and a builder to see what you’re dealing with before you lift the carpets. Of course, if you’ve got threadbare carpet that looks stained and dated, with solid floors underneath, you might be better to pull up the carpet. Even the old nail holes in the floor add character. You could have the same problem when tearing off wallpaper – do you know what’s underneath?

7. Carpeting Over Natural Floorboards

This is the reverse situation of the previous paragraph. If you have timber floorboards, you might be tired of them and think they are noisy to walk on and too cold in winter. Before you decide to carpet your home, remind yourself that we all have different tastes. Some buyers will love the character timber floors bring. Even timber floors with areas of deterioration are, to many buyers, preferable to carpet. Maybe a professional floor sander can rejuvenate the floors? A new buyer may just lay down a rug or strategically place their couch over it the less desirable areas.

8. Failing to Get Council Consent

Many home improvements require council consents, even before the work begins. You should never, ever, ever undertake this work without gaining all the necessary consents. A savvy buyer will check the public records to ensure the necessary consents for any renovations or repairs were obtained, or they might hire a tradesman to inspect the property as part of their due diligence. This might be done before they make their offer or they might have included it as a special condition in the contract (where they are allowed to cancel the deal if their builder’s inspection is unsatisfactory in any way). These problems are very difficult to fix after the contract has been signed. Over the years I have witnessed several deals fall over non-consented works. This situation can create a real nightmare scenario for the seller.

9. Poor Workmanship

Have you ever seen a house with a poorly finished paint job (for example, over-painting on the window glass)? Not only does it look bad, but the buyer will be groaning at the prospect of repainting the whole house again. If you intend to carry out any renovations or improvements, make sure you have the skills to complete it to a high standard. If not, hire a professional to do it — or don’t do it at all.

10. Fencing Disputes

You might be aware that in New Zealand you can seek a half-share contribution from your neighbour if you erect a reasonable fence on your shared boundary. So, you might be tempted to replace that old fence in preparation of selling and get half the cost back from your neighbour. But be aware that you need to give your neighbour written notice of this work before you start, and they have certain rights of objection, which could drag on for some time. Do you really want to risk scaring off a potential buyer because of a prolonged fencing dispute?

11. Building on Disputed Land

Most people assume fences are built on the legal boundary lines, but this is not always the case. If a homeowner builds a fence or improvements on land owned by their neighbour, they are likely to have a real problem on their hands if the neighbour insists that the fence or improvements are to be removed. If you’re not sure where your boundary lines are, don’t build anything on land near the boundary. If you’re set on undertaking the work and are not entirely certain of your property boundaries, hire a surveyor to redefine the boundary lines or build the improvements well inside your property. Alternatively, abandon your plans altogether because it might not be worth the problems that could follow.

12. Making Large Landscaping Decisions

Think carefully before cutting down any big trees on the property. Some buyers might be horrified and upset if you cut down a tree that took decades to mature, which they would have wanted to retain. Trim these trees, by all means, but don’t go making big, irreversible decisions for your potential buyers. Remember, they can always cut the tree down after settlement, or they can ask you to do it as part of their offer. Also – be careful, as certain trees may be protected by law.

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