By Christopher Solomon of MSN Real Estate
Your home is your castle, and you can do what you want with it. Right? Sure. But if you want a good return on the dough - and sweat equity - you pour into Home Sweet Home, you should make sure those changes are smart ones.
Too often, that’s not the case. Real-estate agents and appraisers say they regularly see homeowners make changes that don't increase the value of the home by much, if at all. Some renovations or alterations can even drag down the value of a home. Then, of course, there is all the damage that a lack of upkeep and upgrades can do.
Check out these home-improvement blunders and our tips from the experts on how to steer clear of them.
1. Going overboard for the area
The common mistake: A common mistake homeowners make is improving a home too much for the neighborhood, turning the home into a pricey outlier. How much is too much? That depends. "If you're in a really nice neighborhood, it would be hard to over improve something," says Jay Josephs, a certified appraiser for 23 years and the president of the Josephs Appraisal Group in Phoenix. But if you, say, install a $20,000 pool behind a $60,000 house, "you might get $5,000 to $8,000 return," Josephs says.
What you should do: "Pay real close attention to the common denominator in a neighborhood," says Sandra Nickel, the owner of Sandra Nickel Hat Team, a real-estate agency based in Montgomery, Ala. Talk to a trusted real-estate agent or an appraiser, and ask for an appraisal without improvements and another with them. If it doesn't pay off, "it's not a good value," Nickel says.
The common mistake: Homeowners goof by upgrading inconsistently, which hurts value, says Josephs, who is also a partner at Value Trend Solutions. "I have seen completely remodeled kitchens where people have spent $40,000 or $50,000 on a kitchen, and the rest of the house is untouched — there are vinyl floors, blue shag carpeting," he says.
What you should do: "The best way to get the greatest return on your home is to cure the deficiencies. Find out what's the baseline in your particular neighborhood — and anything you can do to bring your home up to that baseline … is probably an investment worth doing," Josephs says. "One of the things I like to say is, 'Stone floors and vinyl floors should never be touching.'"
3. Closing off the porch
The common mistake: Some folks see a front porch as an opportunity for another four-season room. That's a no-no, Nickel says. "Obviously, the people who want to live in that neighborhood value being able to interact with their neighborhood," she says. High fences and enclosed porches prohibit that, she says. "Do not wall yourself from the community, if community is one of the assets of your neighborhood."
What you should do: If you want to create a comfortable, usable space, make the front porch a screened porch, Nickel says. If you have a larger full porch, perhaps enclose half of the porch. But be sure to keep most of the porch open to the outside world. You — and prospective buyers — will be happy you did.