Careful When You Upgrade

Hey, it’s July and the living is easy. The 4th is coming..The Dodgers and Angels are making the history books and the great time of home repair is upon us, as suburbanites head by the thousands to Home Depot or EXPO as the case may be. Great projects in mind to enhance the quality and value of their homes, every year homeowners make horrendous mistakes in home “improvement” as they discover, to their dismay, a few years down the road when they try to sell their “enhanced” homes.
What are some of the major mistakes, you may ask?

Costly Upkeep

Well, for one putting in an improvement proving to be high maintenance or high expense. An example might include a pool even here in sunny Southern Cal. In my experience, unless it’s a luxury or near-luxury home, value-conscious shoppers veer away from pools unless it’s summer and unless the pool is in pristine condition. Then, many buyers seemingly ignore the obvious–it’s gonna cost plenty to keep that pool in top shape. As for putting in a pool where none now exists, that is a costly operation which almost assuredly will not give a return on the investment.

How about redoing an existing pool and adding a waterfall and spa? That sounds great. Just make sure you are not taking up the entire backyard. Future buyers may want that yard for dodgeball or croquet. Families with very small children could not buy a home with a pool for a backyard due to safety concerns.

Had to have that complicated landscaping design? It’s certainly beautiful, but, then again, you have the gardeners come twice a week to keep it that way. Buyers have a sneaky way of figuring these things out with all their child-like questions…They are most likely going to notice the lawn costs an arm and a leg and shy away…


If you live in an entry-level home in an entry-level neighborhood and you want to put up expensive wrought-iron fencing with brick pillars and sculpted rock gardens, go for it. Just don’t think a buyer will pay for it or even like it.

Before jumping into your project, check around the neighborhood. Are you planning to put in your “dream kitchen” modeled on one you saw in Architectural Digest with custom Brazilian cherry cabinets, granite countertops, and travertine floors? If all the homes in your neighborhood generally have stock cabinets from Home Depot, it’s probably not going to give you return on your investment, though it may attract buyers to your home.


Let’s say you take a trip to Vegas and fall in love with the decor at the Bellagio. Your upscale, yet still tract home, cries out to you…Damning the torpedoes, expense-wise, so to speak, you put in trompe l’oeil murals, built-in wine cabinets and Tuscan-style detailing throughout your pad. Cool, no? To you, but to buyers? Most likely the next buyer will just rip it all out.

Other example? How about a fancy barbecue island with built-in speakers and tiki bar? It’s great for you, but don’t expect a buyer to pay for it. In fact, buyers may drop their offering prices complaining that all the “improvements” have to be removed.


Maybe you feel you just have to have an office, and the garage is the only place for it, so you make over the garage as an office. Good idea? Well, no, even though hardly anyone around here seems to use their garages for cars, the vast majority of buyers will want to have one. In fact, in my experience male buyers are more interested in the garage than the house. It could be all those toys or it’s a place to tinker.

The love of your life is gardening, so you build a fancy “garden house”. Good idea? Enjoy it because the next buyer almost assuredly won’t want it and won’t want to pay for it. Ditto for children’s play houses, tree houses and you get the picture…

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