I read an interesting article this morning…Extreme Makeover is downsizing their dreams after many of their families have begun to lose their homes to foreclosure. (Read Extreme Makeover story HERE.) Of course as a REALTOR® I was not totally surprised. People who were struggling to maintain a small home would have extreme difficulties managing the enormous bills of a super-sized one. It is just logic. And what if someone has to move? Who else would want the over-built house with the very unique and personalized bedrooms?
Reality television home improvement shows are no doubt fun to watch. It is amazing to see a small room or entire home transformed into a show place. I have always taken issue with unique decorating ideas…many hurt the value of your home. And if anything these few years of market value decline has shown us is our homes really are investments.
Some of the most unbelievable transformations are on children's rooms. They will take a theme like the racecars or princesses and make a child's dream come true. My favorite part of an old kid’s show, Trading Places: Boys vs. Girls, is at the very end when the parents arrive to see the redecorated rooms for the first time. Whether there are ropes hanging from the ceiling, a psychedelic paint job or artificial grass on the floor, the reactions are priceless. Sure they are saying "awesome" for the television cameras, but are they really happy with the new rooms? As a parent, I know how quickly kids grow out of favorite toys, colors and activities. A theme-based room could be hard to transform back to a normal room when the fad passes or child grows. And what if you have to sell your home? How will potential buyers view that boat on the ceiling or the chalkboard walls?
This isn't just something that happens on television. People really do crazy things to their homes and it's not always for their children. Whether it is a unique wall treatment or an indoor hot tub, some people's individualism hurts the value of their homes.
Here are a few unbelievable things I have seen in people's Minnesota homes:
Playground Swings in the bedroom. This family removed a wall from two adjoining bedrooms to create one large room and bolted two playground swings to the ceiling. This home was 1700 ft.., split level home with 3 bedrooms prior to removing the wall. It is now an odd two bedroom. Combine this with the possible structural damage to the support beams if heavier people use the swings, this “improvement” has devalued this home considerably.
Crinkled grocery bags glued to the wall instead of wallpaper. It is a unique look and similar to wallpaper but since it will be difficult (if not impossible) to remove, you will need to find a buyer who likes the look as much as you did. And most buyers don’t like wallpaper so this unique décor had a drastic affect on the home’s value.Multi-colored hand painted murals and stenciling painted on walls throughout the home. This can be beautiful to the owner but because it is applied in an uneven way by less than professional painters, it is difficult to repaint. Often sanding and several layers of special primer are required to repaint.
Indoor hot tubs. Unless you are installing your hot tub oasis in a four-season porch, think long and hard about this so called improvement. In a cold weather state like Minnesota, this just doesn't make any sense. I have seen them installed in bedrooms and family rooms. Many were professionally installed but that does not help retain your homes value. Most buyers still didn't like them because they took away living space or a much needed bedroom. Buyers also have concerns about the installation. What if it leaks? Will it wreck the foundation? Does the steam cause mold? Even if the sellers offer to remove the hot tub prior to the closing, most buyers are turned off by the potential problems that they will walk away from the home. Again your improvement reduced the value of your home buy tens of thousands of dollars.
Kid’s Art on Walls. Chalkboard paint on walls is okay as long as you have a plan to repaint prior to resale. But if you are a permissive parent who thinks, “It’s just a closet after all, what difference will it make if the kids go crazy with a rainbow of Sharpies on the walls?”, think again. If you have ever tried to paint over it, you know it can take more than one coat of Kilz to cover over red permanent marker. No buyer will ever consider kiddy graffiti as adding value to a property.
So does this mean a person shouldn't personalize their home at all? Of course not! It is your home after all.
What I am suggesting is that when you are considering a home improvement or trying the next decorating trend, remember that your home is your biggest investment and asset. Put the hot tub on the patio, deck or four-season porch. Swings belong in the backyard. And wall treatments need to be removable and easy to repaint. Make your decisions with this in mind and your home will be beautiful and pocketbook will be protected.