How to Sell a Unique Home

Learn Which Improvements Can Make Your Home Unsellable

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Lots of homeowners think they are putting personal touches on their homes when they decide to remodel or decorate. But some of those "improvements" mean they're ruining their chances of resale. Many homebuyers today prefer cookie-cutter homes. It's hard to sell a unique home because there is a limited pool of buyers who want to buy a unique home. Weird homes typically don't sell.

My friend, Tamara, decided to paint the entire interior of her home dark purple. She liked purple; so do I. But homebuyers hate it. Not only that, but it's difficult to repaint a purple wall. First, it needs to be primed. Then it requires at minimum two coats of paint. At least paint is a relatively cheap fix; however, when you start adding in the per-room cost of painting and hiring professional painters, that amount can quickly exceed a few thousand dollars.

How Weird Improvements Ruin Your Home Sale

My neighbor comes from a big family who loves to entertain. On top of that, she runs an in-home daycare. She thought nothing of adding several kitchens over the years. When she came to me to sell her home, we had to cut her price by half because nobody wanted to buy a home with three kitchens. Here are other ways that turning a regular home into a unique home affects your ability to sell:

  • Converting the garage. Honestly, I can't say I've ever seen a garage conversion that was done well. But beyond that, people want to park in the garage. OK, maybe my husband doesn't care, but others want to use the garage for the purpose it was intended. Many garage conversions require a permit. To get a permit, you might have to raise the foundation or put in windows. Those types of improvements are expensive to reverse.
  • Building an unpopular room addition. My neighbor added a room that was 30 by 30 feet to use as her daycare center. It also contained a kitchen and a laundry room. It fit a specific purpose that no other first-time homebuyer wanted. The room addition also consumed a huge portion of her backyard, thereby reducing space where children could play. If you're planning an addition, why not enlarge a smaller space such as a kitchen or a family room? Make it a space that people will actually use.
  • Removing period detailing to modernize a classic home. If you have an older home and remove the details that make it a classic home, you may have destroyed the home's character. Buyers gravitate to an older home versus a newer home not necessarily for its age but for its vintage characteristics. You may turn off potential homebuyers for a Victorian home, for example, by installing cherry cabinets and granite countertops in the kitchen.
  • Making your home the biggest on the block. I learned the hard way what happens when you buy a home that is 8,600 square feet in a neighborhood of 3,000-square-foot homes. It didn't dawn on me that the home had been on the market for more than a year when I bought it, but it sure hit home when I tried to sell it. The rule of location, location, location applies. People want to live in conforming neighborhoods of similar homes.
  • Redesigning the interior layout by removing all the walls. Buyers like an open floor plan but if they wanted to live in a loft, they would buy a loft, not a home without walls. For that same reason, domes are difficult to sell in areas without any other domes nearby. Remember, conforming homes make up the bulk of the marketplace.
  • Turning a three-bedroom home into a one-bedroom home. The majority of home buyers need at minimum a two-bedroom home and a family needs three bedrooms. Many older people need an extra bedroom for grandchildren or guests. Instead of buying your unique home and converting it back, it's easier to buy a home that fits your needs.
  • Removing the bathtub. By removing the bathtub, you're removing an essential element in a home. While you may prefer a walk-in shower, it's very difficult to bathe a baby in the shower. Notwithstanding, there are a lot of people who prefer to soak in a tub.
  • Adding multiple levels. A split-level home is one thing, but a home in which the dining room is a step-down, the master a step-up, the den a step-down, the guest bath a step-up, it's all too confusing, and it destroys the natural flow. It chops up the layout.
  • Using outdated or inferior building materials. Just because your Uncle Louie got a good deal on laminate flooring that looks like the real thing but isn't, isn't a good reason to install cheap flooring throughout your home. Over the years, the panels might separate, lift or crack. If you're spending the money to remodel, buy materials that will stand the test of time.
  • Paving the yard with blacktop or cement. In some cities such as Sacramento, it's against city building codes to pave your front yard, but that doesn't stop homeowners from turning their yards into parking lots. Some owners rip out backyard lawns and turn them into a concrete playground, thinking they are adding a low-maintenance or green feature.

    If it's too costly to reverse these home improvement mistakes, the two options available are to wait for the perfect homebuyer, which could take years, or slash the price to compensate.

    At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.