7 Real-Life Remodeling Mistakes to Avoid

doylesee/morgueFileCurb appeal … everyone who is selling a house (or who hopes to sell someday) wants it, but not everybody has it. In fact, despite their best efforts at remodeling, some unfortunate homeowners create what could be termed curb un-appeal, giving a new meaning to the old phrase “Buyer beware.” I recently interviewed a curb appeal pro – my buddy the real estate broker – to find out what types of home improvements make potential customers go “Eew!” instead of “Ahhh!” Here's her list of real-life examples of remodels that went wrong.

  1. Ignoring the normal end use of a renovation. For one homeowner, building a romantic patio off the master bedroom seemed like a good idea at the time. It certainly added that wow factor but, sadly, didn't take one simple fact into account. Folks normally like to use a patio or deck for barbecuing and al fresco entertaining. It can be quite awkward directing guests outdoors through your private boudoir … not to mention the cooking fumes that may scent your best silk sheets.
  2. Function over form. This is otherwise known as creating a hot mess. True, adding unmatched but capacious kitchen cabinets did give a certain do-it-yourself fan tons more storage, but three wildly different styles and colors of cabinets crammed into a 100-square-foot room tend to be a tad too much variety for most would-be purchasers' taste.
  3. A layout that doesn't make sense. My broker friend says that a potential buyer forms a strong impression -- positive or otherwise -- in the very first few seconds of a property viewing. She had numerous showings of one attractively remodeled home. Problem was, the viewers were turned off right away. They just couldn't find the bathroom because of its weird location. That small glitch lost the owners the chance at many a sale.
  4. Too many angles. Although the offbeat configuration of a new basement conversion suited the current owners' purposes and maximized use of the space – for their family – it was full of odd angles. As a result, open house attendees ended up looking at it and saying, “How the heck am I going to fit my (standard-shaped, rectangular) furniture in there? Next property, please!”
  5. Making it too personal. Somebody once loved those shiny fire engine red cabinets enough to install them all over the kitchen, but unless there's a buyers' agent out there with a five-year-old kid as a client, they're turning out to be a major turnoff now that the householders are ready to sell. And no, describing them as “cool” in the MLS listing does not succeed in making them any more attractive.
  6. Making it too neutral. Or rather, confusing “neutral” with “bland” and “boring.” More than one hopeful seller has taken the "go neutral" message way too far, causing potential buyers to feel like they're trapped inside a giant mushroom. In place of blah greige, why not try newer neutrals like sage green, ivory, or soft yellow?
  7. Unfinished business. Worst of all, according to Ms. Realtor, is a home improvement that just never quite got done -- either not finished up to building code standard or not completed at all. So take some advice from an expert. Whether you intend to do the home improvements yourself or hire a professional remodeling contractor, plan ahead. Make sure you have the money, the permit, the patience, and the know-how to see the job through successfully. While many buyers are actually looking for a fixer-upper, that means fixing up features that are out of date or showing signs of wear and tear, not dealing with the results of your botched reno.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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