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Top 10 home improvement myths

By Trulia | Published: Oct 14, 2009 | 51 Comments

So you have decided to tackle a home improvement project, but like a mosquito buzzing in your ear a question lingers - Are you making the right choices when it comes to investing time and effort into improving your home? It's a valid concern because not all home improvements are created equal.

To separate fact from fiction let's take a look at the top 10 home improvement myths:

  1. Any remodeling project will add value to your home

    Not true - while many remodeling projects will add value to your home, some can be seen as a negative by future buyers. For instance, combining two smaller bedrooms to create one larger bedroom may better fit your lifestyle today, but it may cause the home to lose value in the eyes of a future buyer who needs the two separate rooms.

  2. Buying the highest quality materials attracts more buyers

    Installing the highest quality materials always seems like a wise decision, but it can backfire. For instance, using the most expensive tile in a bathroom may impress your friends, but value conscious buyers may opt for a more affordable home if you have over improved for your neighborhood.

  3. Adding square footage always adds value

    A better way to think about this statement is to insert the word useable into the sentence. Square footage in attics and basements that are finished, and by county standards considered livable, may not be attractive to a buyer if the space is sub-standard compared to the rest of the home.

  4. Colors and textures - safe and simple is better

    Keeping a home vanilla so that buyers can choose their own style and décor sounds like a safe bet, but it ignores the fact that most buyers just don't have the ability to visualize the home differently. Without splashes of color and mixtures of texture, you could lose value to other sellers that have taken the time to consult with an interior designer.

  5. Inside improvements are better than outside improvements

    Not necessarily. If a home buyer can't get past the exterior of your home because it has been neglected or doesn't offer good curb appeal, all of the work you have done on the inside may not net you any more dollars. To get the biggest bang for your remodeling buck, start from the outside and work your way in.

  6. Adding a bedroom is better than adding a bathroom

    It depends on the starting point. If you only have one or two bedrooms to start with, adding a bedroom before adding a second bath is probably a wise choice since most buyers are more attracted to a three bedroom home. On the other hand, if you already have three bedrooms and only one bath, your next investment would probably be in a new bathroom.

  7. Paint hides a multitude of sins

    Dry rot? Fungus damage? Mold problems? Carpenter ants? Termite issues? Nothing a can of paint can't fix, right? Wrong! Not only does this practice violate disclosure laws in most states, it can set you up for liability after the sale as most buyers will want you to foot the bill for these hidden issues.

  8. Converting a garage to living space is a great trade off

    Nope. A garage conversion is almost always viewed negatively by future home buyers unless you replace the lost garage with another space of equal size (but then what's the point?). If you are going to do one anyway make sure that the space can be easily converted back to a garage at the time of the sale.

  9. Doing the work yourself will save you money

    For many homeowners wiring a new lighting fixture or plumbing a new dishwasher is a no-brainer, for the rest of us it may end up costing us more later in repair costs when we have to order the work redone by a professional. Another consideration is local and state laws regarding remodeling work. In many states if you have purchased a home to remodel and resell, you must either hold a contractor's license or hire a contractor to do the work for you.

  10. Pools add value to your home

    This is only true if you live in areas where they are must have amenities. Be warned that this isn't true for most areas of the country and the idea of maintaining a pool for ten months out of the year when it can't be enjoyed won't appeal to most buyers.

Becoming an informed home owner is the first step in making wise and profitable decisions when it comes to choosing the right remodeling projects. But don't stop here. Talk to remodeling professionals, contractors, home improvement specialists, and local agents about what amenities are coveted most by home buyers in your market.

Comments

By Debra Rosser,  Sun Jan 31 2010, 19:05
Number 4 is my favorite. I was in a home this week where the seller had heard the realtor say neutralize the paint and declutter. When I arrived the house lacked any personality. This was not exactly what the Realtor meant.
Remember that your house should be neutral enough for almost anyone to be able to visualize living in but it also has to be memorable. Most people look at multiple homes in a day and you want them to remember yours at the end of it. Adding some "wow" factor is important. A good home stager can help you find this balance if you need help.
Debra Rosser
Staging Matters
thestagingmatters.com
By Angelica Blatt,  Thu Feb 11 2010, 14:00
I love number 4! It is my favorite too! Everyone has such a different idea about what works. Choosing someone that is an uninterested 3rd party to help..like a stager/decorator really can help make a big difference.
By Karen Hunt 206-850-2041,  Tue May 4 2010, 20:27
Number 9 is my favorite. OMG, I have seen so many bad remodels, repairs and additions done by the homeowner. Please, please, please do not do your own work if you don't have the knowhow or experience. My husband has been building and contracting for 35 years and we always look at the quality and materials in listings we see. Leave it to the professionals unless it's just paint or something simple! DIY on your home??? Step away from that sledgehammer and nail gun.
By Maria T.,  Thu May 13 2010, 09:23
I will add kitchens and bathrooms, small updates can change everything and yes! number 4, color equal feelings but, be aware of pick shooting colors, bright red do not add any value, please use a color consultant/ stager, for a small fee it will help you to choose the perfect color for every room
By Fran Rokicki,  Thu Jan 6 2011, 10:07
I would suggest that the improvements be considered in the yard. Landscaping now, with new shrubs, not having those old overgrown trees along the home. Have a paver patio and/or sidewalk installed. Outdoor living space adds to the beauty of any home.
By Manuel,  Sat Mar 12 2011, 05:14
great right on comments and suggestions.....bought and sold two homes.........2 agents were nightmares in disguise........now i am more proactive............was a diy'er.......i value professionals to get the right job done.......inappropriate remodeling is a waste of time and money........i agree with adding value with landscaping which is my hobbie and i love to do...........great free psychotherapy
By Manuel,  Sat Mar 12 2011, 05:16
great observations and suggestions......your were reading my mind
By Rochelle Mortensen,  Wed Apr 27 2011, 19:58
Great article, but one thing they forgot to mention was that the project has to *make sense* both for the flow of the home and the feel of the neighborhood. Not that your house has to have a "me too" feel, but it should have some continuity with its surroundings. For advice contact the Realty Home Solutions team at http://www.realtyhomesolutions.net
By Buy and Sell House Fast,  Mon May 23 2011, 01:19
Great article. Making expensive remodelling won't be a good idea in todays market.
http://www.buy-and-sell-house-fast.com/sell-house/home-repair.shtml
By Shawn Rosa,  Tue Dec 13 2011, 10:27
#5 - people seem to focus too much on interior upgrades over exterior upgrades. curb appeal is huge - new siding and roof shingles make a home look brand new
By D Marcum,  Sat Jan 7 2012, 07:42
#5= I agree, if people can't bring themselves to walk into a home because of unsightly or outdated siding, or missing fascia, or any number of other things, then it doesn't matter how nice the interior is. And #9, I was in the home repair/remodel business for many years, and the one thing that brought me more small jobs than anything else was someone attempting a repair that they were unskilled at. The ones that bothered me the most were the ones that were just outright dangerous, such as structural repair or electrical. This money, to have the job done right, is very well spent.
By Kristina McBurney Maahs,  Wed Feb 8 2012, 12:00
I like to work with my clients on what improvements will help their home shine the best. Often people wont call their Realtor until they think they are ready to sell. I want my clients to call me BEFORE they decide to paint or remodel anything.

I give them suggestions on improvements that I believe will increase the market value and livability of their specific home. Sometimes it is paint, sometimes it is a remodel, sometimes it is just clear out all your junk. Every home is different and knowing the other homes in the neighborhood I can give them specific advice on how to compete in todays market.

I like to do it for my buyers when they first get the home as well. No sense in upgrading just for the next person!
By Lolita Hayes,  Fri Mar 16 2012, 18:30
I agree that the home's exterior is probably more important than the interior (unless the inside is a disaster). Think about how difficult it is to landscape, put up a fence properly or paint a house! Any buyer, who likes the inside but remembers the overgrown yard, cracked steps & walk, rotten fence and as written above, junk, will probably walk away unless they have their own flipping crew.
Also, as a buyer, I get a bit suspicious when I see fresh, beige paint and white trim everywhere and new counter tops. I figure they're hiding something bigger...and more expensive that needs fixing! Make sure to point out on your home's info what improvements you've made (new windows, plumbing, furnace, sill repair, masonry, etc). Anyone can paint a wall from red to beige!
By Beastie4u,  Thu Apr 26 2012, 11:28
You could probably use our help we help you prepare your house for sale in Austin and the surrounding areas check us out at http://savingamericaenergy.com or http://lonestarpainters.com. We can make your house more saleable!
By Tim Page,  Thu Apr 26 2012, 22:08
As a full time real estate appraiser, I see many of the items listed above. Great article. #1 when the owner removes a wall to create a larger bedroom and one smaller bedroom is always an issue. The two bedroom home will usually pull the value downward because the bank will want two comps with similar bedroom count. The issue is that the square footage is usually less for two bedrooms. http://www.increasehomevalue.org
By Matie,  Tue Jun 26 2012, 05:06
as a buyer, I get a bit suspicious when I see fresh, beige paint and white trim everywhere and new counter tops. I figure they're hiding something bigger...and more expensive that needs fixing! Make sure to point out on your home's info what improvements you've made (new windows, plumbing, furnace, sill repair, masonry, etc). Anyone can paint a wall from red to beige!

http://www.indexpost.com/
By John Lucas,  Tue Jul 10 2012, 13:00
John Lucas
Reliance Trust Realty and Investments
505 East New Haven Avenue
Melbourne, FL 32901
http://www.reliancetrustrealty.com
By Sona Gallatin,  Sat Aug 18 2012, 13:07
Great ideas! You certainly don't have to spend a bundle on improving your house for sale.
By opondomusa,  Mon Oct 22 2012, 02:39
"Doing the work yourself will save you money"
That is a very real myth.Here is a list of more home renovations you should never do yourself:

http://www.realtypin.com/news/Story/742-5-Home-Renovations-You-Should-Never-Do-Yourself
By Karen Bradford,  Fri Jan 11 2013, 21:26
Decent article - hit or miss advise.

An incomplete list from a Realtor/Stager and MCE provider: in order of importance....

1. Curb appeal matters, dress up the front with clean, shiny hardware, pretty front door and bright yellow flowers. Buyers want green grass, flowers and mulch - not sticks and mud.
2. Elbow Grease is free: work to declutter and clean the house - especially bathrooms and kitchens. Erase the evidence anyone used the bathroom facilities earlier that day. Really - its that important!
3. Fresh, neutral but interesting paint is the least expensive fix with the largest impact. Believeable Buff by SW is very pleasing to most buyers.
4. Rooms with water add equity - fix up the bathrooms and kitchen, but be careful not to overimprove. Fresh hardware and fixtures, framed mirrors and nice lighting can do wonders! Stage with fluffy towels and unused spa items.
5. Know your limits - poorly updated homes sell poorly. Buyers recognize "do it your self" homeowners which can can cause them to run to the next home that was professionaly updated. Oh yea...less liability too when a professional does the work.

Please visit http://www.stagingindallas.com for more information
or visit my website at http://www.karenbradford@ebby.com for great advise with proven results.

Karen Bradford, Realtor (R), ASP
Residential Real Estate and Staging Services
karenbradford@ebby.com
By Marjorie Dybec,  Sat Mar 23 2013, 18:57
Renovate with style, but not expensively. Use mid-range or small stainless steel appliances with chic inexpensive IKEA cabinets. If your budget allows, spring for a natural stone counter or solid surface counter. Use a pleasing tile backsplash that anyone would be able to live with. Be sure to install a dishwasher. If you are renovating a house or a condo, include a washer-dryer. But don't get crazy with your tile choices or marble countertops or super high-end brands unless the price range of the property requires that those types of higher end finishes are included.

Think about your buyer. What are their aspirations ? How close to those can you deliver and still recoup your costs ?

Please hire professional contractors. Yes, you do want the property to memorable, for the right reasons.
By lor.sar,  Sun Apr 28 2013, 09:06
Of all the comments, I really like the one that cautions against over-improving. One way to avoid that is to visit open houses in the area to see what others have done so that you don't make this costly mistake.
By Kara Blader,  Mon Sep 9 2013, 16:07
We are thinking about doing a simple home renovation in Seattle to prepare our house to be sold. I appreciate these tips a ton. They have helped us to make a lot of decisions!

Shelly Slader | http://www.cascadebuild.com
By mj.mcdermott,  Sun Sep 22 2013, 15:14
Does a solar power plant add value to a Home?
By Alex,  Sun Sep 22 2013, 20:10
Does a SDU (separate dwelling unit) of 500sqft in the big backyard add value to a Home?
By Ed Marill,  Tue Sep 24 2013, 11:23
One important thing to note too, is that if you enclose a patio or create finished space in a basement, while you may create value in doing so, when it comes time to sell down the road, you may not get the same dollar per square foot as the rest of the original home. For example, if you live in a 1500 sf house, and you enclose a 500 sf patio, your home probably didn't just go up in price 33%. This is especially important to consider when comparing your home to others in the neighborhood that recently sold for a particular $/sf rate.
By Elizabeth Sagarminaga,  Sun Dec 22 2013, 09:56
When you renovate or carry out improvements around the house, do so because it is needed or you would like to upgrade the quality. Do not think how this will translate into a higher price while selling. Some improvements may add to the value some may not. Do remember, the house is there to serve your needs. If you maintain it well and it is pleasant enough, it will not need any further dressing-up. It will look well-cared for and you will get your price.
By Cathy Browne, ASP, SRS,  Wed Jan 22 2014, 05:55
Work with an agent with experience in staging. He or she can help you make your home more appealing to buyers. I got my staging designation so I could provide that service to my sellers. The home should be clean and bright, but also seem warm and inviting. There are tips to make it look this way!
By kristinledrew,  Fri Feb 28 2014, 19:18
This is a great list! I think people are easily sucked into spending way more money than necessary just because of big brand names. I updated my lights by ordering from the sale section of http://www.interior-deluxe.com and achieved a great level of home improvement for a fraction of what the cost would have been had I renovated doing everything you address here.
By Jay Taylor,  Fri Apr 25 2014, 03:42
Very good article. I went through the content twice as I found it to be very informative. Thanks for sharing the tips with all of us here. Doing all the stuff yourself saves you a lot of money only if you have access to everything you need otherwise you will be wasting your time and money only and not have any outcome as well.
By Marilyn C Cunningham,  Wed May 14 2014, 16:51
Good advice. Too many people forget the exterior and overdo- diy projects.
By swesson487,  Thu May 22 2014, 15:26
You have some great information here. Home improvement is great, but you have to be smart about it. When I was a kid, we added on to the house. It works well for the family, but because my dad and uncles did all the construction themselves, it will be very expensive for my parents if they ever decide to sell.

Sal Wesson | http://www.craigwentworth.com/
By thiagodaluz7,  Wed May 28 2014, 09:33
Thanks for sharing this! Home improvement has so many myths that need busting. It's good that you tackled some of the biggest one. People who read this will actually be prepared for their home repairs. Thiago | http://atlantahousesurgeons.com
By brittanymatthews445,  Fri May 30 2014, 16:18
This is exactly the article that I have been looking for. I am right in middle of selling my house. And home improvements definitely need to be done first.
http://www.kelkurwest.ca/en/services.html
By tonydazevedo,  Tue Jul 15 2014, 13:47
Some of these really surprise me, but are really useful for the future. My wife and I are planning on selling our home soon, and we were going to use a couple of these "myths" to remodel. I'm glad that I found this, so we didn't turn our garage into an extra room. http://www.trancheenergy.com/remodeling.html
By mattdalek47,  Thu Jul 17 2014, 08:38
This was all great to know. I'm getting ready to make some some improvements to my house before I sell it. I hadn't thought of some of these things, so I'm glad I ran across this before I started. I can have a better idea of what I want and need to do when I hire the guys for the masonry work.

http://rbuckleyconstructioninc.com/
By garypuntman,  Thu Jul 17 2014, 15:52
Thanks for posting this. It's good to know that not every remodeling project will add value. I've been looking for ways to add value to my home, so I will keep that in mind. I have a lot of home improvements I want to do, so this information will be helpful.
Gary Puntman | http://atlantahousesurgeons.com
By Amber Johnson,  Mon Jul 28 2014, 07:29
Thanks for posting these myths on home repair. I agree that it is often a bad idea to do the work yourself to save money. I think you're right that this can often lead to more problems and more money being spent. My husband tried to fix a problem with our plumbing last year and we ended having to hire a plumber to fix the problem plus other problems caused by my husbands attempt.

Amber Johnson | http://cristandsonscontractors.com
By jenoble13,  Mon Jul 28 2014, 13:25
My husband and I are renovating our front entry way, and we will have to remember this. We put in a new staircase with a glass railing and new hardwood floors. Our entry way is rather small, and we like the open feel the glass gives the room. http://www.careflections.com/glass-railing-systems.nxg
By djennifer009,  Thu Jul 31 2014, 10:29
Thanks for debunking these myths. I completely agree, it seems like everyone want to do any home remodeling at all before they sell. It's better to think seriously about the best remodel you can afford and get that done instead. Sometimes the most expensive one is not the most valuable.

Jenn | http://www.albornconstruction.com
By Amber Johnson,  Mon Aug 4 2014, 07:07
My husband and I are trying to improve our home to sell it. Thanks so much for these helpful tips of what not to do! I agree that it is important to improve both the inside and outside of the home. The curb appeal is very important when it comes to selling a house.

Amber | http://wsweaverconstruction.com/
By karablader,  Mon Aug 4 2014, 10:17
Is adding a fence a good idea when trying to sell your home? I found some fencing timber and would really like to build a fence around our backyard. We are thinking about moving out of our house in a year or two, though, and I don't want to lessen the chances of selling our home quickly. I assume buyers would like having a fence for more privacy but I don't know if that's true or not.
http://sweetmanstimber.com/fencingtimber
By Amber Johnson,  Fri Aug 8 2014, 13:00
I agree that renovating your yard can really increase the value of the home. My husband and I have been working on our yard and we are just putting on some finishing touches. I hope to put in a water fountain soon.

Amber | http://www.ksgiftsandmore.com/default.asp?dept_id=30030
By Pedro Cintas,  Tue Aug 12 2014, 08:52
I have found Number 5 to be very true. I have had two homes on the market in the past 10 years. I have always found the landscaping to be an important aspect of selling a home. The outside of the house is the first thing a buyer sees, which makes up their first impression about the house. A seller should keep up on their landscaping if they want to sell their house quickly.
http://www.mbmmaintenance.com.au/gallery
By Amber Johnson,  Tue Aug 19 2014, 09:56
I agree that upgrading and repairing plumbing is a great way to increase the value on a home. Getting things like a new sink or washing machine can really benefit a home. I think that most people feel about buying a home that has a new and up-to-date plumbing system.

Amber | http://www.aaplumbing.com/
By Amber Johnson,  Wed Sep 3 2014, 06:45
I think that you bring up some great ideas to increase the value of your home. I think that having good plumbing is a great way increase the value of your home. I think you also bring up good points about hiring professionals to make sure that it is done right. It can save you time and money.

Amber | http://allrightplumbingandhvac.com/Services/
By ameliaheartwright,  Thu Sep 4 2014, 07:14
I agree with all of these renovation tips, because when I think about them, they are all improvement that, in my mind, would make a home better. The only thing I would do is caution people on doing the work themselves. If you know how to do the work you are doing, it's completely fine to do it yourself. However, if you don't know what to do, I wouldn't recommend doing the work yourself. It may be better to just have a professional do it. http://www.buildersatyourservice.com.au/our-services/renovations.html
By reynoldsc99,  Thu Sep 4 2014, 14:15
These are some great myths to bust. When you're looking at a remodeling project, it's smart to consider what your ROI will be. You want to know what the real ROI will be in comparison to what common misbelief is. Thanks for sharing.

Claire Reynolds || http://www.hrcincorporated.com/HandymanRepairs/renovation%20work%20one.htm
By Bill Stacy,  Wed Sep 10 2014, 07:05
The price to get a basement finished really depends on how much of the basement is actually finished. If nothing has been done on it, then it's safe to say that it'll be a hefty price. Anything finished above that just lowers the price. http://deyoungbrothers.com/services.htm
By wwest1980,  Thu Oct 9 2014, 15:41
I think if you remodel your home to add value to it, you should do it in a general way. Meaning, if you remodel, don't necessarily do to your liking or taste. Look online and see what is trending and what looks good. Make it appealing to everybody.

http://www.engleconstructioninc.net/Home-Remodeling-Yorktown-VA.html
By Zach,  Mon Oct 13 2014, 13:37
This is why I talk to a general contractor before I start a project. There are many common misconceptions that come with remodeling homes. Many of these myths can be busted if you talk to a contractor. I believe that it is important to know what is a truth and what isn't because you don't want to be doing something that isn't necessary.

Zach | http://davidsonremodelinginc.com/

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