There are a lot of things homeowners can do to add value to their home. But there are just as many ways they can decrease their home’s worth without even realizing it. Everyone knows that neglecting their yard or painting their house neon pink could make their home less valuable. But whether you’re planning to sell, to refinance or to rent on Airbnb, there are steps you can take to retain, and even increase, the value of your home. Avoid these five common mistakes.
1. Neglecting Your Hot Water Heater
According to This Old House, well-maintained hot water heaters run better and more efficiently than those that are neglected, leading to lower bills and greater longevity for the nucleus of your home’s utility center. This maintenance is usually easy and inexpensive. Adding insulation can reduce heat loss by up to 45 percent and lower water-heating bills by 9 percent.
Also, flush the tank to remove sediment periodically. “Water has minerals in it,” said John Bodrozic, co-founder of Homezada.com, “and they can build up in the bottom of the hot water heater, causing it to work harder, which increases energy bills. It will wear out much quicker. A home inspection when selling it will catch this, and it will factor into the offered price for the home.”
2. Installing a Pool
Everyone loves a swimming pool — except the people who have to pay to maintain it. According to Time magazine, in-ground pools cost, on average, around $22,000 to install and thousands more annually for maintenance and equipment.
Many homeowners assume a pool will pay for itself in the form of a higher asking price when they sell — especially in a hot climate. This is rarely true. Homebuyers look at pools and see dollar signs. From security fences to vacuums to resurfacing every few years, a pool can be an expensive headache that actually lowers the value of your home.
3. Destroying Existing Value by ‘Remodeling’
Many remodeling jobs can actually destroy some of the home’s inherent value. “We have talked many clients out of removing the seldom-used half bath or full bath in order to put in a larger laundry room,” said Rob Baugher, president of the Birmingham Remodelers Association in Alabama and CEO of design and remodel company Baugher Inc. “Destroying the existing value is crazy.
Even if you have to add on to the house, you will have made more on your investment because you retained the existing value.
Instead, look for cosmetic fixes. “In the kitchen,” Baugher said, “if you can paint the existing cabinets and change the hardware (maybe tile the backsplash), the appraiser or next owner will see that as remodeled and will pay more than it cost you. Sanding and refinishing hardwood floors instead of replacing them is a great money maker — but the bones of the house have to be good first.”
4. Neglecting Outside Air-Conditioner Units
Another major mistake that devalues the outside of the home, the inside of the home and leads to an increase in energy and repair costs is “not trimming shrubs around air conditioning units,” Bodrozic said. “These units need unobstructed airflow to operate efficiently. Overgrown shrubs block this airflow, the units have to run harder, which increases energy bills and reduces the life of the units, thus decreasing the value of the home.”
5. Not Cleaning Gutters Regularly
Cleaning the gutters is absolutely necessary. Gutters carry water away from the home, its roof and foundation. “When gutters are clogged,” said Erin McDermott, communications specialist for Window Genie, a national home-service franchise, “water finds the path of least resistance, which many times leads to irreversible damage when it seeps into the fascia board or foundation.”
“A rotten, cracked house is expensive to fix and impossible to sell,” McDermott said. “Stagnant water is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects, including wood-eating bugs. Also, gutters that begin to pull away from the home can fall off, bringing down siding, roof and landscape with it.”
There are some obvious ways to boost your home’s value — and many not-so-obvious ways to lower your home’s value without even knowing the damage that you’re doing. Some have to do with neglect, others are caused by uninformed decisions about makeovers or remodels. Work with a competent, qualified contractor and always research a project before digging in.