4 Home Transformations That Could Actually Drive Buyers Away

published Sep 17, 2020
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Credit: Diana Liang

Upgrades to your home are usually done to make it more attractive, functional, and comfortable. But unless where you live is your forever home, there’s another factor you might want to consider: how potential buyers will view those changes.

According to Polina Ryshakov, a real estate economist and director of valuations at California-based Sundae, an off-market sales startup, the popularity of a home renovation may depend on the area and the demographic of the buyer. Let’s say you have a red brick home and you’re contemplating painting it a light gray color. “Red brick may be more appealing in a traditional neighborhood like Pasadena, but less in a hipper part of town like Venice,” she says.

So, if you’re making changes to help sell the home or increase your home’s value, Ryshakov has this advice: avoid bold accents or unique styles that would appeal to a very small percentage of the buying population, or altering floor plans for very specific needs. Ahead, find four transformations that could send buyers running in the other direction.

Putting up walls

Creating extra livable space always seems like a good idea—in fact, many people are searching for new homes these days because they need more room. So if you have a large open-concept living area, for example, adding a wall to create two rooms seems like a no-brainer when it comes to carving out some home office space. However, according to Svetlana Choi, a broker at Warburg Realty in New York City, you should be cautious when thinking about adding walls unnecessarily. “It doesn’t always look aesthetically appealing and often appears awkward,” she says.

She recalls taking a client to view a generously sized one-bedroom condo. In this space, the homeowner added a wall in the bedroom to create a separate office/guest area. “It made the original bedroom much smaller, making it hard to even walk around the bed,” she says. “The office/guest area was also small and cramped, with very little ventilation, and no natural light.” If that’s not cramped enough, they also removed closet space. “And in NYC, that is probably not a good idea,” Choi says.

Inadvertently having mismatched flooring

If you’re wondering how new hardwood floors affect your home’s resale value, here’s one thing to consider: it’s important to make sure that your floor coverings are consistent. According to Rebecca Negard, a realtor at Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., one huge mistake she sees in home renovations is having too many different types of floor coverings.  

“For example, different tile in the great room than the kitchen and then vinyl in the bathroom; two or even three rooms with different carpeting,” Negard says. She recommends using the same hard surface flooring in all of the social areas of the house, including the kitchen. “Go ahead and put a beautiful resilient wood down in the kitchen or the super great bulletproof vinyl flooring that’s great for spills and messes,” she says.

Negard also warns against using different carpet colors in the various rooms of your house. “That tends to cut up the floor plan and it makes the interior of the home appear much smaller.” Another of her pet peeves is too many small rugs or throw rugs on the floor. “It typically looks bad in photos, and you want to enhance the appearance of your property, not diminish it,” she says.

Religious and hobby-based renovations

Your home is your sanctuary, figurately speaking, but a literal sanctuary could be problematic for potential buyers. “Any renovation or conversion that is specifically religious, such as an outdoor grotto or indoor chapel or altar is not going to help sell your home—and it may be offensive to some buyers,” warns broker Gerard Splendore of Warburg Realty in New York City. 

“Also, built-in fish tanks, or room size aquariums that convert one wall of a room to an undersea adventure can be turn-offs for the run-of-the-mill buyer,” Splendore says. “Not only are these expensive and time-consuming to maintain, it may be necessary to engage a technician or service to address this type of environment.”

Stark colors

There’s nothing wrong with painting your home’s interior your favorite color. However, if it’s not a neutral hue, you should be prepared to have it repainted before listing your house on the market. “Loud colors can work as a major deterrent whether they’re found on the walls or the kitchen cabinets,” says Mihal Gartenberg, another agent with Warburg Realty.

You’re probably thinking that it’s not a big deal for a new homeowner to paint—and it’s not that expensive, either. However, Gartenberg says that’s not the problem. “It can be difficult for buyers to look past someone else’s aesthetics when it doesn’t match their own,” he explains. “Colorful kitchen cabinets may be fun and make you smile, but who wants to move into a home and redo the kitchen?”

Another choice that’s very individual is wallpaper. “Some folks love it, while others wouldn’t even consider it,” Choi says. “As a way to decorate a smaller interior to make it feel more expansive, or put in a powder room, it can create a very special environment, but on walls of bigger spaces, it often appears outdated.”