Home Improvements that Lower your Home Value

home value estimate portland

Redecorating? Installing new kitchen countertops? Thinking of adding a pool? Not all home improvements in the Portland real estate market increase your home’s value. Consider the following:

The average homeowner hangs on to their home about 10 years. When it comes time to sell, some improvements done in that time will retain value, but others will actually detract from it.

Our team of top real estate agents came up with a list of eight ways that home improvements could send buyers running (or cause them to submit a lower offer). 

  1. Neglecting accessibility. Let’s face it: Portland home buyers are aging. Many baby boomers are now empty-nesters, and they want to downsize and/or retire in Portland. But giving up square footage doesn’t mean they’re willing to cut corners on ease of living — in fact, many are hoping to “age in place” which means they’re looking for wide hallways, low thresholds, and easy-to-grab door handles. They need room to maneuver in the bathroom and they hate bathtubs. Whatever remodel you’re doing, keep disabled and senior citizen buyers in mind, and by all means — put in a walk-in shower before you add a Jaccuzzi. 
  2. Spending too much on the kitchen. In 2018, the average homeowner doing a major kitchen remodel spent over $62,000 on top-end appliances, granite countertops, all-new cabinets, etc. However, the resale value on that shiny luxury kitchen was only $40,560, according to remodeling.com. While a super-deluxe kitchen isn’t going to hurt your home value, making it worth less than when you started, it’s such a bad return on investment that we thought we should include it on this list. Buyers love a well appointed kitchen, but they’re not necessarily willing to pay more for it. On the other hand, doing some light remodeling on an outdated kitchen has a much better chance of boosting your home value. 
  3. Adding a pool/hot tub. Pools are fun, and hot tubs are relaxing, but they do tend to take the fun out of a Portland home sale while upping the stress. Most buyers are simply not interested in an in-ground pool, for starters. When you do find a buyer who likes the idea, they will require a separate pool inspection (having detailed maintenance records on your end will help) and it’s still not going to provide any kind of return on investment. An above-ground hot tub (the kind you usually see in backyards across Portland) won’t necessarily scare buyers off, but it’s not a way to add home value, either. Read more about pools and hot tubs and how they impact Portland home sales here.
  4. Garage conversions. They’re great workshops, man caves, band practice areas and party zones, but the minute you start making lasting changes to your garage to accommodate your hobbies, you’re losing home value. As a sellers’ agent, I always tell my clients, “Normal sells”. Most home buyers want to use a garage for its normal purpose, to park a car or for extra storage. If the garage has extra space, other features that buyers love are storage solutions like built-in shelving and hanging racks. 
  5. Extreme landscaping. Landscaping is a double-edged sword. It generates curb appeal like nothing else, and home buyers’ eyes pop at the words “landscaped property” on the listing description. However, go too far with it, and your home might become too high-maintenance. Avoid features that create ongoing work for buyers: ponds, thirsty gardens that need a lot of summer watering, and plants that tend to take over like certain varieties of bamboo. Right now, tasteful xeriscaping and rain gardens that absorb roof runoff are all the rage in Portland. 
  6. Improvements not well done. It should go without saying, but as real estate agents, we see all kinds of stuff. From projects half-finished to shoddy work by unlicensed contractors, to tilework and flooring that is simply ugly or quickly looks dated — there are a lot of ways to mess up home improvements. Again, normal sells, and while it’s important that your home is decorated to your taste, try to avoid any permanent changes that make a big statement. For example, wallpaper is labor-intensive to remove, and the pattern you love might be one buyers hate. Carpeting is another tricky call — go with wood flooring and rugs whenever possible, or choose a carpet in appropriate rooms (bedrooms, dens) that is neutral in color and high-quality. 
  7. Improvements outside of the HOA rules. Condos are a great starter real estate investment for Portland buyers, but after a few years you might be itching to change things to your liking. However, some of those changes — especially if they’re to the exterior of the condo — might be against the covenants and restrictions of the condo Homeowner’s Association. Read the HOA rulebook carefully, and if you really can’t live with a rule, go to the condo association (after all, you paid to be a member) and see if you can’t get it changed. Otherwise, buyers will run into problems trying to buy a condo that is not in compliance. 
  8. Improvements made without a permit. Many home improvement projects in Portland require some kind of permit, whether it’s for electrical or plumbing work or adding square footage to the home (eg finishing the basement or adding an ADU). It may be tempting to save money by not getting the necessary permits for the work, but when it comes time to sell, you will have to let buyers know about the un-permitted work on the sellers’ disclosure form. Since the buyers will then take on the risk of not having the proper permits, they will either offer less or ask you to get the work permitted after the fact. Rule of thumb, the higher the price tag the more the buyer will care about the lack of permits.

Curious about the value of your Portland home? Even if you’re not thinking of selling right away, contact our Top 1% Seller’s Agents. We would be happy to visit your home and forecast out your home value for when you’re ready, and while we are there we can give tips on preparing the home for the real estate market.

September 9, 2019

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. and a top 1% agent in the Portland Metro. Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call him direct: 503-714-1111 for Oregon or 360-470-7777 for Washington.

We sell homes for 4.5% max. commission (it is often less, call for details) and pay more to market our clients’ homes so they sell faster and for more. We top it off with cancel anytime contracts for no charge. Our top 1% buyer’s team prioritizes customer service and is full of top-ranked, local industry veterans ready to help you find the home of your dreams.

We serve Portland, Vancouver, Salem, Bend, and more. Check out our services areas in the top menu.