Are you planning on making expensive changes to your home? Make sure they’ll make sense to future buyers

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link).

Are you planning on making expensive changes to your home? Make sure they’ll make sense to future buyers

I was in a house once where the sellers had spent $20,000 remodeling the kitchen. Black Corian countertops with lime green trim. A black sink with gold-plated fixtures. Black and green marble flooring. And all of it was set off by dramatic spot-lighting, blinding where it hit, gloomy everywhere else.

That kitchen was gauche by Las Vegas casino standards, but the owners could not understand why their house wasn’t selling.

If you’re going to spend money improving your home, be sure your work results in real improvements.

Updating kitchens and bathrooms can be a good idea, but make sure your design decisions fall somewhere in the middle of the bell curve. A bathroom pleasing to a king — or to a gangster — might suit your tastes, but it could make your home hard to sell.

Adding a second story to a ranch home is usually a pretty terrible idea. Like them or not, ranch homes are what they are, and if you violate the low, sleek lines of your home, you may end up with something that looks like the neighborhood goiter.

If you decide to convert that patio into living space, do it in a way that makes architectural sense. A huge family room leading, through the removed double-doorway to yet another huge family room won’t make sense to future buyers. And whether you call it an Arizona room, a Florida room or a Lanai, if it’s not ducted to the main HVAC system and insulated to the same rating as the rest of the home, appraisers will not count it as livable space.

Likewise, a converted garage can be a great way to get a overgrown teenager to move out, but it’s not really a bedroom. The garage is probably worth more as a garage, on resale.

Here’s a useful question: “Would this make sense to me if I were buying this house?” If the answer to that question is not an obvious yes, don’t make the change. No matter what you might want, if your house doesn’t make sense to buyers, it won’t sell.

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