Your Home Isn't Worth What You Paid For It, Or What You Owe On It

Written by Jaymi Naciri Posted On Thursday, 13 February 2014 11:44

So you bought a home, poured your savings into a new kitchen, wood floors, and a great big fantastic walk-in shower with these great glass tiles up the wall and this amazing rain shower head that makes you feel like you're in a spa and.. oops, you may have gone a little overboard.

And now you want to sell, and you've got to recoup the money you spent. But that shouldn't be a problem. After all, who wouldn't love your kitchen and your floors and your bathroom with that clawfoot tub you had custom powder-coated to match your eyes. I mean, you have excellent taste (and beautiful eyes), right?

Certainly, your taste level is a factor in determining the return on investment of your updates and the overall value of the home. But it's a teeny-tiny factor among all the other factors that determine your market value. Sadly, the color of your tub isn't going to account for much, especially if you have over-improved for your neighborhood, spent more than your home is worth, or ignored other more important updates that need to be made.

Because the reality is this: your home isn't worth what you paid for it or what you owe on it. And expecting to set a price based on the amount of money you want instead of market value will only bring you frustration. If you're about to list your home, make sure you find out what it can sell for first. Listing for $350,000 when the home is only worth $275,000 simply because you need $75,000 for a down payment on the bigger house you have your eye on probably won't end well.

Before you list, "talk to a REALTOR," said HGTV. "Aside from listing your home, they can show you 'comps' - comparable homes in your area and what materials and features they contain. This will help you see where your home fits into the buyers' puzzle that is your real estate market today."

Getting neighborhood comps is also a good idea if you are looking to make updates or improvements to your home and want to make sure you are not overdoing it.

"The agent will provide the all-important maximum sales price of similar homes on your block," said MSN. "If that figure would force you to sell at a loss, it's time to put a halt to any new construction projects you've got planned. A Realtor can also tell you what additional value would be added to your home in whatever type of remodeling you're thinking of doing."

Here are a few more tips for smart updates to keep your budget in check and keep you from overdoing it:

1. Stick to a budget. It's easy to get carried away by pretty, shiny things (see kitchen, floors, bathroom above). But unless your budget was completely arbitrary, you chose that number for a reason. You can do it. We believe in you. If you need some inspiration, check out this video about how to improve your kitchen for $200.

2. Shop around! The corner big box store might be convenient, but that doesn't mean they always have the best prices (just last week we did a price comparison on granite countertops and found a small shop in our local area with a comparable slab to the big box store for $17 less per square foot - a difference that can save us over $1,000!).

3. Make smart changes. Yes, kitchens and baths have the greatest potential positive impact on your home value if you make smart updates. But if you're toeing that over-improvement line and/or if you're on a micro budget, it's best not to go big. Or too bold "The best updates before you sell are those that fix a problem. Painting your eccentric color schemes back to neutrals solves a problem," said HGTV. "Replacing cracked and worn kitchen countertops solves a problem."

4. Swap out. Use the principal of high-low to save money and create the impression of a more luxurious space. If you fall in love with a $3,000 gas range that busts your budget by $1,000, figure out where else you can shave off a few dollars. Many large stores that sell appliances have as-is options that can save you big bucks. That refrigerator with the big scratch down the side? It's a steal, and the scratch is going to be hidden behind a cabinet panel anyway!

A new vanity and some DIY-dream peel-and-stick tile could completely make over a small bathroom for under $500, Or, check IKEA, Target, or HomeGoods for light fixtures or colorful accents that could add some vibrancy to an area that desperately needs some.

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