Mistakes People Make

by Talk Business & Politics ([email protected]) 221 views 

Buying an old house, doing some work on it, and reselling it is one way to make some money and exercise your creative powers.

But before you grab your Skil saw and tape measure, understand what you’re dealing with. A house that isn’t done right can sit on the market for years. You have to do renovations targeted buyers will want to buy. Renovators need to remember how they will appeal to buyers who are willing to pay for location and quality-based premiums.

Here are six common mistakes people make when remodeling old homes with the intent to sell:

• Failing to alter the existing floor plan to make it more functional. Although it can be scary, renovators sometimes need to knock down a wall or two and re-partition. A few minor changes can drastically improve the feel and livability of the space. Historical houses often have small bathrooms and kitchens. People just did not have as much stuff in the 1900s and the appliances we have today didn’t exist.

These homes also don’t have enough closets or storage space to suit a modern family’s needs. Changing the exterior entrances to the home, making sure doors are hinged so they open in the right direction, and ensuring windows are in the proper location can really increase the value of a home.

 • Thinking everyone wants granite countertops. Granite countertops once were expensive and exclusive. Today, they come in $129,000 subdivision houses. Renovators need to be aware there are many other options. Ceramic tile with no-drip edges and sanitary cove offers most of the same benefits, plus a wider variety of colors. Granite also has been found to emit radon gas in some cases. Tile and other materials don’t off-gas, and bring a nostalgic look and feel to the space.

• “Cheaping out.” Cost shouldn’t dictate every decision. The cost difference of using a pressboard door instead of a wooden one is about $50. You’d more than make up the difference when you sell the house. Using 4-inch, instead of 6- or 8-inch baseboards, not using crown molding, and installing cheaper door hinges and knobs are great ways to shave pennies off your costs, but the combination of these little details can make your house look cheap and unappealing to your target audience.

• Using modern or synthetic materials rather than traditional ones. Thinking everyone wants “low maintenance” is a major — and often wrong — assumption. Wood may cost more initially and need more care over its lifetime, but many buyers prefer to have something that’s real and deteriorates gracefully over time. Vinyl or concrete siding, aluminum or fiberglass garage doors and laminate flooring are examples of fake vs. real materials, and the wrong choice can destroy the historical character of the house. Buyers can tell the difference even if they can’t articulate it.

• Making an old house’s exterior look modern instead of era-appropriate. Anything that destroys the historical integrity of the home is a big detraction. Replacing the original rail systems with modern rails, tearing off shutters or stripping off other architectural details destroys the historic aesthetic of the home. Here in Northwest Arkansas, I see a common mistake of builders and renovators — installing replacement windows that don’t have pane dividers called muntins. It saves a few bucks, but sends off cues it’s not an old house, but a modern caricature of something old.

• Always painting the exterior of an old house white. Some people have the misconception all historical properties were painted white. It was really only in the early 20th century that America started “whiting out.” Earlier houses — and many later ones — were painted all shades of color. You need to look at the era and the type of house and do some research when picking colors. Another common practice is painting window sashes white. Why not branch out and try a different shade for the sashes? It’s a subtle touch, but could make the difference in making your house stand out from the crowd — and sell. 

Mark Zweig is the owner of Mark Zweig Inc., a Fayetteville-based residential redevelopment firm. He is also the founder and CEO of ZweigWhite LLC, a management consulting, research, media, publishing and training firm, as well as a professor at the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business.  He can be reached at [email protected].