Condo Blues: What Happens When Any Home Improvement May Over Improve Your Home?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What Happens When Any Home Improvement May Over Improve Your Home?

A few years after we bought our condo, the value went up. You know, just like it is supposed to do when you invest your money in buying a home. I'm sure my half bathroom remodel with its granite counter top helped.

Then the economy went south taking property values with it - including ours. The only consolation is that all of our friends who bought homes around the same time are under water too.

Since we are living here and will be for the foreseeable future, I wasn't shy about improving our house with basic cosmetic changes like painting the walls or DIY projects that would benefit us in some way like insulating the garage and insulating the garage door. You have to differentiate a bit if you live in a neighborhood of similar houses, right?

I want to improve the builder grade kitchen and master bath and found myself looking at the neighborhood comps out of curiosity when our next door neighbors moved. I wanted get a handle on what I can do to beef up our home while not pricing us out of the market if we ever find ourselves selling the house. We don't have plans to do so, but it is smart to keep an eye on these things.

I was prepared to learn that granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances are not in our range anymore. It is fine. I'm kind of over both.

What I was not prepared to find was that practically any home improvement - including paint - will over improve our house for our neighborhood.

Can I tell you how much I do not like our builder right now? First, they exploited loopholes when it came to selling our new homes to people who couldn't afford them. We got a taste of the foreclosure crisis early. (Although if you are in the market now, those foreclosures are a steal.)

Then they built a similar development of homes with tweaks and improvements we don't have close enough to our neighborhood to adversely affect our home values. Oh and those new neighborhood houses are selling for less than what our neighborhood did new - another bump down for us. Add in several years of bad economy and the value of my house has fallen into the basement. Well, if we had a basement. I'd dig one but it would over improve the house.

We aren't struggling to pay our mortgage, but we are  pretty upset when we think about how much we are overpaying for our home and may never sell it for anything close to a break even price if we wanted. I hate bad returns on investment.

What would you do? Would you make whatever improvements you want since you are stuck or would you do the bare minimum and loathe it since you are never going to get that money back if you sell?

We can afford what we want to do. The question is, should we?

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