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When touring a home for sale, first impressions are everything—and we’re not just talking about curb appeal. It’s common for sellers to spruce up their house before putting it on the market, and some of these home improvements can include DIY maintenance projects like painting the cabinets or switching out the hardware.
But if the job is not done right, the shoddy craftsmanship will become blatantly obvious to buyers. And if the renovations are really bad, some buyers might lose interest in the home altogether.
Read on for a look at the most common DIY projects that home sellers take on—and can royally screw up.
Prospective buyers love extra square footage—unless it feels forced and lacks continuity with the rest of the house. For many buyers, that awkward space could be a deal breaker.
“I showed a home recently where the owner enclosed the carport and carpeted over the cement garage floor to add a game room. The buyer saw it and didn’t even want to see the rest of the house,” says McAuley and Associates’ Jane McAuley, a Realtor®.
Transforming a garage into a living space means you’re getting rid of, well, the garage. And for most people, that’s valuable storage and parking space. And in this particular situation, the curb appeal of the house was also compromised because the driveway ended at a wall instead of a garage door.
2. Doors that don’t open right
We know a beautiful front door dramatically increases curb appeal, but if it sticks or you have to jiggle the handle to get in, it loses its appeal. The same is true for interior doors. If upgraded doors in your home aren’t mounted correctly, they’ll quickly diminish their “wow” factor.
“A door that opens the wrong way or doesn’t clear the sink, toilet, or cabinetry is a sure sign a licensed professional wasn’t hired,” says McAuley.
3. Haphazardly placed hardware
If your kitchen cabinets are in great shape but a hardware update is in order, make sure you position the new knobs, pulls, and handles correctly.
You might not think anyone will notice the hardware is backward or upside down, but McAuley says buyers spot these seemingly minor details.
“This is a big turnoff for buyers who want a turnkey property,” says McAuley. “Buyers don’t want to fix up someone else’s shoddy work.”
4. Crown molding that looks anything but elegant
Crown molding is a decorative finish that can add value by framing the room and giving it an elegant appearance—unless it’s not so elegant.
“I showed a condo where the seller added crown molding to the family room to spruce it up before putting it on the market. It showed every cut and every nail,” says McAuley.
Unfortunately, the sloppy work was seen on other trim work throughout the house. McAuley says the buyers got a good laugh at the subpar work and passed on the property.
5. Painting over imperfections on the wall
Painting is one of the most popular DIY projects. It’s relatively inexpensive and instantly refreshes a room—if it’s done right.
Rolling a fresh coat of paint over improperly prepared surfaces doesn’t mask imperfections like cracks, gaps, and chipped paint. These blemishes will show right through the new color, and you will defeat the purpose of impressing buyers with freshly painted rooms because you didn’t prep the walls before painting.
6. Botched mortar jobs
Yikes! Your open house is coming up and you just noticed cracks in the mortar in the brick next to your front door. You can take a quick trip to the hardware store for mortar filler and try to do the job yourself—but you’ll need more than a caulk gun to mind the gaps.
“The shoddy DIY is when the old mortar isn’t removed, and the new mortar is thrown on top. It can ruin the whole aesthetic of the house, leaving a bad first impression on the buyer,” says McAuley.
7. New vanity, old faucet
An updated bathroom is a major plus for buyers. A new vanity instantly changes the aesthetics from old and grungy to fresh and new—unless you went only halfsies on the job.
According to Melanie Everett, managing broker and founder of Melanie Everett and Company, a stylish modern vanity fades into the background when the buyers notice you didn’t replace the dated, calcium-corroded faucet.
“A new vanity with an old faucet makes no sense at all. For starters, you can purchase a trendy faucet for under $100,” she says. “It makes all the sense in the world for the small bathroom tweaks to be consistent throughout.”
8. Painting worn-out kitchen cabinets
It’s no secret that an outdated kitchen can be a deal breaker for some homebuyers. Still, if you haven’t gotten around to replacing your worn-out cabinets, surely you can make the kitchen cabinets look new for the listing photos with a coat of glossy white paint, right? Probably not.
You won’t fool buyers when they show up in person, Everett says.
“The light color may entice buyers to request a showing, but once they see the cabinets are in poor condition, they may knock a few thousand dollars off the value,” Everett says.