8 DIY Projects That’ll Make Your Home Much Harder To Sell
1. Tossing out your kitchen cabinet doors
One of the most popular DIY projects right now is “improving” a kitchen by removing cabinet doors that look dated. But don’t try this at home unless you plan to live there forever.
While it might improve the look in the short term—for example, if the open cabinets are painted and always kept styled for display—it could prove an impediment to a future sale.
“It’s not a wise decision if they have a plan to sell the house in the future,” says Patrick O’Sullivan, a certified commercial investment member and founder of the getMULTIfamily real estate team in Arizona. “Regular homebuyers like a home that has all the required furnishings, including cabinet doors. Some buyers even walk in and count the number of cabinets in the kitchen.”
“It may be great for an Airbnb or property with short-term stays,” adds Josie Rees, a real estate agent with eXp Realty in San Antonio, TX. “However, it’s very impractical for a modern family home.”
Upshot: When buyers see missing cabinet doors, they also see a future project that they do not want to put on their to-do list. If you do decide to remove cabinet doors, at least stow them (along with the hinges) in the attic or basement, so they can be reinstalled when you decide to put your place up for sale.
2. Replacing all your kitchen cabinets with open shelves
Open shelves are another popular DIY trend right now, but, on the resale market, this falls into a similar category as removing cabinet doors.
“Removing kitchen cabinets entirely and replacing them with open shelving may be aesthetically pleasing,” says Rees, “but the main feedback from potential buyers is lack of storage space.”
Upshot: There are pros and cons to open shelves. It’s fine to have some, but don’t eliminate every wall cabinet, especially if your kitchen is small and doesn’t have ample storage elsewhere. Be sure that there’s enough other storage in the kitchen to keep cookware and appliances that aren’t display-worthy behind closed doors.
3. Removing a closet, or turning it into something other than storage
In this post-pandemic age, when many folks are working from home, it’s a common DIY project to turn a closet into an office nook. These transformations get all the heart-eyed emojis on Instagram, but it’s not a great idea if you are planning to sell your home.
“My sellers took a storage closet and turned it into a very small office space with a floating desk,” recalls Rees. “This took away closet space in the home, which wasn’t practical for a family. The house sat on the market longer than we expected. We had to shift toward investment buyers, as short-term rentals have occupants who don’t need a lot of storage space.”
Upshot: As with the cabinet doors, if you do transform a closet into something else, stash the door until you’re ready to sell your home. Then you can replace it.
Hold that brush! Paint is not a long-wearing solution for floors. By the time you’re ready to sell, if the floor has seen a good deal of foot traffic, the paint will no longer be in pristine condition, and that could hurt your resale prospects.
“Streaky, chipped, or low-quality paint can make your home look cheap,” says O’Sullivan. “Moreover, trendy patterns can distract the eye and feel noisy to some people. Too much personalization, like a customized painted floor, can hurt your home’s resale value.”
Upshot: If you’re set on trying your hand at painting a floor, choose neutral colors that will appeal to most buyers. If you want your floor to be looking good by the time you are ready to sell, avoid painting floors in highly trafficked areas.
There’s been a long-running trend to make one wall a focal point in a room, and many DIYers turn to wallpaper to achieve this. It can look stunning in social media photos, but hanging wallpaper correctly and being able to match up the pattern take skill and practice.
Novices are likely to choose a pattern that’s easy to match, and that type of pattern is not always so pleasing to the eye. At its worst, it can end up looking a bit like holiday gift wrap.
“The selection of the right wallpaper is crucial,” says O’Sullivan.
Taste is subjective, he stresses, and bold colors and patterns do not appeal to everyone.
“If the buyers don’t like it, they’ll have to replace it after buying the house—which can promote rethinking about buying the house,” he adds.
Upshot: If you want to create a focal wall, consider creating a gallery wall of small photos, paintings, and perhaps mirrors, all of which can be easily removed.
6. ‘Distressing’ your cabinets
The modern farmhouse trend has made distressed furniture cool again. But what looks good applied to a free-standing buffet or farmhouse table can be over the top when applied to permanent built-ins, like cabinets.
The distressed look is a very “particular taste”—as real estate agents say—and many buyers will not like it. To some, it looks not just distressed but destroyed.
“Too much personalization like this can definitely hurt your home’s resale value,” says O’Sullivan.
Upshot: To get an antique look that’s not so shabby, consider installing cabinets that have a glazed finish. Glazed cabinetry has a rich, dark gloss applied over a painted surface, which is then allowed to pool in the crevices, calling attention to fine details in the wood grain.
7. Painting walls a dark color
Another well-established trend is painting whole rooms a very dark color. Sometimes you’ll see an entire home with all the wood trim painted black. That’s a mistake if you’re ever going to sell your home.
It can be striking, but it’s definitely an acquired taste. Furthermore, it’s not easy for the next homeowners to correct if they don’t like it, since primer may be required along with many coats of new paint to cover up the old.
“Colors like black, dark blue, or dark green can be seen frequently,” says Walker. “It can be a big turnoff to a buyer, because repainting a dark-colored room can be difficult and frustrating.”
Upshot: If it’s your forever home and you love the look, go for it. But if you’re planning to sell someday, keep walls light, bright, and airy—and leave wood trim natural or white, say the real estate pros.
8. Applying stick-on tiles
Stick-ons might look great in listing photos, but they do not look so good up close and in real life.
“One major problem with these tiles is that they start bubbling, in most cases,” explains Walker. “Corners can also start rolling, due to poor adhesion over time.”
Upshot: If your existing tiles look bad or dated or you currently have no backsplash, hire a pro. A tile backsplash can cost as little as $300 to $400 for simple subway tile—and you’ll see a return on that investment when you sell.
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