Interiors, Trends

Previous Owners: The Haunting of Resale Value

I see a lot of houses in my line of work.  Like a doctor who sees mainly sick people, I see homes that are in need of help.  I rarely walk into a home that’s “perfect”.  Usually there are multiple things going on in the home that need updating, fixing or changing.  One person’s gorgeous wood-paneled walls are the next person’s oppressive wood-paneled walls.  The angled kitchen island that looks weird and awkward, felt stylish to someone else.  The patio that someone enclosed and turned into a bedroom, just looks like an enclosed patio.

warm wood paneling
Wood paneling that could be seen as an orange affront or…a warm and cosy backdrop!  In this instance, it’s kind of both things to my eye.  (Photo Source)

I hear a lot of “Can you believe they did this?” from new homeowners and I feel a small pang of sympathy for the people that are not there to defend themselves over their poor design choices (or lack of a design choice) but I also feel for the homeowner.  You will have to come to terms with something that you don’t like when you buy a home with a history.

Awkward kitchen layout.
Here’s an example of something that’s a little odd for most people, but probably was great for the homeowner at the time. A very low countertop that juts out into the kitchen. This is a “Before” photo from one of my client’s homes.  For AFTER photos – go to Laura Medicus Interiors – Vintage Style / Park Hill.

What do you do if there are nice things, like real mahogany paneling for instance, that isn’t your cup of tea? If it is something that is original to the home (and your home isn’t builder grade), live with it for a while. Many people grow to love things that they were at first unsure about. Another suggestion, before you buy that mid-century home with the original interiors, think about if that style is for you. If you’re more a modern farmhouse person, then don’t purchase a home that is strongly NOT your style.

rustic midcentury ranch
If you look at this and know that you would want to change 90% of the finishes – then perhaps this home isn’t for you. (Photo Source)

However, if it’s something that isn’t original to the home there’s no point in feeling guilt over something you don’t like that the previous owners adored. Resist the urge to rip it out and toss it. Salvage it and donate it or sell it – someone else will be happy to get their hands on it.

Most of my clients worry a lot about resale value when they undertake a home renovation.  Here’s what I tell them:  For the most part, put in finishes that you love, not what you think an imaginary buyer will love.  Odds are, whomever buys your home won’t like your “safe choice” beige tile selection that you didn’t really love either.   However, they will love the expanded kitchen, the addition to the home, or the extra bathroom that you added.

We should all be more careful about room proportions, closets, windows, additions and sink and toilet locations. These are things that are not as easy to change and can be cost-prohibitive.  These are the potential problems that will haunt the next homeowner.

If you want that bright pink wallpaper in your bedroom then by all means put in that bright pink wallpaper. If you think green tile in your bathroom would make you happy every day (and you’re not putting the house on the market next month) – go for it. Finishes and fixtures are relatively easy things to change out and they are things that continually go in and out of style.  It’s your home, you’re paying for it, you might as well surround yourself with things that you love.

black powder room
Black walls aren’t for everyone, but they’re easy enough to change. It’s the proportions of the room, the placement of the sink and toilet – those are decisions that might haunt you. (Photo Source)

“For our house is our corner of the world…It is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.” – Gaston Bachelard



2 thoughts on “Previous Owners: The Haunting of Resale Value”

  1. I so often see articles about people getting ready to put a house on the market and doing all sorts of things to increase the resale value. The sad part is when they comment that they hated the ______ for the whole 5, 7, 10, 20 years that they lived there and how great it looks now that they fixed, changed, ripped out or redid the _____.
    And I always wonder “Why? Why did you live with this _____ for so long only to fix it as you’re moving out and you won’t be there to enjoy it?”

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