One of the many reasons to buy a home is your ability to make it your own. If you love purple walls, well, slather on the purple paint. Want to play billiards day and night? Convert the living room into a pool parlor. After all, your home is your castle.
But consider yourself warned: such customizations—even expensive, top-of-the line ones—can hurt you when it comes time to sell.
Recently, the New York Times examined tony transformations. Its conclusion? Pricey customizations can be highly risky, in terms of recouping the investment.
“Simply put,” notes the Times, “that rock-climbing wall may have cost $15,000 to build, but you shouldn’t assume that you can automatically tack that sum onto the asking price when you decide to sell, because not everyone will want a custom feature like that.”
“One of the biggest misunderstandings about property value is that the amenities you choose will translate to value,” Jonathan Miller, president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel, told the Times. In fact, it may be a detriment: “[U]nless you find the perfect buyer,” he says, “you’re probably going to have to factor in a discount for the price to rip it out and renovate.”
The article describes some eye-catching customizations, such as:
- The family that converted a 1,500 square foot basement into an indoor playground, complete with a rock climbing wall, monkey bars, a mini basketball court, a hanging trapeze, climbing rope swings and—just in case all that activity makes a child yearn for some quiet time—“an under-the-stairs reading nook with string lights and a bean bag chair.”
- The man who customized his six-story townhouse in New York with an indoor gastro pub that included a full-service bar, a $4,000 home theater, a built-in lounge booth “for playing cards or Parcheesi,” four big-screen televisions (for watching four sporting events at once), and specially commissioned artwork with comic-book logos and other 1970’s inspired themes.
- The homeowner who spent $5 million renovating his three-floor, Greenwich Village townhome, adding an indoor spa with a sauna, gym and saltwater swimming pool on the subterranean level. The pool required excavation of two stories below the existing basement level to complete.
While the above mentioned homeowners sing the praises of their upgraded digs, they may feel less enthusiastic when it comes time to put their homes on the market. Even a Trump-style décor can be a challenge to sell.
“Not everyone wants a gold-plated toilet,” Miller told the Times. Let alone a trapeze for the kids.