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When Buying, Think Re-Sale Value

When you're buying a home, you need to consider your new home's resale value, even if you plan to live there forever. So look at your home from a future buyer's perspective: What may be important to you will not be important to the next person.

Location, Location, Location
As a real estate agent, I tend to say this a lot. However, it is important that you bear in mind what this means: what may not be bothersome to you could be to a buyer in the future.

The idea is to purchase a home that appeals to the largest number of potential future buyers. Taking this into consideration now can earn you thousands in the future.

Room With a View
Homes with a view often sell for more. However, you need to be sure you're buying the home for your own enjoyment, not purely as an investment. Although you may consider it a "million dollar view," others won't see it that way. And although it can certainly be an added feature, you still need to keep your home updated and in move-in condition in order to maximize your potential investment.

If buying a "view" property, don't overpay. If the home across the street – with no view – recently sold for substantially less, this may not be the best or only feature of the home, and you could end up overpaying for it.

Your Land
Not only is the home important, so is the lot size. Where I live, older homes tend to have larger lots than the newer homes. However, in order to maximize your potential future investment, be sure that you have a good-sized front yard as well as rear yard.

Your future homebuyer may want to invest in a swimming pool and may buy the home next door as their lot is more appealing. Or if a pool is already in place, be sure that there is a good sized grass area, room for a swing set, or for entertaining as pool yards need to be multi-functional.

If you are looking at buying in a brand new development, find the largest lot because this will increase the most in value. A cul de sac lot is typically considered the best while corner lots are considered inferior because of traffic.

If the home has been recently landscaped (included hardscaping), don't overpay. While landscape and hardscape is certainly not cheap, you may be able to find a less expensive alternative to certain products or features, or you could pay for someone else's upgrades that you plan to alter down the road.

Is It Big Enough
In every neighborhood and tract, homes come in a variety of sizes and styles, but they should not be too different. If resale value is an important consideration, be sure not to buy the nicest and largest home in the neighborhood.

As an agent, when I am putting together a CMA (comparative market analysis) I can only use those homes that are similar in size; this means that if you purchase the biggest home on the street, the smaller homes can affect your appreciation by bringing your value down. Homes in any given neighborhood are only worth as much as the others have sold for, no matter the size and upgrades.

On the opposite side of this coin, if you buy one of the smaller homes in the tract, the larger homes will increase your value. This is one of those times where determining "wants" vs. your "needs" can be extremely important. Buying what you need in a nicer neighborhood may provide more financial gain than getting what you want in a less desirable neighborhood.

Bedrooms and Bathrooms
Builders tend to build more of the 3 bedroom models than the 4 and 5 bedroom models. For resale purposes, buying a 4 or 5 bedroom at the same price as a 3 would be great! You can be certain that you will pay more for the additional bedrooms, but be sure to calculate this difference. Again, if someone has added onto the home and created a rare 6 bedroom, for example, be sure that you are paying appropriately for the neighborhood, no matter how many bedrooms there may be.

The best value as far as bathrooms go is at least a 2.5 bathroom home -- this allows one for guests, one for the secondary bedrooms and one in the master. We have a saying in our home: there can never be too many bathrooms! However, too few will definitely adversely affect your values and can create congestion in your own home as well.

Storage and More Storage
As we all know, there is never enough space for our "stuff"! Be sure you purchase a home with adequate linen closet space as well as the traditional coat closet near the front door. Master bedrooms with walk-in closets are also much more desirable.

Be sure that the secondary bedrooms have adequate closet space as well and that the seller has the closet doors firmly intact (a new fad has recently arisen where homeowners are removing the closet doors and hanging linens over the opening. I believe the decorative feel is that this gives the room a more open feel but I have to tell you, this is usually a huge turnoff for my buyers).

You also need to be sure the home has a garage that can hold at least two cars. In the world of SUVs, be sure the garage is deep enough to close the doors and still leave you space to walk around. A three-car garage is even more ideal as this gives the extra storage space homeowners desire. I have some clients who have turned this third car space into a home gym, a home office or just an extra storage space, and this is definitely appealing to future buyers.

The Laundry Room
Ideally, the home you purchase has its own laundry room, nearer to the bedrooms than the living space. However, older homes tend to have a downstairs or in garage laundry. Again, while this may not bother you now, it could affect your home's future value.

The Kitchen
In my home, the kitchen is the center of everything! The larger kitchen, the better, and it should have newer appliances as well. A lot of homes today have granite counters and while this is certainly an added feature, be sure that the granite is installed correctly (over the sink, not under), has been bull-nosed rather than the straight edge and is a slab rather than the tiles -- on a side note, be sure you like the colors as well. I have noticed that some granite slabs are not as appealing as others, but either way you can be assured you will pay for this upgrade.

Kitchen cabinets can also be extremely expensive but deceptive: You may think you are buying maple but are getting pressboard or some other far less superior product.

Be sure your dining room can withstand those dinner parties. There is nothing more frustrating than a dining room good for no more than wrapping gifts! I have noticed that today's buyers are really into the "great room," which combines the family and living rooms as well as the kitchen. This is a really nice feature as well but if it is the only living space, be sure it is off of the kitchen in order to make the best use of the space.

Easy access to the back yard is also a benefit, especially if you like to barbecue and/or entertain. Convenience for today's buyers is a bonus!  Keep in mind that the little things like having to walk up stairs with groceries, versus coming into the kitchen off of the garage, also makes a difference to future buyers.

Everyone loves a good fireplace. Some of the more modern homes will have 2 or more and while this is a nice benefit, you will pay for it. The best place to have one is in the living room as it becomes the focal point of the room. If it were in the family room it is competing or interfering with the television and will remain largely unused. A lot of homes today also have a fireplace in the master bedroom and again, while this is a nice feature, it only adds value to those that will use it. In more temperate climates such as my home state of California, they go largely unused.

Swimming Pools
A swimming pool will not add as much value as they cost. A pool with all the latest and greatest gadgets will only increase your home's value about 10% to 20% of the cost of the pool. If a pool is a requirement, your best bet is to purchase a home with a pool already in place.

My advice is to add one simply for your own enjoyment and not as an investment. Something to also take into consideration with a pool is the safety considerations as well as the cost of insurance. In fact, having a pool can actually reduce the number of potential homebuyers.

All in all, when viewing homes, find out as much about the history of the property as you can. This is also a factor in resale and can have an impact on your home's current and future value. Research the recent real estate activity in the neighborhood in order to get an idea of the homes value, as well as the appreciation you can anticipate.

Again, this is your home – the largest financial transaction you will ever make – and since there are no guarantees as to how long you will end up staying in the home, make sure you feel good about being there a minimum 10 years, as what has occurred with our current market has forced those with a two to five-year plan reconsider and now stay in their homes for seven to 10 years. 

Suzanne Grace is a real estate agent in Thousand Oaks, California

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