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Buying or Selling a Home/selling the largest house in the subdivision


Our house is over-improved for the subdivision because our parents added three feet to the bedroom side of the house and one foot to the living room side when the house was built. In addition, they built a breakfast room.
  I consulted some local realtors on what improvements would be worth the most money before I found out that the largest house is the hardest to sell to get the true value. They recommended that we finish the lower level of our house as a mother-in-law suite, and make the most of whatever improvements we had already made. For the breakfast room, we will be expanding the kitchen into it.
   We currently have two half baths, with a shower. Most other split levels here have two full baths and some also have a half bath. One of the baths is only 4x8 and the other is 5x11 (3 feet longer than the others here); it is possible to drop a tub into the shower area before at sale time. If my sister is disabled before she dies, the lower level smaller bath will have to be expanded to be handicap accessible. Because of plumbing placement, the only way to expand is out of the present foot print. My bathroom is handicap accessible now.  
   We have floored the attic.
   We will have to re-build the back porch, and wonder whether it would pay to add a deck or a porch that would be the 11 foot length of the breakfast room or just the 4 feet of the old one. The longer porch would provide play space for small children that could be monitored from the sink and dishwasher space of the kitchen. This expansion room has windows on three sides.
   The space beneath the breakfast room is slightly over 4 feet high and can be finished as a playhouse/pet shelter/storage. Should we finish it?
    We want to add a closet in the entrance hall to hold items my sister hauls in and out daily.
    We could add a laundry closet upstairs that can be expanded into the small bedroom if the buyer wants a laundry room instead.
    Because of the added space on the bedroom side, we can get 6x6 walk-in closets in the 2 back bedrooms. A 10 foot closet can be added in the smallest bedroom; there are three bedrooms upstairs and three downstairs.
    If we get the kitchen downstairs, the smallest bedroom there could be made into a walk-in closet for one bedroom (with a hallway)and the other bedroom would have about 10 feet of closet space that is not walk-in. There is also a family room, room for the kitchen in another area, and the bathroom.
  My sister and I are in our sixties and the house will be sold when we are both dead.
    The most experienced realtor recommended that my brother take out life insurance for us to pay the expenses of any re-modeling done and to pay for having the baths and kitchens re-modeled before the house is put up for sale.
   we are in a single family neighborhood with a charter high school and a middle school (two blocks), hospital and medical complexes within half a mile. this realtor said that elsewhere in the city, persons were legally renting in single family areas by advertising for a person to share expenses, a roommate, etc. and this kitchen could help the buyer afford the mortgage by renting.
     Should we make the improvements or not? what is your assessment of the possibility of getting back the money spent and on the improvements, plus recovery of the money spent by our parents? not necessary to make a profit, but we do not want to lose money.
   Forgot to mention that we have a low maintenance landscaped yard with a large patio and fenced in yard; few houses have a patio; all have fences.
   There are three buyer profiles for this area. One is young couple with 1 to 3 children under 6. The next is family with average of 3 children who would attend the middle and/or high school. The third is single immigrants who buy a house and send for siblings and parents who all live in the house as they can afford to send for them.
    We are the highest priced area in our comp zone. we are surrounded by larger houses not in the comp zone, which would be comparable in size to our house, but not be able to have the features we could have, such as the double plus size kitchen and walk-in closets in three bedrooms, with huge closets (average is 5 feet in area) for the smaller bedrooms.  
    We have all the neighborhood standards except a garage or car port. The agents advised against adding one as we would receive zero for it. I suspect the lack will devalue the property? My brother is thinking of adding a single car port, which would be standard, because my sister is having to scrape ice. Personally, I would add radiant heat grids beneath the sidewalks, steps, and the area in front of the steps on the porches, since these will be re-done anyway for all three exits. Memphis, Tn does not have many icy day or snow days, but I do not not want to fall.
     I realize what you advise will not be a sure thing; however, you probably have experience with this problem, or access to others with experience, and we would be grateful for any guidance you are willing to give. Any advice from readers who have seen or experienced the same problem is welcome.
     The only advice on marketing found on the web is that the buyers would be the Jones that every one else would have to keep up with, and the house will be a bargain because all the money spent will not be recovered. I realize that what the realtors are recommending is that we provoke a bidding war, though they naturally did not say this.
    I consulted the planning commission and they are willing to give the permits for the  downstairs kitchen and an upstairs laundry, because of the special circumstances for my sister and myself, even though this is a single family zone.

Your parents did you no favor, Helon, by building add-ons and extensions which apparently made little sense. There is one thing we Realtors always advise, and that is NEVER, NEVER buy the biggest and most improved house in a neighborhood. It seems as if the Realtors you have talked with made some fairly good suggestions, since they are familiar with the area and the market. We are coming into autumn which means real estate sales will be very slow.

You can be assured that other Realtors (other than the one working for you) will be dissuading their buyers from even inspecting your house because all buyers describe what kind of house they would like to buy, and one like what you describe will not be described by potential buyers.

Unless the house actually needs repairs, not remodeling, but restructuring and painting, I would not add any more to the house because you cannot expect to get back the cost of any additions. Just make sure the house is in very presentable condition and get rid of a lot of your personal items by stashing them at a storage place. Allow potential buyers to imagine their own personal items in that house. A good Realtor will see to the best way to market that house. That's his/her business. I do wish you well.

Dick Dennis  

Buying or Selling a Home

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Dick Dennis


With more than 41 years as a real estate broker, I can solve most any problem presented. If I can`t, I do my research. Problems with mortgages, trust deeds, foreclosures, odd ways of conveying titles. Most any good Realtor can answer questions satisfactorily, but I answer questions that most cannot. Also, ask about my hard-copy newsletter, The Landed Gentry. It can also be sent to you via PDF.


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