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Make the right DIY Decisions

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

I used to love HGTV, then I became a Realtor and stopped watching it all together. I didn't even know who Chip and Joanna were for the longest time (blasphemous I know!). I really stopped watching because it was so fake. I also feel that it created unrealistic expectations in my first-time home buyers and sellers. And, I've actually never watched the Gaines' show so, I'm not picking on them, I have no idea what they are all about, but in this day and age we should all know that even reality TV isn't actual reality. I could do a whole post about the buying/selling/house-hunting portion. But that's for another time.

As a Realtor with 7+ years of experience, I have been in a LOT of homes and I have seen it all! You may hate me for saying it but you can always spot DIY, and it does NOT add "instant appeal" or "value." And, given the current pandemic climate...a lot of people are spending more time at home...and trying their hands at some projects, which is totally fine! But, I recommend, proceed with caution on your DIY projects.

A few reasons why:

  1. The vast majority of us are not experienced or practiced enough to pay attention to the detail the professionals are accustomed to doing everyday.

  2. Usually, DIY is to save money, which means inferior products are being used (it's cheaper for a reason)

  3. Poorly done DIY "updates" actually end up costing the next buyer more money because they have to undo what was poorly done....and sometimes a permit or professional is required.

Some of the top offenders that sellers DIY:

  • Painting cabinets: painting a cabinet is an artform. I tried to paint a shiplap wall by myself once and realized I was way out of my league and called in a pro. There is so much prep work (filling holes and nicks, removing all hardware, using wood filler, sanding, wiping, priming, painting, letting it dry for days). Majority of us don't even know all that we don't know about a perfect paint job. The biggest issue, a lot of the flaws won't show up in photographs, so the buyers are drawn in, and then when they see one "lipstick on a pig" thing as we like to call it, they start questioning all the other updates' quality....and don't get me started on how many different colors of white there are out there, it's worth it to get a professional opinion.

  • "Sticker" backsplash: it's an inferior product and it shows. This should only be used if you're trying to keep a security deposit in an apartment you rent and can be removed cleanly. Again, when a buyer sees something cheap in the kitchen, they start wondering what other items were skimped, how cheap are the things we can't see.

  • DIY Tile: you want the lines to be clean and even, the surface to be level. And, yes, it is a lot more expensive to hire a professional, so it may be tempting to DIY, but with a professional you won't have to redo it anytime soon. I mean, just look at that shower, I wouldn't even know how to fit it around those fixtures, or replace a pan, or how to pull up the old tile, or what are the proper tools to purchase...out of my wheelhouse.

Before Photo: Didn't even want to show the tile was green in the shower.
After Photo: Textured subway tile shower and cool, gray brightens the space and helps counter-act yellow undertones
  • Contact paper: this one I just don't get (at least it's easy to remove) maybe if you're in a rental and HAVE to change something, but it just doesn't last and wear and tear like real building materials, so keep it for crafting!

  • Not knowing what REQUIRES a licensed professional: especially if you live in a city, there are many repairs that require a permit, and not getting a permit and hiring a professional can get you into trouble later on if not disclosed properly...general rule of thumb, if there's a license for the job, probably needs a permit (i.e. plumber, electrician). If there's not a license for the job (i.e. roofer) you probably don't need a permit. But, you need to check your local rules!

At the end of the day, know your limits and accept them. There are always exceptions, of course. I have a client and his hobby is woodworking. He's very talented...he could definitely be trusted to install a butcher-block countertop, but most of us are not.

This all circles back to, get assistance! It is totally find to ask for help! You are the expert at what you do for a living, you don't have to be an expert in everything. Long after a sale my clients will call or text me for an opinion or recommendation, and I LOVE that...I hope to sell that house when it's time for the next one and it's a lot easier to do things right the first time. Also, a lot of true value added updates require you to spend some good money. An experienced Realtor in your area can tell you where you should spend your time and effort to get the top dollar for your home, and you'd be surprised that often...a deep clean and declutter will get you a long way to your goals.

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