Weird Home Features That May Confuse Homebuyers

Some personal touches might not be worth the trouble when it comes time to sell.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |Feb. 29, 2016, at 3:12 p.m.

Weird Home Features That May Confuse Homebuyers

Slideshow

What your home says about you might not help it sell.

Older couple talking with woman in living space

(Getty Images)

Giving a home a personal look and feel is important to many homeowners, as it not only makes you more comfortable but also provides a sense of ownership. But that all goes out the window when it comes time to sell your home. Suddenly, those custom design touches can be a liability in attracting interested buyers or getting the sale price you’re hoping for. Real estate agents weigh in on home upgrades that might make potential buyers scratch their heads, and how sellers can work around them.

Urinals

Urinals

(Getty Images)

This ultimate finishing touch to a man cave bathroom might get a few stares during home tours. But having a urinal shouldn’t keep people from buying the house, says Greg Cooper, manager and broker at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Indianapolis. “You’re catering to 49 percent of your audience here, so people just kind of stand there like, ‘Wow, don’t see many of those,’” Cooper says. “I don’t know if they’re put off by it – they just kind of think it’s maybe unuseful.”

Nods to history

Nods to history

(Getty Images)

Especially if you have an old home, you might be inspired to return the interior to its 19th-century glory days, complete with a wood-burning stove and a soaking tub in the kitchen. Doing so could leave you with a limited buyer pool, but marketing the home as historically authentic could make the sale a success. “As long as people know what to expect when they’re walking in, they know it might be a house for them. It’s not so much a turnoff as a preference,” says Joanna Williams, managing broker for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Kansas City Homes in Liberty, Missouri.

Secret rooms

Secret rooms

(Getty Images)

A hidden passageway might sound like a fun idea – or a safe one if you’re adding a panic room – but be sure it doesn’t come off as creepy when you put your house on the market. Make any hidden rooms or security spaces fit with the floor plan, recommends Jeff Knox, owner of Knox & Associates Real Estate Brokerage and author of a blog focused on the Dallas real estate market. “If someone converted a closet into a panic room and tried to hide it, it looks way out of place, and that would turn somebody off,” he adds.

Sports rooms

Sports rooms

(Getty Images)

Watching the game wouldn’t be complete without the memorabilia of your favorite team adorning the TV room as you cheer them on, right? Before putting your home on the market, you might want to neutralize a sports-themed room to avoid distracting buyers, especially die-hard fans of a rival team. “You don’t want to sell an Alabama room to an Auburn fan, or a Michigan room to an Ohio State fan,” Cooper says. Downplay as much as you can, especially if the furniture and walls sport the team logo as well. “We always recommend they take the stuff down, and at least if they insist on leaving it up, just a couple items as opposed to the entire space,” Williams says.

Custom installations inspired by loved ones

Custom installations inspired by loved ones

(Getty Images)

You love your family and friends a lot, but a permanent installation reminding you of them, such as a spouse's likeness on the wall or each family member's handprints adorning the front walkway, will be a difficult sell for anyone else. Cooper recalls touring a home that had a custom marble tub modeled after the seller’s first wife’s backside. “I can’t imagine getting in that tub if you’re anybody but her,” he says. The chances a buyer will be OK with keeping such a personal element in the home are slim. It also serves as a distraction, so replacing it before the home goes on the market might be best.

Garage conversions

Garage conversions

Custom garage door on a residential home.

(Getty Images)

Whether it’s for more space or to create the custom theme room of your dreams, converting your garage is going to take a toll on the value of your home. Knox says most buyers want a garage, and they certainly don’t want one that’s been altered lackadaisically. “A lot of times they’ll halfway convert the garage so it looks clumsy. They will drywall it in, but leave the garage door, or they’ll drywall the inside of the garage door, but on the outside it’s still a garage door,” Knox says.

Rooms inspired by Pinterest

Rooms inspired by Pinterest

Woman driving a nail into a wall with a hammer

(iStockPhoto)

Increasingly, Williams says she and her colleagues have to talk to sellers about the room they overhauled entirely with Pinterest tutorials. While an attempt to save on redecorating is more frugal than paying a professional, if you don’t know what you’re doing the results can be disastrous. “There’s some tasteful things that can be done, but there can be also far too much Pinterest being done in there,” Williams says. Especially for floor and wall treatments, consult a professional first to avoid it affecting your sale price.

Cabinets for your kooky collection

Cabinets for your kooky collection

(Getty Images)

A spare room is the perfect place to beautifully display the collection of action figures, stamps or artifacts you’ve been accumulating for years. But be careful when it comes to selecting custom cabinetry to house your prized possessions. Cooper says as long as cabinets don't affect primary rooms for buyers – master bedroom, master bath, kitchen, living room and dining room – they shouldn’t lower the value. But if the displays don’t match the architectural style of the house, Knox says it can throw off buyers since they know they’ll have to remove or replace them. “Very contemporary cabinets in a traditional home will kill it,” he says.

Built-in fish tanks

Built-in fish tanks

(Getty Images)

If your aquarium is custom made for the area it takes up, it could pose a bigger challenge to the sale of your home. A fish tank will only be appealing to those that have or want fish, but anyone else will view it as something to be taken out and a space that needs decorating. “If you find a fish lover, that’s all well and good, but if not you’re probably going to want to take it out, and that involves removing it in some way and finishing the area that tank took up,” Cooper says. “Not a crisis, but there’s effort involved – and money.”

Stripper poles

Stripper poles

(Getty Images)

We all knew something like this was coming. Whether it’s for exercise or weekend parties, a stripper pole in your home will be a major distraction for potential homebuyers. Williams explains a stripper pole keeps a potential homebuyer focused on who the seller may be, rather than what the home itself offers: “You want to be as vanilla as you can whenever somebody is looking at your house because they want to picture themselves into it. And [a stripper pole] absolutely is making a statement about your lifestyle.”

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

Recommended Articles

The Guide to Living in a Co-Op

Devon Thorsby | July 9, 2020

Here's what you need to know about how a co-op works differently from traditional homeownership.

What to Do if You Get Evicted

Maryalene LaPonsie | July 8, 2020

With government protections being lifted, many people could face eviction notices in the months to come.

How to Find a Real Estate Agent

Devon Thorsby | June 30, 2020

Here's how to find a real estate agent to help you confidently navigate a home sale or purchase.

Should You Buy a Condo?

Geoff Williams | June 26, 2020

Before you commit to owning a home, consider factors like maintenance fees and proximity to neighbors.

What to Know About Moving to Canada

Devon Thorsby | June 25, 2020

Planning and preparation can make your move to Canada a success.

The Guide to Buying a Home Sight Unseen

Dima Williams | June 24, 2020

While feasible, purchasing a home sight unseen requires more work and attention.

How to Look Up the History of Your House

Devon Thorsby | June 23, 2020

Find out anything from previous owners and environmental records to who died on a property.

Is My Agent Selling My Home Right?

Steven Gottlieb | June 19, 2020

A few questions can help you know if your real estate agent has the skills to sell your home at the right price.

Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane

Kimberly Lankford | June 19, 2020

Hurricane season runs from June through November, and even some small steps can make a big difference in protecting your home.

What to Know About Moving to Austin

Devon Thorsby | June 18, 2020

Find out if you should be one of the many people putting down roots in Austin, Texas.

How to Renovate a House

Devon Thorsby | June 17, 2020

Plan your home remodeling project carefully, and consider your skill level combined with your budget.

How Much Does a Tiny Home Cost?

Devon Thorsby | June 16, 2020

Living in a tiny house may sound like a great way to save, but some details require a hefty investment.

How to Prepare for a Long-Distance Move

Lisa Larson | June 12, 2020

Follow these 10 tips for getting your family and home ready to relocate to a new city or state.

Neighbor Rights Regarding Construction

Devon Thorsby | June 11, 2020

Construction noise can be a nuisance for homeowners and apartment dwellers, so it's important to know your options.

Do's and Don'ts of Buying Vacant Land

Devon Thorsby | June 9, 2020

Buying a home can be complicated, but purchasing land to build on is a whole new ball game.

15 Affordable DIY Backyard Games

Devon Thorsby | June 4, 2020

These at-home projects will get you and your crew outdoors this summer to make the most of your backyard space.

25 Affordable Home Organization Ideas

Devon Thorsby | June 2, 2020

These tips will bring order to your home – and keep it that way.

Outlook for the Housing Market in the Recession

Devon Thorsby | May 28, 2020

Are we in a recession? Here's a look at how the pandemic will affect the housing market.

What to Know Before Moving to Miami

Devon Thorsby | May 26, 2020

Beyond the sunny weather and beaches, Miami offers residents global business opportunities and multicultural attractions.

Should You Move to Florida?

Devon Thorsby | May 21, 2020

Whether you're aiming for South Beach or the Panhandle, there are a few things you should know before making Florida your new home.