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

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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

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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

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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

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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.”

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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.

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