What to do when you hate your house

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No home is perfect. There’s always something that can be improved. You might have a poor layout in your master bath or wish you had more yard space. Whatever annoyance your home presents, on balance, the good often outweighs the bad.

But what if those peeves eclipse the benefits or even turn into full-on nightmares?

Here we look at three common problems that cause stress to homeowners and how to deal with them.

Your fixer-upper is now a DIY disaster

HGTV may be responsible for awakening the inner do-it-yourselfer in today’s homebuyers. Shows like “Fixer Upper” and “Love It or List It” often offer a glamorized account of transforming a diamond in the rough, something that Cameron Gaskill, owner of Suncoast Renovations and Design in Orange Park, Florida, finds problematic.

“People get caught up in HGTV shows. They don’t realize how hard it is to update a house,” Gaskill says. “They don’t realize that these people who hang cabinets, paint and hang doors make it look easy because they’ve been doing it for years and years.”

A fixer-upper can quickly become a money pit, especially if you have to hire a professional to fix your mistakes. When the expenses overshadow your expectations or budget for the home, then it might be time to cut your losses, says Beth Jamison, owner of Jamison Real Estate Company in Sioux City, South Dakota.

“It doesn’t get better. Once you get into the house and you know it’s bad then it’s time to go,” Jamison says. “Try to sell during the seller’s season. Every market is different, so talk to your realtor and find out when it’s the best time to sell.”

Homeowners who decide to put their house back on the market soon after buying it might be able to recoup some of their investment with a few improvements. A new roof, for example, costs an average of $7,500. Sellers can expect to get back 109 percent of that investment, according to a report by National Association of Realtors and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Smaller fixes, like paint, can also mean a bigger bottom line.

“A fresh coat of paint goes a long way. But you should hire experts. And instead of hiring home remodelers, hire people who rehab homes. They know how to get a lot done with less money,” Gaskill says.

You’ve outgrown your home

Spaces seem to shrink as families grow. However, it’s not always feasible to upsize to a bigger house, especially in a seller’s market where home prices are at a premium. If your house has gone from cozy to cramped, you have a few options besides selling your home.

The least expensive route is to de-clutter, says Holly Dennis, owner of Holly Dennis Interiors in Sarasota, Florida. Reducing the amount of stuff you have is often the easiest way to make your space feel larger.

Dennis also recommends eliminating dark corners, which can make rooms feel cavernous, by simply adding a lamp. Additionally, avoid heavy ceiling treatments or painting your ceilings a dark color as that can diminish the openness of your space.

“Things like tray ceilings in a small room can make the room feel even smaller. Instead, paint your ceiling flat white. That’s going to open up the space,” Dennis says.

Homeowners should also consider the proportions of their furniture in relation to the room size. Bulky furniture is going to take up more space and make rooms feel tighter, Dennis says.

A more impactful solution is to add another room, provided you have the land for it. Homeowners can build extra bedrooms and common rooms relatively cheaply, Gaskill says. This is because there’s no plumbing involved, unlike kitchens and bathrooms, which are more expensive additions. If the house has a simple roof, the cost is going to be lower.

“You can add a bedroom, some sheetrock and electrical work, for as low as $60 per square foot,” Gaskill says. “If you have a big fancy house with lots of dips and valleys in the roof, however, it’s going to be more expensive.”

For houses under 2,000 square feet, the average bedroom size is about 260 square feet. That could cost about $16,000 or more. Homeowners who can’t afford to sell but need the space, might consider tapping their home equity to subsidize the construction.

There are two main benefits of using equity, via a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). First, equity-loan interest rates tend to be lower than personal loans or credit cards.  And, since you’re using the funds for a home improvement, you can deduct the interest payments from your taxes.

Keep in mind, equity loans use your house as collateral while inflating your monthly mortgage bill. Thus, if you can’t afford the payments then you could end up losing your home.

You have bad neighbors

Enjoying your home sometimes has nothing to do with the house itself. Bad neighbors can easily make your home a miserable experience. From minor annoyances like mowing the lawn at 7 a.m. on the weekends to more severe complaints like letting their yard morph into a jungle, thereby reducing the value of your home, dealing with poor behavior can be tricky.

Your approach should depend on your neighbor. If you have a cordial relationship with your neighbor, then a simple, polite conversation might do the trick. Empathy goes a long way, says Dennis. Put yourself in their shoes before you talk to them, this will help you have a more effective conversation.

If talking doesn’t work, then you could complain to the city or homeowner’s association, depending on the problem. Many cities have ordinances that protect homeowners. The advantage of going through your city is that you can avoid confrontation since your identity remains anonymous.

“The city will help take care of the problem – whether it’s a lawn problem or junk around the lawn, the city will send a notice. If they don’t clean it up, the city will do it for them and send the bill,” Dennis says.

Bear in mind, if you do talk to them about a problem and they react negatively or don’t change the situation and you escalate your complaint to the city, then they will likely know it was you who reported them. If your goal is to be a fair neighbor but also live peacefully among the people on your street, then consider your strategy carefully.

Learn more

Written by
Natalie Campisi
Mortgage reporter
Natalie Campisi is a former mortgage reporter at Bankrate.
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