No one likes to overpay for a purchase, and this is particularly true when buying a home. After all, every square foot of space or block closer to a top school will cost you big-time!
So if you're a thrifty soul who must make every home-buying dollar count, check out these home features that often inspire sellers to jack up their price. That's fine if you truly want these things, but if not? You're wasting your money.
1. A huge yard you rarely enjoy
A sprawling green lawn may have a certain curb appeal at first sight. And if you have kids or plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, it's a fine feature to splurge on. But if you doubt anyone will be out there much, you're just tossing money out the window.
It turns out sellers charge a premium for that patch of grass, and you'll funnel even more money going forward on lawn maintenance (or else spend your weekends mowing, weeding and pruning the yard).
"It could end up just costing you a lot of money to maintain, even though it’s not being enjoyed," says Tim Bakke, director of publishing at the Plan Collective, a website that provides house plans.
2. A short commute you won't use
If you work from home, commute at off-hours, work in the suburbs, or are retired, don't pay extra to buy a house near mass transit, or within easy driving distance of major office areas—those are homes that regular commuters might covet, prompting sellers to charge up the wazoo.
"Homes closer to major commerce centers cost quite a bit more than homes in outlying or suburban areas," says real estate agent Jamie Klingman at Boutiquerealtyflorida.com.
Is this an important factor to you? If not, consider a home that's a bit farther out to save cash.
3. A top school district when you don't have kids
A home zoned for a great public school will always command top dollar on the open market.
"And you'll also pay for this through your taxes," says Bakke.
However, if you don't have (or plan to have) kids, why empty your wallet to send someone else's child to school? Look for homes just outside the district to save on purchase price and property taxes.
4. A single-story house when you're fine with stairs
In many locations, homes all on the same level command a higher dollar value because the boomer generation prefers them when downsizing, says Jen Nelson, an agent in Phoenix.
If you can handle going up a flight of stairs or two, consider a two-story house to get more bang for your buck. (Another bonus? A smaller roof to replace when the time comes.)
5. A bigger house than you truly need
Very often buyers purchase a home that's way bigger than they actually need.
"People end up with too much house and not even using the rooms they have," says Pat Vosburgh, a certified real estate negotiation expert at Vosburghandvosburgh.com.
Since a purchase price directly reflects things like size, why overpay for bedrooms or media rooms you won't use—and have to heat, cool, furnish, and clean? Instead, protect your bank account by looking only for homes that reflect how much space you'll actually use.
6. A hot neighborhood
A hip neighborhood that everyone's buzzing about can send home prices soaring. But getting caught up in the hype and overspending in an area where prices haven't quite gelled yet can be a risky proposition where you end up (you guessed it) overpaying. Buy homes only in new areas that are still a relative bargain.
7. Fancy amenities you won't use
Here's a reality check: If you don’t drink wine regularly, you don’t need a wine refrigerator—or to pay for a house with one, either.
"A six-car, air-conditioned garage or a built-in commercial pizza oven may appeal to a specific buyer," says Bruce Ailion of Atlanta's Re/Max Town and Country. But such premium upgrades and add-ons will send a purchase price north, so you'd better make sure you use whatever you buy, often.
This is especially true when you buy a condo or a home in a planned community, since you'll have to consider the monthly condo or HOA fees you'll be paying as part of your purchase price. Make no mistake, those fees are for amenities—think a gym or lounge—so if you don't plan to take advantage of these features, you're squandering your money.
8. The nicest house in the neighborhood
It may be tempting to snag the home with the biggest price tag in a certain ZIP code for bragging rights. "But you never want to buy the most expensive home in the neighborhood," says Vosburgh.
While it might be fun to know your casa is the area’s castle, having the top comp in a neighborhood may become an issue when it comes time to sell. This scenario leaves little room for your home's price to appreciate, so you may not be able to recoup what you paid. So unless you're truly smitten with this home, buyer beware.