When I was first licensed in 2004, one of the most popular shows on TLC was “Trading Spaces,” in which neighbors got $1000 and a designer’s help to remodel a room in each other’s homes. The result was almost always an unmitigated disaster, with projects that looked like a kindergarten Mother’s Day project: light fixtures made of yarn, mirror frames of glued-on seashells, and terrible paint jobs in every episode. Click here for a good laugh:
“Do It Yourself” – the topic of TV shows, magazines, websites and TikTok channels, is a phrase that implies the capable, adventurous, pioneering spirit of America herself. Like knowing how to change a tire or plant a tree, being able to paint a fence or replace a flapper valve is a sign of good upbringing and adult independence for many.
The problem is that knowing how to do something and being able to do it well are two very, very different things.
There are times where it doesn’t matter. I recently spent two days clearing out the mechanical room of our basement and painting the walls and floor to brighten it up. We plan to live in this house for decades to come and we only enter this room to change filters or retrieve holiday decorations, so no one cares if my paint is uneven here and there, or if I trapped a cobweb in a glob of primer – oops.
But as a Realtor, we walk through so many homes where the homeowner tried out their skill and the results are … less than satisfactory. In some cases, the DIY’er can sheepishly admit that next time they’d be better off hiring a tile setter. Other times, the perpetrator proudly displays their “trim carpentry”, showing off the un-mitered corners, upside-down door molding, and gaps between floor boards. Last year, I sold a home where the owner had installed an adorable chalkboard panel – but in the process made it impossible to access the furnace.
Listing agents have to balance tactfully praising their proud Seller, while being realistic about price and Buyers’ reactions to poorly executed work. Buyer agents face the disappointment of showing a house that looked fantastic in the photos, but in reality needed $10,000 of work just to undo a crappy bathroom remodel.
The bottom line is that when it comes to DIY, be honest with yourself and evaluate your experience objectively. If you’ve spent hours watching YouTube tutorials, rather than hours on the job learning in person from a true professional, then it’s probably not a job to take on. Even if the project is relatively harmless and inexpensive, such as a backsplash or an accent wall, the end result will almost always have the tell-tale sign of inexperience that Realtors and savvy buyers alike will immediately spot and reject.
More than once, we’ve been on call as the “Talk-My-Spouse-Out-Of-DIYing-This-Project” Hotline!
Use the Hotline; call your Realtor for referrals and advice.
By Sara C. Maddock,
Terrible Painter, Illegal Plumber