5 renovation tips and trends that can destroy your property’s resale value

9 min read

You can probably picture how your dream home looks like. Some people like plenty of built-in cabinets that allow them to achieve an minimalist aesthetic. Others might favour big, bold looks with lots of colour. But beware: if you overdo it, you just might be hurting your home’s resale value. Some common renovation tips, if overdone, could make it difficult for you to sell your property.

Don’t want to scare off potential buyers? Find out how these five renovation tips and trends can wreck your property’s resale value if they’re overdone. Avoid them if you want to sell your home above valuation!

#1: Getting a false ceiling

Most homeowners turn to false ceilings because they want to run light fixtures without unsightly wiring covers. The effect looks like you’re living in a posh hotel suite, where every ceiling light is a recessed downlight.

One disadvantage that false ceilings bring, though, is that they reduce the height of your room by as much as 15cm. If you’re working with a standard HDB ceiling height of 2.6m, and you install a 15cm false ceiling, taller folks might even be able to touch the ceiling on tiptoes.

If that doesn’t sound claustrophobic, consider the implications; you won’t be allowed to install a ceiling fan off a false ceiling in an HDB flat as it’d be too close to the ground. There is a minimum clearance requirement of 2.4m from the lowest part of the fan to the ground.

Do this instead: If you don’t have the luxury of high ceilings and downlights are a must in your book, refrain from making the entire ceiling a false ceiling. Confine the false ceiling to the edges of the room and leave most of your ceiling in its original height.

Most homeowners go for the downlight-cove light combo, which could help make your ceiling feel higher than it is. In smaller rooms, consider going without dropped ceilings altogether and opt for track lights instead.

#2: Hacking walls to create a bigger space

Apartment units are getting smaller, tempting owners to knock down walls to create a bigger space. However, your potential buyer might not like the fact that you sacrificed a bedroom for a bigger living room, or turned a separate space into a walk-in closet.

Rather, we observed that many buyers would rather have a unit in its original condition. It’s not that they dislike your decor, but they might want to do things differently from you. For instance, they may want more rooms so that each of their children can have their own rooms.

We’ve also observed that, in many cases, the buyer will bid lower for apartments with hacked walls that reduce the total number of bedrooms in the unit. We put this down to the fact that, with fewer bedrooms, the buyers perceive less utility, and lower rental yield if they were to rent out a couple of rooms or the whole unit. In fact, buyers have far less objections about hacking a kitchen wall over a bedroom wall.

Do this instead: Keep your hacking to a minimum. Or if you must hack, create flexible spaces that can be enclosed with sliding or folding doors. If a buyer expresses interest in your property but has reservations about the modified space, you may consider offering to restore the space to its original condition. For instance, this could be done by getting a contractor to rebuild the hacked walls.

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#3: Opting for built-in furniture

The conventional wisdom is that built-in furniture maximises storage space, especially if you have troublesome corners in your apartment that conventional, standalone furniture wouldn’t fit. Built-in furniture also helps to eliminate the gap between your furniture and the wall that’s created by your tile/floor skirting. So, built-in furniture is a no-brainer, right?

Not quite, as it turns out. When you have loose, standalone pieces of furniture, it’s easy for you (or the potential buyer) to replace them as and when you like. On the other hand, built-in furniture is more difficult and expensive to dispose of and replace, often requiring a contractor with a sledgehammer.

Because of this, built-in furniture is considered a fixture and is understood to be included as part of the cost of the entire property. This is something buyers aren’t keen on if they judge your built-in furniture to be ill-conceived, excessive, or just not their cup of tea. If they perceive it to be something they need to pay extra money to hack and dispose of.

Do this instead: Keep built-in furniture to a minimum. Other than your bedroom wardrobe and kitchen cabinets, refrain from going full-on built-in when you’ve just moved into your new unit. Implement these additional built-in furniture progressively on a “need-to” basis as you get a feel of the space and can make more accurate decisions about how much storage you need.

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#4: Going bold with colours

Bright reds, yellows, oranges, pinks — these hues might look better in a colouring book than on your living room wall. Your friends might compliment you on your bold, statement-making choices (because they’re, well, your friends). Based on our observation of user behaviour and enquiries made on our portal, potential buyers might skip over your property’s listing if you choose to splash your walls with vibrant colours.

Bedroom with red walls
Not a lot of buyers may be attracted to this colour scheme.

After all, there is a reason why you always see condo showflats in agreeable shades of white, beige, cream, etc. instead of garish, right-in-your-face colour schemes. Not only are neutral and pastel colour schemes more broadly accepted, but they also won’t detract potential buyers from the plus points of your home. This also enables them to better visualise how they want to plan the layout and picture it as their own home.

Do this instead: Believe us when we say an unblocked sea view doesn’t matter when your toilet walls are blood red. If you are a proud owner of a bold-hued apartment, consider repainting your walls in a neutral shade or with pastel colours if you want to sell at a good price. If you really want bold colours, have them in the form of moveable, standalone (i.e. not built-in) furniture such as sofas, or accessories such as vases and paintings.

#5: Choosing “easy to maintain” cement screed flooring

From conversations with contractors and interior designers, vinyl and tiles are easy to maintain. Cement screed? Not so much. (But they still get recommended because it nets them a bigger profit margin than tiles would.)

We’ll let you in on a little secret: cement screed flooring is notorious for uneven surfaces, running tones and weird patches, and the picture-perfect cement screed floors that you see in magazines are typically done over a few times (and perhaps even photoshopped to look better than it actually is). In other words, cement screed floors being “easy to maintain” is a myth at best, and a lie at worst.

Not only that, it’s common for chips and cracks to appear on cement screed floors, sometimes in less than a year. This is because of heat expansion and the fact that cement screed floor has no grout spacing — unlike tiles — to allow for natural expansion and contraction. Moreover, the treated cement surface tends to wear off with time, which requires expensive resurfacing. Tiles and vinyl flooring doesn’t empty your wallet periodically like this.

Do this instead: For an industrial look, opt for concrete-inspired laminate flooring or homogeneous tiles. These look like cement screed, but they’re a lot easier to maintain.

Living room with concrete tiles
Concrete-look tiles help you achieve the industrial look with far fewer headaches than cement screed.

Here’s a renovation tip you should follow: Never do anything that goes against regulation (e.g. HDB rules). This includes drilling holes in your bomb shelter, removing your bomb shelter door and anything else you aren’t supposed to do.

Any other renovation and design trends to avoid? Let us know in the comments section below. 

If you found this article helpful, 99.co recommends 15 ways to dramatically increase the value of your property before selling it and 5 genius home staging ‘tricks’ to rent out or sell property quickly.

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About Elizabeth Tan

Elizabeth is a writer, a Harry Potter fanatic, and a Game Of Thrones addict.

Looking to sell your property?

Whether your HDB apartment is reaching the end of its Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) or your condo has crossed its Seller Stamp Duty (SSD) window, it is always good to know how much you can potentially gain if you were to list and sell your property. Not only that, you’ll also need to know whether your gains would allow you to right-size to the dream home in the neighbourhood you and your family have been eyeing.

One easy way is to send us a request for a credible and trusted property consultant to reach out to you.

Alternatively, you can jump onto 99.co’s Property Value Tool to get an estimate for free.

If you’re looking for your dream home, be it as a first-time or seasoned homebuyer or seller – say, to upgrade or right-size – you will find it on Singapore’s fastest-growing property portal 99.co.

Meanwhile, if you have an interesting property-related story to share with us, drop us a message here — and we’ll review it and get back to you.

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    • Fred Foster

      Great list to help keep avoid a decrease in property value. So if you make sure to follow what not to do then property owners could possibly even enjoy an increase in the value of their condo. Thank you for sharing!

    • Useful and practical tips for increasing renovation resale value. Thanks for writing and sharing this post with us.

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