By Jamie Wiebe
While it might seem premature to think about selling a home before you even buy it, it’s important to remember that a house is an investment. And in an ideal world, investments make money—not lose it.
That’s why resale value should be an important consideration when house hunting. No, it shouldn’t supersede your must-have requirements (if you demand 20 acres and lakefront access, prioritize that). But if you do your best to predict how the house you’re buying—and the neighborhood it’s in—will appeal to future buyers, then future-you will be a whole lot happier. And possibly richer.
Considering resale value “also saves the buyers a lot of money, as they will not need to spend big on renovations or updates,” says real estate agent Lukasz Kukwa.
But one caveat: Good resale value is never a promise.
“It is almost impossible to guarantee that a home will retain its full resale value, as the local market and economic factors have a large effect on the housing market,” Kukwa says.
In short: Resale value is anybody’s guess if the economy tanks. But there are some indicators to watch for that could be the difference between barely squeaking by or coming out ahead. As you hit the house-hunting trail, look for these promising signs that suggest your investment will be a smart one.
1. The neighborhood’s hopping…
Pay attention to your surroundings when house hunting. Is the neighborhood walkable? Or is a trip to the grocery store so onerous it requires snacks for the road? Meanwhile, are there restaurants nearby for those nights you simply just can’t?
“If you buy in an area that is not well-developed and doesn’t have good infrastructure—like shopping close by—you will not have a high rate of return on the home,” says Realtor® Patricia Vosburgh.
“The more amenities, the higher chances the home will sell faster and for more money,” she explains.
Even if there are development plans in the works, don’t bank on that to prop up property values; construction can stall or be scrapped entirely. When calculating your home’s future worth, focus on what exists now.
2. … but the street itself is quiet
Buying a home is a study in contrasts: You want a gorgeous kitchen—and good delivery options, too. You need five bedrooms—and a decent hotel around the corner because no way is your mother-in-law staying with you. You want things to be hopping—but not in your backyard.
“We advise against buying on a busy street or purchasing a home surrounded by commercial properties nearby,” Vosburgh says.
Not that there aren’t buyers—possibly even you—who love living in the middle of the action. But before you buy the bungalow next to your favorite watering hole, consider that future buyers might not be so keen.
3. The home’s systems are in good shape
Many people consider return on investment to be the sum of a simple calculation: Will the home sell for more than you paid?
But it’s a little more complex than that. You have to factor in how much you’ll spend on the home while living there—even if the market becomes red-hot. And if the home’s vital components are falling apart, you’ll be spending a lot.
Your inspector can give you a rundown of your future home’s health, but keep a close eye on the roof, water heater, HVAC system, windows, and foundation. Pay attention to the plumbing and electrical, too. A problem with any one of these major systems can require a costly repair—and take a bite out of your payday.
“When these items are new or in good standing, that’s a great sign,” Kukwa says.
4. The schools are great
If you’re child-free, this one might seem entirely irrelevant. But a word to the wise: If you think you might someday sell your home, you’ll want to factor in the school district before you buy.
“Even if buyers personally don’t have children, for resale it is imperative that they buy in a great school zone,” Vosburgh says. (You can check school ratings at GreatSchools.org.)
Just make sure to do your research and determine where the home sits in relation to the school district boundaries.
“Often agents will advertise a property as being near such-and-such school area, but not necessarily specify the district, which can be very confusing,” explains Tina Maraj, a Realtor with Re/Max North Orange County in Fullerton, CA. “It can be a real eye-opener if a buyer closes and they’re on one side of a main street that is the dividing line between the top-rated and the lowest-rated high schools.”
5. The light is inspiring
“Any apartment in any neighborhood that has good light will sell—and will always sell,” says New York City broker Noemi Bitterman.
With good light, “there is always a good feeling—a feeling of embracing and belonging,” she continues. “When [a home] is dark, no matter how nice and new it is, it doesn’t feel inviting, it takes a much longer time to sell, and the price reflects the lack of light.”
Whether you’re shopping for a condo, apartment, or house, visit the property at different times of the day to see how the light affects the space.
6. The floor plan is family-friendly
Again? asks the child-free reader. Must all my housing decisions be dictated by families? No. But if you’re hoping to sell that home for a profit down the road, you should keep kid-friendliness in mind.
“Look for a home with a floor plan that will appeal to families,” says broker Kris Lindahl. That means at least three—if not four—bedrooms on the same level, an open concept kitchen, and at least one bathtub.
And always pay attention to the number of bathrooms. You want “enough to avoid fights in the morning,” Lindahl says.
On a related note: No matter how much you love that gloriously unique Frank Lloyd Wright spiral house, it’s often best to stick to a more traditional floor plan if you’re worried about selling later.
“Buying a home that is too quirky or has very untraditional features can result in a decreased ROI and smaller pool of potential buyers in the future,” Kukwa says.
7. The community is restrictive
Homeowners associations can be a pain in the butt—the irritating restrictions, the monotonous meetings, the monthly dues that you’re not always sure you can account for.
But an HOA can actually be helpful, at least when it comes to resale value. That’s because HOAs usually keep everyone in line, preventing your neighbors from letting weeds take over their lawn, painting their houses bright pink, or permanently parking an RV in the middle of your street—all things that could ding the value of your home.
Of course, purchasing an HOA-regulated home isn’t for everyone. But if you’re seriously concerned about the resale value of your new home, covenants and restrictions could keep you flush.
Wendy Helfenbaum contributed to this story.