By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

Overbuilding is one of the major mistakes people can make when remodeling their homes.

So much so that real estate agents refer to it as the most commonly broken real estate commandment: “Thou shalt not overbuild.”

Overbuilding occurs when homeowners sink too much money into a house when either the market or the location (or both) cannot support the extent of the remodeling project.

Avoid pitfalls of overbuilding for your neighborhod

Modest remodeling projects can bring dividends to your family without creating problems when it comes time to sell the home.

In an attempt to recapture their remodeling costs when selling, homeowners then price themselves out of their market. No real estate agent wants to show an overpriced house, and no homeowner wants to take a substantial financial loss on their property.

While most people these days aren’t remodeling for the quick resale, and few are brave enough to try flipping houses in this market, you still need to think about how your remodeling choices will affect your future resale potential.

In the planning stage of your remodel, consult with a Realtor to ask them three questions:

1. What realistic value would they place on your house “as is”?

2. What is the price range of homes that are selling in your area?

3. In their opinion, what home improvements will most improve your home’s resale value?

A Realtor can create what is called a comparative market analysis (CMA). A CMA shows the active listings of comparable homes in your neighborhood and their locations. It gives you an “apples to apples” comparison from all the sales pending and the homes sold from the past six months with the actual sales prices.

A Realtor can also give you an analysis of the average appreciation rate for your location, which will help you understand when you could expect to recoup the projected cost of your remodel.

Understanding what you can do within the parameters of your neighborhood will be an important step to avoiding overbuilding.

Doing this due diligence, before you spend any money, will help you set a budget that won’t come back to haunt you when you go to sell your home.

Realtors can also offer opinions on what is worth overhauling in your home and what may just need a little upgrading.

They can help you figure what is really going to make your home sell faster and what won’t affect your asking price at all.

They may feel that the space in your kitchen is fine for resale purposes and that the appliances and counter tops just need a little upgrading.

Therefore, they would recommend that you take the budget to remodel the kitchen and put it into other areas of the house that they project would give a greater return on your investment — at least when it comes to selling the home.

An architect will look at your situation a little differently — which is why we recommend building a remodeling “team” when considering a project.

While banks and Realtors focus a lot on square footage, architects are more concerned with function and how your home will support your needs and those of your family.

We always say, “Bigger is not better.” If you will center your attention on what activities go on in a room or area, you should be able to correctly size the space.

While having too little space is often the problem, having too much space can be very unproductive in a design. Therefore, working with an architect should be one protection against overbuilding.

Money issues are not the only problem with overbuilding. Along with balancing what you want/need out of your house with your budget, aesthetics play an important role as well.

Obviously you want your house to look beautiful inside and out. Inside, you are in control of the style(s) you may want to express, but the exterior must consider the context of the house and the scale of the neighboring homes.

A residential architect can help you design a remodel that will give you what you want while still blending your house into the neighborhood by updating the style without destroying it.

Adding a lot of square footage to your home with a pricey addition can be just the thing to push you out of your market. All you may need is to reconfigure the existing space or add a few feet here or there. Having a well-thought out design is the first step to avoiding overbuilding. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Avoid pitfalls of overbuilding for your neighborhood