On today’s show we’re talking about how a remodel can destroy the value of a property.
The TV Reno Shows are sometimes bringing people into the remodelling business that only see one thing. They say, I can make this house nicer too. They become inspired to replicate what they see on TV. They believe they have a design sensibility. Of course, everyone thinks they have good taste and believe that they can make some money improving a house and putting it for sale. 
On today’s show we’re going to look at a case study where the value of a house that was destroyed by a renovation. 
The home is located in Arlington Texas, exactly one block from the University of Texas campus. It had been owner occupied since it was built. It had changed hands a few times over its life, but basically it was the same house built in 1940. It appears to have been updated in the 1970’s, and again most recently immediately before it was put on the market. The owner put about $50,000 worth of improvements to the property immediately before putting it on the market. They assumed that the property would be purchased by another owner occupant. After all, they lived happily in that home for many years. 
Naturally, the home owner hoped and expected that they would gain more than their added investment in the way of a higher sale price.
The failure of this renovation was in a fundamental assumption. It’s as if they failed to notice that the university next door had grown from 22,000 students to 51,000 students in the past decade. They had failed to pay attention to how other properties a couple of blocks away that used to house single family homes, are now part of the university campus. They failed to notice that other properties had been assembled into larger parcels and a dozen or more student housing residences were built where perhaps a couple of families used to live. The failure was in assuming the buyer would be another family, just like them. 
The real buyer would have been a guy like me, someone who would have talked to the planning department at the city and conceived of a new use for the property taking into consideration the new needs of the local marketplace. I had conversations with the planning department to determine the allowable density, and the parking requirements. I had my eye on the neighbor’s property as well. The two properties put together would give access to a larger parcel from two sides and make it easier to design the parking for the desired number of units. 
On this show we talk often about the difference between content and context. The problem was not with the content of the homeowners renovation. It was with the context of the sale. The seller failed to recognize who the ideal buyer would be. The owner probably spent a lot of time selecting the perfect materials for the renovation. I feel sad for him because it was a wasted effort.   
An improvement isn’t an improvement if it misses the target.