House going on the market soon--finish/create master suite?

word_docJune 10, 2012

We are going to put our house on the market soon. The local market seems to be moving along pretty briskly after a couple of years of doldrums. In our area, we never had much of a bubble, so that probably helped.

We are nowhere near upside-down in our house. We had it appraised for a refi about 3 years ago and it appraised at 219,000, if I recall correctly. Since then, we had a water leak in the downstairs bathroom that led to us replacing the entire living area downstairs with hardwood flooring (previously there was an older laminate), plus completely redoing the bathroom with updated fixtures/features. Insurance paid for almost all of that and it was over $12,000.

The house is a little weird. It started life as a 4 bedroom cape cod with really no master suite back in 1977. When we bought it, we renovated a den/laundry area and put in a central air/heating unit (used to have a window unit) and created an inlaw suite with a full bath for my mother, retaining enough of the laundry facilities that she has her stack w/d there in her full bath. She also has a small kitchen, a bedroom, a few roomy closets and a small sitting area. None of that existed before we bought the house.

As part of that renovation, we took a three-stage approach to creating a master suite. A house designer drew up some really quite brilliant plans for us that included renovating a walk-in attic on the second floor that was unfinished when we bought the house. We also took one of the upstairs bedrooms and turned it into a half-laundry room/half-closet.

We are basically in phase two of the three-stage plan. The attic has been fully renovated and is a large, open, airy space painted in a neutral color with neutral carpeting. It's separated into two rooms. One is a large room that is currently serving as a family room/teen cave sort of thing. The other room is a bedroom, approximately 14x14.

One of our daughters uses the bedroom on breaks from college.

The original plan was to convert that bedroom into a master bath, then use the family room/teen cave space as a master bedroom, and then that leads out into the former bedroom-turned laundry room/walk-in closet. However, we are going to be leaving before we can execute the final stage of the plan, unless we do it in order to sell the house. The future master bath area is already completely plumbed for a bathroom, so it would be a matter of hiring contractors to turn the shell of a room into a master bath. It's a typical attic with sloping eaves.

My inclination is to just go ahead and sell the house as-is since I think it would be around 10,000 to put in a basic subway tile/modest fixture master bath and I highly doubt we would get that back.

I just am wondering how not having a master suite will play. Some houses have one, some do not, in our local area. Our price point is better than average for the area but nowhere near in the luxury range. We could always furnish the plans and explain that we have completed phase 2 of the 3-phase plan but that seems a little cheesy. However, once you realize that the bedroom is plumbed for a master bath and see how it's all laid out, it is obvious that it would be a super-deluxe, awesome master suite. I guess I am worried that it will be a hard sell without a true master suite, even though it didn't stop us, and the house sold very fast (to us) when it hit the market. Technically, the inlaw suite is its own master suite. I'm just sort of torn.

If you got through all that....thoughts?

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What about putting it on the market as-is at a good price and seeing what happens? If the feedback is strong about lack of a master suite, then you could always do the work and then put it back on the market later. If your competition is only half-sies on master suites, then you'll probably be ok as is.

I would provide the info about the rough plumbing, though. It might catch the eye of someone interested in executing the plans and tip the balance for them.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 5:04PM
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Thanks for the suggestion, weedy. We have some things to do before putting it on the market (replace the kitchen floor is the biggest) but the to-do list would be much less daunting without that on it.

We don't have to sell at any specific time, although my husband has taken a job 100 miles away and that's where we will be relocating--but he is able to stay with his parents in the meantime during the week as they live in the town where his new job is, and is home on weekends. Obviously sooner would be preferable, but our original timetable was more in the two-years-from-now time frame, so I guess your suggestion wouldn't really hurt, and doesn't seem to have many drawbacks (plus it is the one I sort of had in mind anyway!).

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 5:42PM
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I'm a little confused (been painting all day, blame it on the fumes). In the current configuration your house is a X bed, Y bath house. But if you execute phase 3 it would be an (X-1) bed and (Y+1) bath house?

Are you talking 4/2 to 3/3 for beds and baths? Or 3/1 to 2/2? I think you want to keep at least 3 bedrooms, the 4th is kind of a bonus for most people.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 6:19PM
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Sorry! I'm sure it was me not being clear.

Current: 4 (really 5) bedrooms/3 baths.
Future: 5 bedrooms/4 baths.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 7:47PM
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Sounds like with the in-law suite that it could be seen as a master retreat too based on how it relates to the rest of the house. Just on a different level.

I'd put it on the market and see what happens.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 9:53PM
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I would market the house as is.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 11:23PM
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I'd interview at least 3 local realtors and get their opinions. Explain your thoughts and potential plans and see how they think it will sell best and whether it's worth the investment to create the really great master suite. I'd even ask how they would phrase a listing to include the in-law suite and potential (plumbed in) bathroom and what kind of value would be placed on those (or whether they think it's not worth mentioning in a listing.)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 1:10PM
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since the inlaw suite is already in place and already on the main floor i say call it the master and advertise the attic as plumbed and ready to be finished 'your way' to buyers.
best of luck selling.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 4:16PM
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One of the homes that I recently toured had plans drawn up and bid out for remodeling a really unfortunate 2nd story layout. I thought it was a nice way to show what the house could be and how much it would cost to get it there, without the owner actually having to invest the time and money himself.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 6:31PM
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I also think there would be a tendency, in this market, to contract it out more based upon return on investment (or less loss on investment) than on how you might do it if you were staying. I put in a perfectly fine new bathroom to go onto the market.(it was absolutely necessary). If I had been staying, I would have gotten a cast iron tub, I would have done a hex floor instead of octagon and dot, and I would have had the vanity professionally painted. I just wasn't going to treat someone else to the bathroom as I would have done it.

The house I Bought had a really Horrible bath put in for sale (a conversion of a half bath to 3/4). It was not near done when I made the offer and I actually asked if they could please just Stop and put it back, or plug up the destruction and call it done. I bought a house knowing that this bathroom would hit the dumpster as soon as I had a new plan drawn up. It is so bad, and so cheaply done I hope it lasts while the renters are there and until I am least there for a few months.

Lastly my Realtor knew someone who put in a $50K kitchen and immediately had to put the house on the market. The new owners told my Realtor that they loved everything about the house except the ghastly kitchen.

It could have been fine, I dunno, but it is hard to predict what someone else wants, and in this market I wouldn't try especially if it involved spending money.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 6:58PM
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These are all definitely good points, plus the prevailing wisdom to leave well enough alone comports well with my tendency to take the path of least effort ;)

I have been checking out the state of our local market to find that it has gone from a bit in the doldrums to nearly sizzling hot. I think the best idea is to hurry and get done what must be done in order to make it showing-ready and get on with it while the sizzle is still here. That really mostly entails just the usual packing-up of stuff, thorough cleaning, painting a few things, and replacing our kitchen floor. That's not so bad, right?

Thanks so much for all the thoughts. They've been very helpful.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 7:43PM
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I think I'd definitely put it on the market as it is now. In our area there is a larger premium for moving from 3 to 4 beds than 4 to 5 beds. The extra bedroom has diminishing returns as you go higher (an 11th bedroom isn't worth much more over a 10 bedroom house, to take it to extremes).

And thanks for clarifying :)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 7:43PM
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