Sprucing up your house before you put it on the market is smart, but homeowners who hope to sell their property for top dollar should beware of bad home renovations. Rather than adding to your home’s value, these misguided upgrades, from quirky paint colors to single-use custom spaces, can make your property less appealing to picky buyers.
When planning a renovation with an eye toward resale, “It’s essential to understand what homeowners in your area value long term and not just put trendy appliances and finishes in that will only look fresh and new for a very short time,” Colby Sambrotto, president of USRealty.com, told The Cheat Sheet.
But even well considered renovations don’t usually pay for themselves, according to Remodeling’s annual Cost. vs. Value report. In 2016, the only home upgrade that added more value to a home than it cost to put in was fiberglass attic insulation, which cost an average of $1,268 and added $1,482 in value at resale. Other high-value renovations included adding a steel or fiberglass entry door (91% and 82% of cost recouped, on average) and replacing a garage door (90-92% of the cost recouped).
In general, you get more bang for your buck with smaller, less flashy renovations. A $20,000 midrange kitchen remodel adds about $16,700 to your home’s value, a payback of 83%. You’ll get about 20% less back from a $60,000 kitchen upgrade at the midrange level. What about bathroom upgrade or additions? You’ll only get back about 57% of the cost when you sell your home if you go high-end, and 66% for a midrange update.
The pros and cons of renovations
Don’t let those numbers frighten you off home renovations, though. Even if you don’t get back your entire investment, upgrades are often worth it. Aside from making your home more pleasant for you, giving your kitchen a refresh can help sell your house faster, since many buyers will be turned off by laminate countertops and beige appliances. “If you have a dated kitchen … and a buyer walks into that kitchen, they’re going to think that in order to redo that kitchen, they’re going to have to spend $40,000 or $50,000,” Steven Aaron, owner of the Steve Aaron Realtor Group at Keller Williams Beverly Hills, told U.S. News & World Report.
Other quick-and-easy fixes can make your home much more appealing. A fresh coat of paint and spruced up landscaping can do wonders, Sambrotto said, while installing energy-saving appliances will save both you and buyers money.
Unfortunately, not every home upgrade is really an improvement, at least when it comes to your home’s value. If you’re thinking about selling in the near future, here are five bad home renovations you should avoid.
1. Getting too fancy
Over-the-top renovations can backfire in a big way if they don’t fit with the neighborhood. A swanky luxury kitchen in a neighborhood full of $200,000 homes doesn’t mean your house will sell for $400,000. Buyers shopping for more affordable homes are likely to be turned off by the high price, while those with a bigger budget are probably looking elsewhere.
“You definitely don’t want to be the nicest house on the block; you won’t bring up your neighbors’ market value, but their more average houses may pull down the value of your house,” Sambrotto said.
2. Making your yard smaller
Think twice before you swap green space for a new family room. Home expansions that eat into your yard can hurt your home’s value more than they help. “While some families want some kind of outdoor living space, you’ll detract value from your home if your futon squeezes out play space, lawn, pet areas, and gardens,” Sambrotto said.
Again, you want to keep your renovations consistent with the neighborhood, according experts. “Stand on the sidewalk and look at the other houses,” Katie Severance, co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Selling Your Home, told Bankrate. “Is what you’re planning consistent with the scale of the other houses?”
3. Too much customization
A home that is too “you” can turn off buyers looking for a space to make their own. You might love your in-home recording studio, basement gym, chartreuse walls in the living room, or hand-painted mural in the entry, but buyers may turn up their noses.
“If you install a huge commercial stove and oversized ventilation hood because you and your family love to make gourmet meals, chances are that most buyers would rather have a smaller, easier to use stove and more counter space,” Sambrotto said. “When you invest in truly customized upgrades … you might not get a quality return on your investment.”
Sellers also tend to overestimate the value of costly custom upgrades to other buyers, causing them to make pricing mistakes. “If they have sought out a unique feature, and paid for it, they think it’s valuable and will overprice the home because of it,” Brendon DeSimone, real estate expert with Zillow, told CNNMoney.
4. Installing a swimming pool
Unless you live in a warm-weather state, backyard pools tend to be bad home renovations, not good ones. The average in-ground pools costs nearly $40,000 to install, according to U.S. News & World Report, and the costs don’t stop there. You also need to factor in regular maintenance and higher insurance premiums. Many buyers will rather pass on property with a pool than deal with the headaches. Others see pools as a safety hazard. Bottom line: While a pool may be fun for you and your family, don’t expect it to add a lot to your home’s value.
“It’s not something that’s value-enhancing to a lot of people,” Sabine H. Schoenberg, a home improvement expert and founder of SabinesHome.com, told U.S. News.
5. Reducing the number of bedrooms
When it comes to bedrooms, more is usually better. Turning a spare bedroom into a walk-in closet or master suite sitting room tops the list of bad home renovations you can make, especially if your home now has fewer bedrooms than similar properties.
“When you start eliminating bedroom space, you’ve completely changed the comparable value of your home in the neighborhood,” said David Pekel, president of Pekel Construction and Remodeling, told Marketwatch. However, if your home has half-a-dozen small bedrooms, you may be able to get away with eliminating one without hurting your home’s value.
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