32 home upgrades that are a huge waste of money
Home upgrades come in different shapes and sizes. Converting an extra bedroom into a home office may be just as satisfying as installing motion sensor lights, but neither one adds significant value to your home. If you want to add real resale value to your home, don’t waste your money doing these.
One of the first resources realtors use to determine the value of your home is the neighbourhood you live in and the homes in it. “If you improve your home too much, in any area, you may price your home outside of the neighbourhood you live in,” warns Ryan Fitzgerald, owner/broker of Uphomes. A large or expensive remodel that doesn’t make sense in your neighbourhood won’t match up with the price per square metre with neighbouring homes. “You may find you’re priced well outside the neighbourhood price range,” says Fitzgerald.
A farmhouse style kitchen tricked out with fixtures, shiplap and subway tile may be your design dream come true, but if the rest of the house has gold fixtures and shag carpet, it’s a home upgrade that doesn’t add value. “If you go from modern brushed nickel fixtures in one room and then walk into a room full of gold fixtures, your home is going to feel inconsistent to the buyers. Keep your fixtures and designs consistent,” suggests Fitzgerald.
Replacing an HVAC system, water heater or roof can be standard home upgrades for most homeowners, but with regard to resale, don’t get too excited about regaining much of your investment. “Buyers will view these improvements as necessary for the home to function properly and assume the reason you made the purchase is that you received full use of the old one,” says Fitzgerald.
All those weekend trips to the hardware store buying woods, nails, and stain for your DIY home upgrade produced an expansive deck to be envied – just don’t expect to recoup the cost of a composite or upscale deck, because the market isn’t demanding it, warns Fitzgerald.
A beautifully landscaped yard is pretty to look at but don’t expect a lot of green to come back your way. “If you’re paying for extensive landscaping such as fountains or rock walls, don’t expect buyers to pay for it,” says Fitzgerald. You may enjoy hours toiling in the soil and tending to your koi fish but potential buyers see a lot weeding, watering and maintenance.
“One of the biggest misconceptions in real estate is that by adding a pool your home’s value will increase,” says Fitzgerald. In-ground pools and above-ground pools are expensive and require time and money to maintain and insure, not to mention additional safety measures to consider if you have young children. “If you’re going to add a pool do it for pleasure, not for resale value. Many folks will never recoup the cost of the pool when they sell their home,” Fitzgerald says.
Still set on a pool? Follow this swimming pool guide.
“You may think you’re saving money by doing projects yourself instead of paying a professional to do it, but not when it comes time to sell,” cautions Fitzgerald. Buyers scrutinise the small stuff. “One of the first things buyers notice is the craftsmanship, especially if things aren’t done correctly. The few bucks you might save doing it yourself may end up costing you thousands in the sale,” says Fitzgerald.
“A sun room addition may seem like a beautiful investment into your home, but proceed with caution,” warns real estate agent Mary Ann Graboyes. It does provide that coveted space everyone wants but your taxes may increase. Plus, a sun room can take away from yard space, which may be a negative thing for some buyers.
Painting murals or adding some wallpaper to a dull wall may seem like a cheap home upgrade, but it’s not the best way to invest your money according to Graboyes. Removing wallpaper or painting over murals can be expensive and difficult. Potential buyers often have a hard time seeing past them.
Unless you’re in a rural area or a location that experiences power outages, a back-up generator isn’t going to wow the socks off home buyers. Graboyes says this home upgrade is pricey and but doesn’t generate a lot of cash for the investment you make.
Built-in fish aquariums and hot tubs are unique items that may deliver personal joy, but they also require a lot of maintenance and may not tickle a buyer’s fancy. “More often in real estate transactions, a specialty built-in becomes a hindrance to the sales opportunity,” says Graboyes.
Your commitment to fitness is stellar but converting your garage into a gym is more an exercise of sweat equity than home upgrade value. “Most buyers want their garage available for cars, not gym equipment. Before finishing a garage with gym equipment, flooring, electrics, plumbing and heating, take your gym to the attic or basement,” advises Graboyes.
Your home should reflect who you are, but if you’re not going to live there forever and plan to sell it someday, steer clear of personal and custom renovations, like a yoga and meditation studio or a wine cellar. “Buyers are looking at the home as their own and they do not want to have to do more renovations. Keep your renovations clean and simple,” recommends Justin Krzyston, contractor, designer and owner of Stonehurst Construction.
Saunas, steam showers, and heated floors and towel bars are creature comforts we love, but usually, it’s money down the drain for these home upgrades. “Unfortunately they won’t bring back money when you go to sell your home. These upgrades are costly and a little too personal to the current homeowner,” says Krzyston.
Expensive sound systems, high-end pool lights, or showy DIY home upgrades like LED shower heads and toilets aren’t likely to add any real value to your home. “They are fun upgrades, but they are so costly to install and won’t add a significant resale value,” says Krzyston.
“Instead of installing brand new wall-to-wall carpeting before you sell your home, just spend the money to get it cleaned,” suggests Krzyston. Even luxurious blends could be seen as a deterrent to home buyers because of allergies or high maintenance. “Chances are that the buyer doesn’t want carpeting or they don’t like your choice of carpet, so let them choose what they want and they can spend the money to install carpeting,” says Krzyston.
A favourite of cheap DIY home upgrades but won’t fire-up the value of your home. “Homeowners shouldn’t spend money on renovating their mantles or adding built-in bookshelves on the sides of their fireplace. Instead, make sure they get their fireplace inspected. Cracks in the fireplace can scare buyers away, so make sure the inside of the fireplace is seller ready,” says Krzyston. Find out which 13 home improvement projects practically pay for themselves.
If you live in an older home that was built before the advent of master suites, you may be tempted to add value by building a master bedroom to compete with other homes for sale. It’s an extensive home upgrade that will be costly. “Simply put, it’s a waste of money. It’s likely going to cost you much more than you realise when you could sell your home, buy a new one, and spend much less!” says Fitzgerald.
“This is one surefire way not to recoup the money you spend on renovations, especially if you are taking the home down to two or three bedrooms,” warns Fitzgerald. “That is going to have a serious impact on the buyer pool, and the families who are looking for four bedroom homes won’t even see yours on their search since it doesn’t match their search requirements.”
We’re all for going green when we can, but solar panels won’t increase the value of your home, according to Fitzgerald. “In fact, most solar panels will deter buyers based on their appearance. Most buyers are not open to sacrificing appearance for saving on monthly expenses,” says Fitzgerald. In some cases, the panels are leased and not owned by the homeowner, another factor to consider. “If you’re going to add solar panels, do it because you intend to live in the home for a long time.”
“Any flooring, whether it is hardwood or carpet, must be in top condition for a great return on your home upgrade investment,” says Fitzgerald. If you need new flooring, Fitzgerald says to choose something clean, modern and cost-efficient. “This will do the trick in both the online photos and in the showings.”
Motion sensor lights outside are a desired safety feature, but adding them everywhere inside? Not such a bright idea for added home value. “This is something that is very specific both in design and function and not every homeowner would want motion lights around their home,” says Veronica Sniscak, a realtor and partner at Bob Lucido Team of Keller Williams Integrity.
As much as we try to downsize, custom-made closets with ample storage are still a home upgrade most people would love, but Sniscak says a prospective buyer may not realise the value. “These kinds of closet systems can be costly and I don’t see them increasing the value to the home especially compared to the cost of installing them,” says Sniscak.
The front door and garage are part of that all-important, first impression curb appeal but if your current garage door is functional, adding a new designer one that is quieter or has a keyless entry isn’t going to increase the value of your home, Sniscak says.
An updated kitchen and bathroom do bring value, but the key is not going over the top when you renovate. “When a homeowner over renovates with top of the line European appliances, granite, marble, and other bells and whistles, it doesn’t bring in the value the homeowner would expect,” says Wally Fakhreddine, a realtor with Top Edmonton Real Estate. “What might seem great to some might not be a big deal to others.”
Good fences may make good neighbours but home buyers won’t pay extra for over the top fences, Fakhreddine says. Concrete posts, wrought iron fencing, elaborate finials and decorative caps are nice to look at but they won’t give you a big return on your investment. Stay with the basics (white picket, black steel) if you install fencing.
Is creating a new, roomier bedroom worth sacrificing an existing bedroom? Not a good idea, according to Fakhreddine. “Taking a bedroom away from a home could be a negative when a family with children is looking at your home and they are in need of bedrooms for everyone in the family.”
She sheds, barn-style like game rooms, and man-caves in the backyard are fun bonus structures to your home. The good times roll when you’re hanging out with friends or going head-to-head in a fierce game of air hockey. In fact, Steve Frellick, licensed contractor and Founder/Owner of Yonder Vacation Rentals calls these outbuildings a “return on enjoyment” which according to Frellick is immeasurable but unfortunately, loads of enjoyment don’t add up to added home value.
Unless you need to upgrade the electrical system, don’t upgrade it. “There is no added value during an appraisal and because most buyers do not see the new wiring, they will most likely not be wowed or interested in paying more for this,” says Luis Dominguez, a realtor with Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
It’s difficult to keep the walls in your home pristine – dings, dents, and spills are nearly inevitable – but replacing the entire wall is overkill. “This can cost thousands and literally add zero in value,” says Dominguez. A cheap DIY home upgrade of patching the holes, sanding, and painting is sufficient.
Solid wood core, six panelled doors are the creme de la creme of interior doors. A house with these matching doors promotes an overall richer look but installing new doors doesn’t open the door to increased value Dominguez says. For a cheap home upgrade, repaint or re-stain the door and change the door handles.
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