What Home Improvements Do Not Add Value?

If you’re planning to sell your house, you might be tempted to go overboard with updates and upgrades to help you fetch the highest price at the closing table. While some home projects—such as replacing your garage door or doing a minor kitchen remodel—add value to your home, others offer little opportunity to recover the costs when it’s time to sell. 

Homeowners often assume that upgrades and renovations always increase their place’s value and make it more sellable. But while many home improvements can add to a house’s appeal, they may not add value and, in some cases, could even act as a detriment when the property goes on the market. Here are the most common home improvements that could turn out to be mistaken.

Home Renovations That Don’t Add value

Adding green technology.

Sadly, being good to the environment is one thing that everyone wants, but no one wants to pay. Though the technology for solar and geothermal energy is getting less expensive, these are still projects that will cost you but won’t necessarily impress your future buyers. If you’re thinking of adding solar panels or radiant heating to your home, do it for your reasons.

Installing an in-ground swimming pool.

When I was a child, I felt incredibly envious of my (very few) friends who had swimming pools in their back yards. By the time I was in the market for a house of my own, I had refused to even look at a home with a pool. For me, the amount of maintenance necessary to keep a pool sparkling and inviting is more than enough to have me keep my membership to the local YMCA current. Add to that my concerns over safety and liability, and I see a pool as a deal-breaker rather than a value-adder. At Home Builders, we have the best dual occupancy selection to make your house a dream come true.

That being said, homeowners who make the $10,000 (or more) investment in a swimming pool who use it and enjoy better health because of it are likely to be very satisfied with their purchase. So if you’re thinking about adding a pool, don’t worry about buyers like me unless you don’t think you’ll use it.

Over-improving the kitchen or bathroom.

Most people recognise that kitchens and baths sell houses. After all, those are two rooms in your home where you spend a lot of your time and where adding furniture is not a viable way to make them more comfortable. So it’s pretty much always a good idea to put renovation money and effort into improving these two home areas.

Where you get into trouble is if you over-improve those two areas. Some friends spent over $10,000 improving their master bathroom — adding ceramic tile, a state-of-the-art shower system, custom-built cabinetry and a granite countertop. But their home is a relatively ordinary suburban two-story, so stepping into their bathroom feels like you’ve walked into someone else’s house. Rather than this being a draw for buyers, many people will think, “It wouldn’t be worth it to make the rest of the house match that bathroom.”

Extensive landscaping.

While landscaping your yard can undoubtedly add to your curb appeal when selling your house, elaborate landscaping can end up biting you in the end. Non-gardeners will look at the incredible flowering trees, the sculpted shrubs, and the koi pond and think they don’t want to do the work necessary to keep it up. Gardeners will likely have a different vision for their green spaces to look and will dream of starting the garden over from scratch.

If landscaping is how you beautify your home for yourself, there’s nothing wrong with using your energies outside. But know that it’s likely the next owner will tear out what you have planted.

Invisible improvements.

These are the bane of the existence of older homes. Almost every year that my husband and I lived in our first house — a 1921 Craftsman-style bungalow — we discovered a “hidden” issue that needed to be fixed. These included adding insulation to the walls, re-grading the yard to keep water out of the basement, replacing the roof, and updating our HVAC system. While these improvements were all necessary, we knew that we were doing them for our comfort and to protect our investment in the house. We knew that the money we spent on these projects would not be reflected in a selling price.

These improvements are not exciting like other renovations maybe, but they are necessary. Just remember that you are making the improvements for yourself, and not for future profits.

Wall-to-wall Carpeting

While real estate listings may still feature new carpeting throughout as a selling point, homebuyers may cringe at the idea of having wall-to-wall carpeting. More people turn away from carpeting because of the chemicals used to process it, not to mention its potential for trapping allergens—a serious concern for families with children.

Because of these hurdles, you probably won’t recoup the cost of new wall-to-wall carpeting (and having a carpet as the primary flooring in your home can lower its value). It’s almost always better to remove the old carpet and restore or install wood floors. That’s what most of today’s buyers want and even expect, depending on where you live.

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An Expanded Owner’s Suite

A new owner’s suite with a luxury bathroom and walk-in closet can be a huge selling point that increases your home’s value. But, that’s not necessarily the case if the remodel turns your three-bedroom home into a two-bedroom house—or if you lose some other living space in the process.

In general, the more bedrooms a home has, the higher the price it can fetch. If you take away a bedroom, your home will be priced according to homes in the neighbourhood with the same number of bedrooms—even if that owner’s suite is enormous. Fewer bedrooms also mean fewer potential buyers, which can make it harder to sell your home at the price you want.

Expert Tips To Increase Your Home Value

Update the essentials

Start with the basics — how old is your water heater? Your electrical panel? Your furnace? These items don’t inspire Pinterest boards, but they’re critical to property sales.

Suppose a buyer’s inspection report shows that the electrical panel predates modern codes, or the furnace is more than 15 to 20 years old (the average furnace lifespan, according to Modernise). In that case, there’s a strong chance that a buyer will negotiate for a sizable credit to replace it. A potential buyer might also walk away from the deal if upgrades seem too daunting. Stay in a solid negotiating position by keeping your homes’ mechanicals up-to-date. Looking for dual occupancy? Look no further! Home Builders has you covered. 

Hire an inspector

If you’re worried about what the buyers’ inspection might say, take a proactive approach and hire a licensed home inspector to conduct a walkthrough of your property before you decide to sell. For a few hundred dollars, you’ll have a report of every issue that may need to be addressed. You can then make decisions about what to tackle and what to forgo.

The inspection report will cover a house’s components, such as a roof, gutters, windows, foundation, and floors. It will note whether these components are in good condition and if anything may need to be replaced due to damage, age or heavy wear.

A buyer can use the inspection report as a negotiating tool and request that the homeowner either make the repairs listed or provide a credit to cover those costs. If you can proactively address an issue, you might protect yourself during negotiations. However, if you know the inspection will bring an expensive problem to light — such as foundational repairs — you may want to defer these repairs and see how the sale plays out.

Remember regular maintenance

Maintenance won’t boost the value of your property, but neglect could dent your property value or make it tougher to sell for the price you’re seeking.

When did your A/C last get a tune-up? How secure is the weatherstripping around your windows? How scuffed are your hardwood floors? Regular maintenance throughout your home’s life could prolong your components’ life, which will be cheaper in the long run.

Improve curb appeal

Repaint or replace your front door—Power-wash your siding. If necessary, paint your siding, trim, and window shutters. Trim the hedges, keep the lawn mowed, clean your gutters, and plant flowers in the front yard.

You don’t need to hire a landscaping company to turn your front yard into a masterpiece; you need to keep it clean and tidy.


Cleaning and decluttering is probably the least expensive way to make your home feel larger. According to a 2017 survey by the National Association of Realtors, 93 per cent of agents recommend decluttering your home before listing. Remove items that are too personal, like family photos. It will help if potential buyers imagine themselves in the space, not confront the fact that it’s your space.

Don’t stuff everything into the basement or garage since home buyers will look at these areas, too. You may need to rent a storage unit for a few months.

Go green

You might benefit from a few inexpensive, environmentally-friendly upgrades, but don’t overdo them. Homes with eco-friendly features such as programmable thermostats, solar panels, bamboo flooring and high-efficiency appliances don’t necessarily sell for more than their less eco-friendly counterparts, according to a 2018 Realtor.com study of more than 200 metro areas. The study found that while eco-friendly homes are offered at a higher price per square foot in some locations, they carry a price tag of the same, or less, per square foot in other areas.

If you make green upgrades, focus on low-cost improvements, such as swapping out incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. Don’t forget that caulk and weatherstripping make a significant impact on your home’s efficiency at a much cheaper price point than replacing your windows. Make these improvements several months before you list your home for sale since a buyer may ask about the average utility bills’ cost.

Update your light fixtures

Hang an attention-grabbing light fixture, such as a chandelier or hanging Edison bulbs, in one or two locations. These eye-catching elements can improve your home’s perceived value, giving you an edge over the neighbourhood competition.

The foyer or entryway is ideal for a statement piece that will create a great first impression. You could also add a beautiful light fixture above the dining room table. These inexpensive details can elevate the perception of your home. Spruce up your bathroom A few inexpensive touches could present your existing bathroom in the best light.

Replace the bath faucet with a stylish option. Trade your standard showerhead with a more impressive-looking option. Add a builder-grade granite or marble countertop to your bath vanity for a relatively low price point, as the material costs won’t be too high. A prefabricated composite cultured marble countertop from a big-box retailed could cost $150 or less, according to Costhelper. Slab granite countertops cost $60 to $100 per square foot, including installation.

If your bathroom is already modern, these upgrades aren’t necessary. But if your bathroom features a 10-year-old countertop with dings, chips and stains, replacing this could help you attract a buyer.

Update the kitchen

If your cabinets are in good condition but outdated, you can make them appear new by applying a few coats of fresh white cabinet paint and replacing the hinges and handles. You could also hire contractors to replace the cabinet doors while leaving the cabinets themselves intact.

Swap white or black appliances with stainless steel to upgrade the look of your kitchen. Stainless steel appliances are typically viewed as higher-end. To reduce costs, choose entry-level stainless steel appliances, and search for these at outlet stores or in the scratch-and-dent section.

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Replacing your aging countertop with granite could also add value. If your current countertop looks good, you can skip this step. But if your countertop is made from yellowed, peeling laminate, this project could help boost your home sale value.  At Home Builders, we offer a wide range of duplex build.

Get ready for the future.

You might enhance a home’s sophistication by installing a few smart home devices, such as wifi-enabled thermostats and door locks. The Nest thermostat, for example, automatically learns your patterns and adjusts home temperatures accordingly. A smartphone can operate it, so you can monitor your home’s temperatures when you’re travelling or heat your home in time for your return.

The August smart lock automatically unlocks the door when an authorised person approaches and locks the door behind you as you leave. It also allows authorised guests to access the home without needing a physical key.

These smart upgrades are relatively inexpensive. The basic-tier August smart lock costs $149, while the Nest Learning Thermostat costs $249.

Quick Updates

  • Paint exterior woodwork
  • Repair windows and doors as well as old rainwater goods
  • Update old-fashioned sanitaryware
  • Paint old kitchen units and consider a new worktop
  • Tidy and organise the garden space
  • Repair, paint or re-carpet stairs and broken balustrades
  • Board or convert the loft into useable space
  • Add new light fittings
  • Add roof lights, light pipes or a roof lantern to draw in extra natural light
  • Increase the connection to outside areas through the introduction of folding or sliding doors
  • Re-grout tiles
  • Add storage
  • Change the front door
  • Repaint rooms
  • Replace old floorings, such as threadbare carpets or chipped tiles
  • Tackle damp issues

How To Decide If A Renovation Is Worth The Cost

To ensure you’re making an informed decision:

  • Consider your timeline. “If you’re going to be in the home for 30 years, you can do anything because, at that point, your mortgage is paid off,” Arienti says. Looking to sell soon? Pay closer attention to whether your choices will appeal to a potential buyer.
  • Consult an expert. “Talk to a professional, so you aren’t making misinformed choices that are going to work against you in five to 10 years,” Cunningham says. A designer can help you tell fleeting trends from future classics; a contractor can explain what kind of work a proposed renovation would entail.
  • Compare home features in your area. De Jong suggests looking at comparable homes for sale near you and going to open houses to make sure your improvements align with your neighbourhood’s norms.
  • Get an appraisal. A licensed appraiser can do a feasibility study to estimate your home’s current value and its likely value after the improvements.

If you’re considering a home improvement, it’s helpful to decide if the update or upgrade is something you will enjoy or if you’re trying to increase your home’s value. If a pool is something you would use and enjoy for many years, you may be able to justify the cost, even if you don’t recoup your money. On the other hand, if you plan to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a remodel to boost your home’s sale price, you’d better be sure that money is well spent.

When in doubt, compare features of comparable homes in your neighbourhood, research real estate trends in your area, and consult with experts, including home designers, real estate agents, and contractors, who can help ensure you make a good decision.

Some homeowners are devastated to find out that the improvements they invested in—and perhaps borrowed money for—not only do not improve their property’s value but might detract from it. Fortunately, while most of these enhancements won’t help you turn a more significant profit, they probably won’t hurt, either—and they might make it easier to sell your home by giving the buyer peace of mind. Just don’t confuse buyer peace of mind with a high price tag. 

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