25 Home “Upgrades” That Are Total Downgrades
Don't sink your hard-earned cash into these projects.
Most homeowners don’t have the luxury of a custom-built home. What they get, instead, is a house or apartment that suits their needs for now—and a whole lot of ideas about how to upgrade it in the future to create the home they’ve always dreamed of. In fact, Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies reports that Americans are on track to spend $341 billion on home renovations in the first quarter of 2019 alone. But paying a huge amount of money to upgrade your home won’t necessarily yield a similarly huge return.
In fact, many of the upgrades homeowners find themselves spending major money on can actually decrease their home’s value when it comes time to sell. So, before you spend your hard-earned cash, read on to discover which supposed upgrades are actually home downgrades in the end.
Adding a second story
Adding a second story to a single-story home may seem like it adds major value, but that’s not always the case when it comes time to sell. “It [adds] square footage to the house, therefore, it must be adding value right? Not necessarily,” says real estate expert Robert Taylor, also known as The Real Estate Solutions Guy.
“When all of the other homes in the neighborhood are 1,400 square feet, and yours is 2,500 square feet, it’s just overbuilt for the neighborhood. As a result, these homes are difficult to sell, especially for the amount the homeowner has invested in the property,” he explains. “When adding square footage, it needs to be in keeping with the neighborhood and not break up the floor plan.”
Putting in high-end kitchen appliances
While a nicely-appointed kitchen may entice buyers, going too high-end with your appliances and fixtures can actually lower your home’s overall value.
Spending tens of thousands of dollars on a Sub-Zero refrigerator, installing a pot filler faucet, wine fridge, and oversized range hood may increase your enjoyment of your kitchen, but the return on investment on upscale kitchens is surprisingly low—just 59.7 percent, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report. “Buyers don’t want anything that’s going to be a major energy drain,” explains Charlotte Guernsey, principal broker at Gate House Realty in Beacon, New York.
Installing wall-to-wall carpet
Wall-to-wall carpet may make your home quieter and help you sidestep the unpleasant feeling of bare feet on a cold floor in the morning, but it’s no longer a selling point for most buyers.
“Stay away from carpet,” says Guernsey. “People don’t like carpet.” She says that when it comes to appealing to the most buyers, hardwood is still king.
A brightly-colored exterior
People want standout homes, but not necessarily ones that stand out from an aesthetic perspective. This is especially true when it comes to exterior paint.
While that pop of color on your home’s siding may appeal to you, you may actually end up tanking your home’s resale value, especially if you opt for yellow. According to a report from Zillow, homes with yellow exteriors sold for $3,408 less on average than their anticipated sale price.
Anything that looks DIY
Even if you consider yourself relatively handy, if you don’t have professional-level construction skills, trying your hand at redoing your floors or installing drywall may end up costing you more money than it saved you on contractor fees.
“One of the first things that stands out to prospective buyers is the quality of workmanship. It’s not uncommon to see homeowners attempt to do updates they don’t have any experience with and it shows in the result,” says Taylor. “If the upgrade looks like it’s a DIY project, a prospective buyer probably is going to think ‘that just has to go.’”
Adding a bathroom
Though it may be nice to have an extra powder room or a master bath, adding one isn’t worth the cost in the long run. That extra bathroom only yields a 58.1 percent ROI when it’s time to sell. And some buyers will be turned off by the square footage you sacrificed to install that soaker tub.
Adding a sunroom
While spending a relaxing summer afternoon reading a book in your sunroom may seem like a nice idea, you’ll only waste money adding one to your existing floor plan. According to Remodeling, the average cost of a sunroom addition as of 2015 was $75,726, but it added just $36,704 in value to a home.
And since sunrooms are frequently unheated, they’re only usable for a few months of the year in most climates to begin with.
Additions that alter a home’s floor plan
Putting an addition on your house can add major value, but only if it’s done the right way. Additions that awkwardly break up an open floor plan or are only accessible through other rooms may make buyers reticent to put in an offer. They may even make your home virtually impossible to sell.
“It’s not uncommon to see additions that can only be accessed by walking through bedrooms to get to the new additions. To the homeowner, it may have made perfect sense, but to a prospective buyer, this is hard to overcome,” says Taylor. “The result can make the home very difficult to sell, and it may become a foreclosure.”
Installing a shed
Avid gardeners may see the installation of a shed as an upgrade to their property, but that doesn’t mean buyers without a green thumb will feel the same.
Outdoor space is a major selling point for many buyers all over the country—and one they’re willing to pay top dollar for. In fact, according to the 2017 Taylor Morrison Consumer Survey, 56 percent of buyers say they’d be willing to sacrifice a larger house for more outdoor space. That means that that massive shed dividing up your yard is a downgrade for them—and an expensive one, too.
Adding tile floors
Beautiful ornate tile floors, especially if they’re original to a period home, can look great. But that doesn’t mean you should include tiling in your renovation budget.
According to Guernsey, any design element that’s niche and hard to clean, like a penny tile floor, can instantly turn buyers off.
Expanding a master suite
A big bedroom may be a draw for some buyers, but if you have to sacrifice closet space to add square footage, step away from the renovation.
Real estate broker Trey McCallie of Urban Toolbox Real Estate says that walk-in closets are “very necessary” for most buyers. Expanding a room’s footprint but losing storage space will make your home less appealing to buyers in the long run.
Adding a freestanding stove
While curling up on your couch on a cold night and enjoying the warmth from your pellet stove may seem like a nice idea, adding a freestanding stove may reduce your home’s overall value. “Things that take up space aren’t worth it,” says Guernsey. “A pellet stove is not worth doing. Every square inch is so important these days.”
Turning the garage into an in-law suite
Converting your garage into a guest suite may seem like an upgrade, but this is a case where having more interior square footage won’t work in your favor. Garages are must-haves for many buyers—so much so that they’re willing to give up other supposed essentials in exchange for that covered parking. In fact, according to Realtor magazine, only 19 percent of homeowners said they’d give up a garage for a home in their preferred school district.
Putting in marble counters
Marble counters are undeniably pricey to install, starting at $40 per square foot. But don’t expect them to earn you extra cash when it comes time to sell your house. “They look great, but they stain and the upkeep is unrealistic—the same with slate, which also scratches,” says Guernsey. “Go with a quartz or a granite instead.”
Installing a pergola
Having an outdoor seating area may be nice, but shelling out thousands on a pergola won’t add value to your home—and it may even turn buyers off.
“Don’t add a pergola thinking it’s going to make you money,” says Guernsey. “If it’s not going to extend your square footage, like a roofed deck, it’s not worth it.”
Installing barn doors
Forget what Joanna Gaines told you: Adding a barn door to your space may actually make it less appealing to future buyers. In addition to their lack of soundproofing, barn doors can also make a home draftier than traditional swing doors. “They end up not being well insulated,” says Guernsey.
Adding a sports court
If you’ve got a sizable property and are under the impression you could dunk on LeBron James, you might consider adding a basketball court to your outdoor space. That said, adding any kind of athletics-specific outdoor area is a poor choice—and one that can cost you tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars when you add the cost of clear-cutting, paving, running electricity, and building the space.
“The square footage it takes up isn’t worth it, and a new buyer will just come in and rip that right out,” says Kevin Lackaff-Gilligan, a realtor at Engel & Völkers Minneapolis. “The more personalized something is, the bigger a turn-off it is to the majority of buyers.”
Painting patterned walls
You may think that polka-dotted powder room is adorable, but that upgraded paint job you paid top dollar for can cost you in the long run. “Stay away from painting with decorative elements,” says Guernsey. “You want to keep it as clean and minimal as possible.”
Adding a swimming pool
“The maintenance cost is a lot. Some people don’t want to look at it, some people don’t want to use it, and people have to be there to make sure there’s not a problem with it,” says Guernsey. “Don’t do it as something you plan on making money off of.”
Installing a metal roof
Forgoing traditional shingles for a standing seam metal roof may add some aesthetic appeal to your home, but that expensive investment probably won’t pay out when you go to sell.
Adding a recording studio
No matter how popular your band is getting or how indistinguishable you think you sound from Adele, that basement recording studio might be the difference between making a sale and having a potential buyer walk away. “If a seller has a recording studio, that’s very specific to the current owner,” says Lackaff-Gilligan. “The resale value is next to nothing.”
Installing fancy chandeliers
That Murano glass chandelier may be the ideal addition to your entryway in your eyes, but the thousands you spent on it won’t be coming back to you when it comes time to sell. “If you have an ornate chandelier in a house, you’re going to turn off some buyers,” says Lackaff-Gilligan. “If you were to go to a dinner party, you’d be impressed by it, but if you were to buy a home, you wouldn’t want it.”
Putting up wallpaper
You may love the look of Scalamandre wallpaper, but the odds that you’ll find many buyers eager to have leaping zebras on their walls are small. “Over-stylizing does not mean more money,” says Julia Segal, business development manager with real estate brokerage firm Bold New York. “A fresh coat of paint… [goes] a long way.”
Installing a fireplace
The addition of a fireplace, even a gas one, means more maintenance for a potential buyer. So while the idea of roasting marshmallows or hanging your stocking on the mantle at Christmas may be charming, the fire hazard, regular chimney cleaning required, and the risk of animals getting trapped just aren’t worth it for most homeowners.
Adding a home office
While having a private office at home might sound like a dream, it’s too niche of an addition to earn much cash from a potential buyer. Having that space designated as an extra bedroom might earn you a sizable sum, but a home office only appeals to a particular subset of buyers. “The more attractive to the mass market, the better when selling a home,” says Lackaff-Gilligan. So, how little will you recoup for that office? According to a report from Money Crashers, a home office has just a 46 percent ROI. And for some upgrades that are worth the money, check out these 40 Genius Ways to Increase Your Home’s Value.
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