8 Home Improvements To Avoid

Written by Steven PorrelloSeptember 26th, 20224 minute read

Unnecessary repairs | Trendy upgrades | Expensive installations | How to decide what to fix | FAQs

Investing tons of money in a home you’re going to sell isn’t always a smart financial idea. While some home improvements will give you a good return on investment, many other popular upgrades will cost you more out-of-pocket than the extra value they generate.

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What not to fix when selling a home

👍 Rule of thumb: If your home inspector doesn’t call attention to it, don’t spend money replacing it.

Cracks in driveway or walkways

Hairline cracks in your driveway and uneven walkways often don’t detract from your home’s curb appeal. Repairing a driveway can cost between $800 and $2,600, with little increase in resale value.

🌟 Instead: Make your yard look clean and presentable

Trim shrubs, remove branches that block your windows, mow the lawn, weed the planting beds, clear out yard decorations and toys, and pressure-wash the driveway.

Superficial flaws

Your home will likely have scratched floors, scuffed baseboards, or a few cracked tiles. But unless they're completely wrecked or warped, buyers tend to overlook small cosmetic flaws — often because they’ll redesign the space themselves.

🌟 Instead: Repaint the walls

Often a new coat of paint in a neutral color can make your space feel refreshed and airy. You might also want to improve the lighting in each room. Even a few new light bulbs can give your house a soft, natural-looking glow.

Nonessential electrical or plumbing issues

Contrary to what you might think, buyers aren’t bothered by minor electrical or plumbing problems (so long as the home is still safe). You can note issues such as dead outlets or leaky faucets in your sales disclosure WITHOUT hurting your home sale price.

🌟 Instead: Prioritize electrical and plumbing issues that make your home unsafe, such as exposed wires or leaky pipes

Popular upgrades you should avoid

👍 Rule of thumb: The more you spend on an upgrade — beyond a poor design, of course — the less you'll make back at resale.

Major kitchen renovations

Kitchens are a major selling point, but you don’t have to overdo it. Major kitchen remodeling (with upscale design and top-notch appliances) can cost up to $158K — but you’re likely to recoup only 56% at resale. Not a great investment, especially when you could spend that money on other projects for a higher ROI.

🌟 Instead: Make small upgrades and refreshes

Repaint walls, reface cabinets, replace countertops, or install new floors. A minor kitchen remodel will still cost around $28K, but you could recoup in 71.20% resale value.

Upscale bathrooms

Costly bathroom renovations can be a wasted investment. In general, if remodeling your bathrooms costs more than $40K, you’re likely going to recoup little more than 50% of your costs.

🌟 Instead: Repaint the walls, grout the corners in tiled floors, replace cabinet hardware, and make other minor adjustments bathrooms first

🚰 How much should you spend on a bathroom remodel?

Try to spend less than $27K on your bathroom. The average resale value is around $16K, which means you'll make back about $11K (59% recouped).

Fancy roof or HVAC systems

Home buyers don’t expect a brand-new roof or HVAC system, and they certainly won’t pay more if you’ve replaced perfectly functioning ones. If your home inspector doesn’t call attention to your HVAC or roof, don’t spend money replacing them.

🌟 Instead: Clean your gutters, vents, and ducts

Outside, you'll improve both drainage and your curb appeal. And inside, you'll eliminate odors and musty smells.

What you shouldn’t install before selling a home

👍 Rule of thumb: If it needs constant upkeep, don't assume the next homeowner will want it.

Swimming pools

More often than not, installing a swimming pool before selling your home isn’t a great idea.

While pools can sometimes add extra value, especially in high-end neighborhoods and hot climates, it’s not guaranteed. In fact, they sometimes detract buyers, as not everyone wants to pay for upkeep and insurance on a pool. At the very least, consult your real estate agent before you start installing one.

🌟 Instead: Replace the siding on your house

The cost of siding your house ($18.6K–22K) is usually much less than installing a pool. And the resale value is high ($12.5K–15K, on average).

Deck or patio

While decks aren’t terrible investments — in some areas they can improve your resale value — are expensive and labor-intensive to install. That time and money could be better spent elsewhere.

🌟 Instead: Replace your front door

An enameled steel door is an inexpensive replacement that you can do yourself. For just about $2K, a new door can maximize your curb appeal, boost your resale value, and last a long time.

How do you know what to fix before selling?

Consult a real estate agent. Agents often know which upgrades and repairs are essential and which are unnecessary. Many local agents will know your market well enough to recommend projects that will give your specific home the highest returns.

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Get a home inspection. This can help you identify structural problems that need fixing, such as cracks in the foundation or leaks in your roof. Once you have a report, your agent can help you prioritize repairs that will maximize ROI.

Focus on curb appeal. Even small-scale, low-cost upgrades, such as planting new flowers and renting a pressure washer, can make an average home seem unique.

FAQs

Generally, you should only replace the entire fence if 30% or more is in serious disrepair. Any less than that, and you can replace individual boards or make small fixes.

You should prioritize improvements that fix major structural problems and improve the overall appearance (like yard maintenance and paint interior walls). Minor upgrades to kitchen and bathroom can be helpful, but you don’t have to overspend to get a high ROI.

Yes, you should stage your home. Home staging can make an average space — with all its imperfections — seem fresh and inviting. An expert can help you decide what to focus on.