Don't waste your money on these 5 popular home renovations
These pricey upgrades might come back to haunt you.
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As a homeowner, you may have a long list of projects you plan to take on. Americans collectively spend $400 billion a year on home remodels to improve functionality and make their living experience more enjoyable, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Remodeling Impact Report.
But while a home reno might come with benefits, it’s easy to go overboard. Some upgrades aren’t worth the time and money involved, especially if you want to recoup some of the cost when you put it back on the market.
To dig up five home renovations that aren't worth their price tags, we consulted the NAR report, Remodeling magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value report, and a few other resources. Here’s what we found.
1. In-ground swimming pool
Picture it: You’re on a giant floaty with a drink in hand and not a care in the world. What you’re probably not picturing is the average price tag on an in-ground pool: usually more than $51,000 to install, and thousands per year to insure and maintain. It’s also a deal-breaker for some buyers, which can make your home harder to sell.
Because of these reasons, most homeowners recoup just 43% of the cost to install a pool, according to a 2018 NAR report. If you think you’ll truly enjoy your outdoor oasis, then installing a pool could be nice—but consider how often you’ll use it and how much time and money you’ll spend to keep it in tip-top shape. Calling in a professional for weekly upkeep can cost between $100 and $150.
If you are going to move forward, make sure you have the right tools. We're fans of this smart device that monitors water temperature and the chemical balance, plus you can order supplies straight from the mobile app. And we also have a few ideas when it comes to figuring out what pool vacuum may be right for you.
(Or, maybe an inflatable pool can give some relief from both heat waves and steep costs.)
2. Wall-to-wall carpeting
Carpets made it to our list of 26 things you touch all the time that are covered in germs. Yuck.
So it may come as no surprise that after paying $1,632 on average to install carpet, it can actually slightly drop the value of a home. And even if your prospective buyer doesn’t mind this type of flooring, they may want to replace it in favor of their preferred type and color.
You might be better off doing something else within your budget—in 2019, that came to an average of $7,560 for Americans making home improvements, per Home Advisor.
If you’re looking to update your flooring style, then your best bet is wood flooring, according to the 2019 NAR report. You stand to recoup the entire cost of your investment and then some, with an ROI of 107%.
Even so, you can still add a plush, colorful accent to your new floors. We've tested those Ruggable products you've seen all over Instagram, and they live up to the hype. Not only are they stain-resistant, they're also machine washable, and you can swap out the design when you're looking for a change in decor.
3. Luxury bedroom suite
Adding a deluxe suite probably sounds dreamy, but you might lose sleep over the price tag. An upscale addition can cost $282,000—more than some homebuyers spend on an entire home—with an ROI of just 50%, according to Remodeling’s report.
You’re probably not planning such an extensive upgrade, which involves installing French doors, a gas fireplace with stone hearth, and a private kitchen, to name just a few features. But even a midrange renovation doesn't get you much bang for your buck.
You could spend a lot less than $100,000 and boost your ROI with a minor bedroom upgrade. Here’s some advice: Don’t take away too much space from another room, and make sure the features would be appealing to prospective homebuyers.
If you have a bathroom—or plan to add one—an easy swap is a brand-new shower head. Our favorite pick, the Hydroluxe is simple to install, maintains great water pressure, and, best of all, won't break the bank.
In your closet, some sleek organization may be in order. We're a fan of this kit from Rubbermaid, which you can customize to fit your needs.
You may even consider upgrading your hangers. While pricier than the other ones we tested, these acrylic hangers not only look great, but the rounded edges don't leave marks in sweaters and shirts.
4. Major kitchen upgrade
According to Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report, a serious kitchen overhaul costs $135,000 and comes with an unsavory ROI of 54%. If you love to cook and consider your kitchen the centerpiece of the home, then this project could be well worth the cost to you.
But others can do better with a minor kitchen upgrade, which is one of the top things prospective buyers look for. This involves replacing worn-out surfaces, finishes, and appliances to boost functionality and livability. This type of project costs around $22,000 and comes with a much higher return of 80%.
We've tested plenty of appliances to point you in the right direction. This counter-depth Frigidaire model doesn't skimp on storage space, while this dishwasher from Bosch tackles tough stains without making a peep.
A sunroom is a space in the home that lets the sun shine through several large windows or a screened-in area. You might consider it a bright spot in your home experience and plan to use it for dining and entertaining. But they’re one of the most expensive home upgrades, costing an average of $30,000 to install, with an ROI less than 50%.
Sunrooms are typically more valuable in warmer climates, such as Florida, where you can use them year-round. If you live in a colder area and the sunroom isn’t insulated, some see it as a waste of space. Consider using the extra square footage by adding an extra bedroom, installing an outdoor deck or updating your kitchen. These projects tend to offer a higher return for the money.
Is the renovation worth the cost?
Before starting any project, ask yourself these questions:
- What are my priorities? If you plan to move within a few years, then you’ll want to recoup some of the value of your renovation. Try to strike a balance between what you want and what would appeal to a homebuyer.
- What’s possible? Talk with an expert who can explain your options and the long-term effects of making those choices. They can also give you some alternative ideas.
- What’s everyone else doing? Making sure your home improvements align with others in your neighborhood can help boost your resale value, if that’s important to you. An expert can help you understand trends in your area, but you can also talk with neighborhood friends or look at local home listings.
- How much will my home be worth? A professional appraiser can help you figure out how much your home is worth now and how the home value might increase after making key improvements.
Generally, you're less likely to recoup your investment the more you spend on a renovation. Basic home maintenance and smart updates, such as replacing the garage door or updating the house siding, will get you the most back. Of course, your ROI slips to 0% if you plan to stay in the home forever.
But you can’t put a price tag on enjoying your home. The NAR’s “joy score” measures the satisfaction homeowners feel after completing a renovation project and enjoying their upgraded home. The joy score in 2019 averaged 9.6 out of 10 across all the projects tracked in the report.
So when looking over your long to-do list, you’ll have to decide whether the benefits outweigh the time and money involved in a home renovation.