6 Costly Home Upgrades That Can Hurt You In the End

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Amy Covington/Stocksy)

Remodeling your home is a good investment — or so the thinking goes — because any time you improve your home, you’re also adding value to it, value that you will recoup when you sell someday. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. There are many improvements where you’re likely to only recoup a portion of the money you spend in additional home value, and a few that could actually hurt the selling price of your home. Here are some of the worst offenders.

A pool

If you do much reading about real estate you might’ve guessed this would be first on the list. It also kicks off a theme, which is: controversial ‘improvements’ that might seem like a really great idea to one person, but not so great to another — and in fact might even discourage them from buying a particular property altogether. A pool can turn off potential buyers daunted by the prospect of lawsuits or arduous maintenance, particularly in colder climates where a short swimming season makes the hassle less worth it.

Combining bedrooms to make larger spaces

Things like combining two smaller bedrooms to make a master suite, or merging a bedroom into an undersized living space, may seem like a great idea, but removing bedrooms will always hurt the value of your home. For families with kids, or even singles or couples who want a guest bedroom or a home office, the number of bedrooms matters a lot more than their size.

Converting a garage

It is a fact that a lot of people don’t use their garages for their intended purpose, but it is also a fact that a vast majority of homebuyers expect a house to come with a garage. If you plan on converting your garage to a game room or home office, and you also plan on selling your home sometime in the foreseeable future, make it a conversion that’s easily reversible.

Removing a bathtub

I’ve documented plenty of renovations where replacing a bathtub with a walk-in shower dramatically opened up a smaller bathroom. But some buyers, particularly those with families, still really want a tub. The advice I’ve seen is that removing a tub from one bathroom is fine as long as there’s at least one other bathroom in the house that has one. And having a tub may not be as important in markets (like Manhattan) where a majority of buyers don’t have kids.

Lots of wallpaper

Wallpaper may be back ‘in’, but that doesn’t it’s universally loved — and it doesn’t mean that potential homebuyers will necessarily love the paper you pick. A bad paint job can easily be painted over, but removing wallpaper can be a real hassle, and some buyers would just prefer to not bother. If you must have wallpaper, think of it as an indulgence, not an investment — and if you’re only planning on staying for a short time, may we suggest a nice temporary wallpaper?

Wall-to-wall carpet

Once upon a time, new carpet was a big selling point for a property. These days, everyone wants hardwood floors, and carpet (particularly in living spaces) can make a home seem dated. If you’re on a budget, consider engineered hardwoods or laminate instead of the real thing: in my experience, most people can’t tell the difference.

In the end, remember: it’s your house. If you want a pool, and you’ve got the money to build one, great! Enjoy your pool. Or your wallpaper, or whatever. Just don’t count on that money being something you’ll someday get back. And if you don’t plan on staying someplace for a long time, maybe save the pool — and the fancy wallpaper, and the garage turned man cave — for your forever home.

Re-edited from a post originally published 11.11.2017-LS