14 Home Improvements That Do Not Add Value

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Could your home benefit from a bit of work? Perhaps the bathroom is outdated, or the yard looks like a jungle. Or maybe, you just want to add your own touches.  Home renovations can be satisfying, but they can also be expensive. You also can’t assume that your renovation project will increase your home’s value. Many home improvements do not add value to your home; others are so expensive that you may only recoup part of your costs when you sell. 

So before embarking on your next home improvement project, take a look at our list of 14 common improvements that won’t increase the value of your home. 


1. Converting Your Garage

The garage is often the go-to renovation choice when you want to add livable space to your home. The existing structure makes this option cheaper when compared to constructing an addition. 

Still, converting your garage is not cheap. The average cost of renovating your garage hits close to $10,000[1].

With the average two-car garage landing at 360 square feet or more[2], it may seem like adding this square footage to your living space would be great for your home’s value. But prospective home buyers might disagree. 

Garages, and the storage space they offer, are among the top features homebuyers are looking for[3]. So converting your garage might actually hurt your home’s value, not improve it.


2. Installing Solar Panels

There has been a recent push to go solar, with incentives such as tax deductions, energy credits, cash rebates, and more. 

But solar technology is still relatively new, which makes the panels and installation pricey. As of 2022, the average cost to install solar panels is $20k after you factor in the federal solar tax credit[4]

If you can afford to purchase the panels outright, they can add value, but as solar technology continues to innovate, those panels will become outdated. And the homebuyer may not want to hassle with the leaks and other issues that can arise with solar panels. 

Worse yet, if you resort to a lease program for the panels, you are sticking the buyer with an extra bill they may not want instead of adding value to your home. 


3. Luxury Upgrades

Upgrading your home with luxury items is fine, just don’t expect a future buyer to put the same value on the upgrades as you do. 

Here’s a cost comparison. This beautiful marble tile currently sells for $279 per 10 sq ft. So to remodel a 200 sq ft. kitchen with this flooring would cost $5580 for the tile and another $5k for installation. 

Alternatively, you could use a cheaper marble-style ceramic tile for closer to $380 plus installation. 

Is the buyer going to love the marble tile over the ceramic tile? Maybe. 

Is the buyer going to pay you an extra $10,000+ for your home because of the marble tile? Probably not. 

And it’s even worse if you only update one room with luxury upgrades. 

For instance, if you go with the luxury renovation of your kitchen, but your guest bath is outdated, this may put off the buyer. Your luxury kitchen renovation has only succeeded in highlighting the other problem areas in your house. 


4. Adding Onto Your Home (Overbuilding)

When you look at the selling prices for homes, it is evident that the more living space you have, the higher the home’s value. So it may seem like a no-brainer to construct an addition to your house. 

More space equals more money, right? Not necessarily.

Look at the other homes in your area. What are their sizes, room counts, etc.? For example, if the average home in your area is 3 bed 2 bath, trying to upgrade your home to a 5 bed 3 bath might make it harder to sell. 

Another downside to additions is that they cannibalize spaces like the garage, yard, etc. The absence of this space might be a deal-breaker for many buyers. 


5. Renovating Your Attic or Basement

Renovating or finishing out an attic or basement can be a great way to add livable space to your home. It can also be a costly project. 

These spaces often need a lot of work to bring them up to code as livable spaces. This includes extensive electrical work, ventilation, insulation, etc., not to mention the drywall, flooring, paint, cabinets, etc. 

The average cost to renovate attic land at $80,000[5]. But the recoup cost is closer to $45,000. This means you are eating $35,000 in costs when you sell your home. 


6. Replacing Windows and Doors

When you are looking to save money on energy costs, replacing your windows and/or doors with energy-efficient products can be a great move. 

According to Energy Star, switching from single pane windows to Energy Star-certified windows can save you as much as $583 a year on your utility bills[6]

This will be a great selling point for your home, but don’t expect to recoup your entire cost of installation and materials from the buyer. 

Instead, it might be better to view this upgrade in terms of how much it will save you on your utility bills rather than how much it will impact your sell price. 


7. Personalized Landscaping

Curb appeal is critical when selling a home. Nobody likes a house with dead grass and a rotten tree stump in the backyard. 

But a little goes a long way. Planting some greenery, even specific trees, replacing broken paving stones, staining the deck, etc., can be great ways to add value to your home without too much investment.

But more elaborate landscaping adventures will diminish your potential return on investment (ROI). 

For instance, a professionally landscaped garden might cost $4000 plus an extra $3000 a year in maintenance[7]

So while the increased curb appeal will help your home’s sell price, you won’t be able to recoup the years of maintenance costs. 

Additionally, your immaculate garden may alienate buyers that don’t have the time, skill, or money to maintain it. 

Or, if you go the opposite route with easy to maintain hardscape, you may alienate potential buyers with a dog or young children.


8. Adding a Media Room/Home Theatre

A media room/home theatre is usually equipped with surround sound, plush carpets, raised seating, a big screen, and all the other amenities you might want. 

But the price of building a home theatre is much higher than the cost of a movie ticket. Depending on the size of your space and the amenities you want, you could be looking at a few thousand dollars or upwards of $30k. 

This article by Thumbtack breaks down the costs associated with different home theatre systems.

Will this addition add to the value of your home? There’s no telling. Appraisers often just view the room as a livable space, and most potential homebuyers are not specifically looking for a media room. 

I personally bought a house where the previous owner renovated the dining room into a media room, even though they already had an oversized living room. Plush carpet, surround sound, and all sorts of media outlets were installed. 

The first thing I did when I moved in was rip up that carpet and tear down the speakers. The room had zero value to me as a home theatre. 


9. Adding a Sunroom

This can be a great way to bring a little of the outdoors into your home, but it won’t come cheaply. 

The average sunroom addition will set you back around $30,000 depending on the type of sunroom you want (i.e., solarium vs. traditional sunroom)[8]

The return on investment for this project is pretty low. You’ll be lucky to recoup even half your costs when you sell. This is partly because this space is not considered “livable” and therefore is not considered part of your home’s square footage. 

Alternatives with a better ROI include building a deck or adding a screened porch.


10. Renovations that Sacrifice Space

Most renovations involve reworking an existing space unless you add a new section to your house. If your planned renovation does involve cannibalizing space, you may be hurting your home’s resell value. 

For instance, if you want a bigger master bath, you may need to sacrifice closet space, and as we already know, storage space is important to buyers.

Or, if you want to expand a bedroom, you may have to sacrifice space in an adjoining bedroom. This could result in 2 bedrooms becoming 1 bedroom and an office. Losing this bedroom is likely to have a negative impact on your home’s value. 


11. Swimming Pool

Adding a pool to your home can cost anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000, depending on the size and materials used[9]

Likewise, the value of adding a pool will be dependent on your individual market. The more warm weather your location has, the more valuable the pool. It’s worth noting that pools saw increased ROI during the Covid pandemic (as did home offices).

But there are other costs associated with owning a pool, such as higher utility bills (water & electric) and cleaning costs. The average yearly cost of owning a pool can be as high as $5000[10].

And, if your pool is not in immaculate condition when you sell, the costs to repair it will make a serious dent in your budget. 


12. Expensive Repairs & Invisible Upgrades

Repairs are a pain and can often be a blow to your wallet. For example, a new HVAC unit will cost you around $7000[11], and changing out your water heater can easily hit the $3000 mark[12]

And while having these recently installed/upgraded items is a good selling point, it might not result in a higher resell value. This is because buyers just expect these crucial systems to work.

But, if you put off the repairs and these systems aren’t functional, you can bet on the value of your home going way down. 

Similarly, invisible upgrades are also unlikely to get noticed. This includes updating your electrical panel, adding insulation to the attic, or replacing worn-out pipes. Worse yet, these upgrades are pricey, and the only ROI you’ll see is a decrease in your utility bills. 


13. DIY Projects

Have you ever watched an episode of Renovation Realities and marveled at the people trying to take on impossible DIY projects with nothing more than a hammer and Google? Yeah, don’t be those people. 

Yes, going DIY will save you a bunch of money on labor costs. But, if you don’t know what you are doing, you could make a mess of things. This can result in pricey and/or dangerous mistakes like code violations or taking out critical support structures. 

And once you find yourself in over your head, you’ll need to hire a professional to undo your mistakes and complete the project correctly. So, you’ll essentially pay twice. 

If you have a small project or are an expert (i.e., master electrician), then by all means, go DIY; otherwise, you’re better off hiring a professional. 


14. Minor Improvements that Won’t Increase the Value of Your Home

There is a whole host of other, smaller renovations that won’t break the bank but still have high costs and even less chance of adding any value to your home. A few examples include: 

  • Installing high-end appliances
  • Putting up wallpaper
  • Making bold paint choices
  • Adding texture to your walls
  • Installing carpet
  • Adding skylights
  • Creating built-ins (i.e., an aquarium)

If you want these, go ahead: it’s your home. Don’t expect the value of your home to increase.

💸 Many homeowners finance renovations with a personal loan or with a home equity loan or HELOC. Be sure to consider finance costs when assessing the cost of the renovation you’re considering.


Should You Make Improvements to Your Home?

Each homeowner wants to put their own stamp on the house they buy. This can be simple decorating choices, a fresh coat of paint, or even major renovations. 

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make some improvements. Renovations should be a way to make your house more livable for you

If you don’t see your current house being your forever home, then renovations need to be considered carefully. You’ll want to keep in mind how the future buyer will value your renovations and avoid home improvements that do not add value. 

If you don’t have plans to sell in the near future and the update is something you really want, something you are more than happy to spend the money on, then go for it. Make your house your home. Just remember that many improvements won’t increase the value of your home.



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