Housing Upgrades That Aren’t Worth It

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR Magazine

When upgrading, home owners often seek features that aren’t only desirable to them but also what will add value to the home when it comes time for resale. Certainly, the annual Cost vs. Value survey can be one of your biggest assets in helping to advise clients. The annual survey by Remodeling Magazine, in conjunction with REALTOR Magazine, reveals specific remodeling projects that offer the biggest returns at resale.

But what is some more general advise to help guide home owners when it comes to upgrades? An article at Bankrate.com from 2008, we feel still offers some practical advice that applies today when determining how to upgrade a house and add value–not lose value. Here are a few general tips from the article about judging housing upgrades for resale that may or may not be worth the expense:

Too high maintenance. Many buyers aren’t looking for homes that require too much upkeep and maintenance (hence, part of the reason behind the small-home, downsizing movement). The article notes in-ground swimming pools as a prime example of a high-maintenance feature that may turnoff many buyers as they look at the upkeep of it as too costly and too much work. (See: Are Pools Worth the Expense?)

Over-the-top. Home owners don’t necessarily want to have the most upgraded home on the block. That’s because when they go to sell it, they likely won’t make all their money back on the upgrades if the home becomes overvalued for the neighborhood. So while granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and all the top finishes are always an attraction, home owners need to ask whether such features are too much for their neighborhood, particularly if the other homes just have moderately priced cabinets or features.

Too personal. Too much customized design choices, such as a Tuscan theme taken to the extreme, may turn off buyers or attract low-ball offers at times of resale because buyers who may have differing tastes see the decor and finishes as something they have to do-over. “Any time you deviate, no matter what the improvement is, from what is a fairly traditional, single-family house, you run the risk of improving in a fashion that will not lend itself to additional dollars,” Miami real estate pro Moe Veissi told Bankrate.com.

Read more tips at Bankrate.com, or share more of your upgrading tips here.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

More Posts - Website

  1. kria

    I just showed a property this weekend that exemplifies this. The seller had spent a lot of money for a lap pool, suana, hot tub room. They also had a dragon toilet… Never seen one of those before. The finishes from room to room did not even mesh with each other. The only peice that the seller was sucessful with in regard to finishes was the colors. The buyers had very mixed responses to it.

  2. It’s true that too much prsonalization can kill a place but a little home staging can go a long way. I viewd a few properties recently that still had the colored tubs and sinks and I thought to myself that if they painted the walls of did a retro theme at least it would look repurposed intstead of outdated. So many Realtors could realy help Banks sell a home with a small $2000 budget for paint and staging. I don’t know why they don’t do it!

  3. Anne Meczywor

    We once had a seller who was thrilled to show us his prized upgrade – An entire wall was turned into a display case for his shot glass collection. Just imagine dusting all those hundreds of little “cubbies”! He could not understand why potential buyers would not be willing to pay an extra $5,000 or so for this marvelous feature.

  4. I always recommend to my customer, know your market, and know what the other homeowners are doing. This helps them stay in line with there renovation projects. For example, if someone lives in a lower end neighborhood, you wouldn’t necessarily have granite tops and floors. When come times for resale, the type of buyers the area attracts, just wont pay for the difference for the upgrade.

  5. @ Ann Meczywor…I thought I had seen it all!