Six Worst Home Renovations That Will Not Get One Penny More Out of Your Home When You Sell

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There is one phrase we are hearing a lot less of these days: “We’ll get it back when we sell the house.”

Used to be, you could sink money into your home almost endlessly and rest assured it would come back to you, maybe even at a profit, when you sold. Buyers often have little vision to see how great a home can look, how it can change with new paint or minor renovation. So many agents advise sellers to have homes looking perfect, as if they were ready for a shelter magazine photo shoot. Perfect walls, floors, everything. Many sellers think they can create the rooms of their dreams and recoup the cost upon selling.

But there is increasing evidence that, these days, unless you keep those projects practical, you might be throwing good money down the toilet. According to Remodeling Magazine a solid front door is good while a tricked out master suite is bad: you won’t get 100% of your money out.

Is this true?

Each year, Remodeling magazine looks at the hottest home upgrades and renovations and then calculates just how much owners get back with they sell.

Not surprising that upkeep is more popular than upgrades these days, according to Remodeling’s Sal Alfano, editorial director. But prices and returns do vary regionally, he says, so what brings in more buyers in say Phoenix (um, weed?) may not be a must-have for the Dallas buyer.

Fr example, I think we are all about outdoor kitchens. I thought that would be a given in northern California, but it is not. Maybe that’s the “southern” touch in Dallas. But Cali buyers are much more into Feng Sui.

So what brings the lowest return when you sell? High-dollar, high-end and highly personalized add-ons that make you drool except — would you put your money there? A super luxe master suite addition — we’re not talking just bathroom and marble, we are talking sitting room with Yoga floor, coffee and wet bar: $232,062 to put it, you get out 52.7%. A sunroom averages about $75,224 to put in but do not count on getting more than 48% of that back. (I would think you’d do better with a sunroom in the north, not the south.)  An extra bathroom costs about $40,000 to put it — I always figure $50,000 when I look at homes because I like nice plumbing, but the experts say you only get 53 cents on the dollar back.

I disagree: give me a home in Midway Hollow with two bathrooms and you are pulling a higher sales price than a one-bedroom bungalow. 

Back up generators are great to play up the “safe from doomsday” scenario, but they cost about $15,000 to install and you’ll only net 48.5%.

Home office: I find this surprising, too. It costs about $28,000 for the average home office addition or finish out, and experts say they net only 45% of that. Of course, does anyone count in the deduction for the home office?

Then there’s the garage. I’m sorry, but I love a showplace garage. I have artwork in mine. Why oh why should you come into the same spot day after day to see ugly chaos? Super Dallas builder Cy Barcus got me thinking this way when I wrote about his personal home — his garage is pristine and beautiful, loaded with so much art it looks like a gallery. Oh and the doors are glass.

But the fancy-pants garage costs $90,053 and you get back 53.6%. That’s even better than a bathroom!

To summarize, the six improvements that rank dead last nationally when it comes to getting the dollars back at resale: home office remodel, back-up power generator (“doomsday is coming”), tricked out master bedroom suite, sunroom, a bathroom addition (I totally disagree) and fancy-pants garage with rubberized floors, car wash stalls, and antique gas tanks.

You know what other room I think we cannot live without in Dallas? The laundry room.

What do you think?

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Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Catherine says

    What a great post! And I completely agree with you about a laundry room — I think it is a must! We are currently doing laundry in our garage and we are definitely ready to add on. Do you have any stats on costs and return on investment for a laundry room? We have reached out to a contractor, but would love to be armed with an idea of cost before getting a bid.
    Thank you!

  2. Catherine says

    What a great post! And I completely agree with you about a laundry room — I think it is a must! We are currently doing laundry in our garage and we are definitely ready to add on. Do you have any stats on costs and return on investment for a laundry room? We have reached out to a contractor, but would love to be armed with an idea of cost before getting a bid.
    Thank you!

  3. Julia says

    So if these are the worst, what's your opinion on the best? We're in the middle of a kitchen remodel and it feels like we're bleeding money. Reassure me!

  4. Julia says

    So if these are the worst, what's your opinion on the best? We're in the middle of a kitchen remodel and it feels like we're bleeding money. Reassure me!

  5. mary says

    interesting post! I totally disagree about adding on a bathroom as you do– I think one and two bathroom houses loose out on sales price because of the bathroom problem.

  6. mary says

    interesting post! I totally disagree about adding on a bathroom as you do– I think one and two bathroom houses loose out on sales price because of the bathroom problem.

  7. Kimberly says

    I totally agree with you on the bathroom as well. We bought a crooked little 2-2 in the M Streets. The master bath was clearly an add-on and we would not have bought the house without it! Maybe if you already have three or four bathrooms, adding another isn't entirely worthwhile. However, when you only have one or two (very common in the M Street originals), I can't imagine adding another isn't going to give you more traffic and a bump in sale price!

  8. Kimberly says

    I totally agree with you on the bathroom as well. We bought a crooked little 2-2 in the M Streets. The master bath was clearly an add-on and we would not have bought the house without it! Maybe if you already have three or four bathrooms, adding another isn't entirely worthwhile. However, when you only have one or two (very common in the M Street originals), I can't imagine adding another isn't going to give you more traffic and a bump in sale price!

  9. Chuck Fleischer says

    For today, it's your house. To get anything close to you money back the next owner needs to be able to see it as their house. Keep it tasteful , and then decorate with your furniture, art, rugs, etc. so that when vacant the next owner can see both tasteful and opportunity to personalize.

  10. Chuck Fleischer says

    For today, it's your house. To get anything close to you money back the next owner needs to be able to see it as their house. Keep it tasteful , and then decorate with your furniture, art, rugs, etc. so that when vacant the next owner can see both tasteful and opportunity to personalize.

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