4 Home Upgrades That Don't Pay

By Amy Bell | October 15, 2009 AAA

If you're getting ready to put your house on the market, you have my condolences. It's no secret that the real estate market is extremely tough right now, particularly for sellers. Because the U.S. housing market is flooded with unsold inventory, homebuyers have countless choices available to them - which gives them all the power. If your home doesn't suit their fancy, they'll simply move along to next house on their mile-long property list. (Read Selling Your Home In A Down Market and Closing A Real Estate Deal In A Down Market for some tips on how to make it easier to sell your house.)
With this in mind, you're probably thinking about making some home upgrades that are certain to attract flocks of admiring buyers. While it's certainly a smart move to make a few improvements, don't overdo it. If you spend stacks of cash on remodeling expenses, you'll probably never recoup your investment - especially in this buyer's market.

So how do you know which upgrades are worth the hassle and which ones aren't? For the most part, real estate experts agree that new kitchen countertops and appliances, bathroom remodels and energy-saving improvements will pay off in the long run. On the other hand, pros point out that these four upgrades aren't worth your time and money.

  1. Over-the-Top Improvements
    Before you invest tons of money into an elaborate full-house renovation project, consider what the competing properties in your neighborhood have to offer. While you want your house to stand out from the competition, you shouldn't make unwarranted upgrades that greatly exceed other properties in the area. Not only will you end up losing money, but you may even scare off potential buyers.

    Look at it this way: Let's say you show up to your nephew's third birthday party wearing a ball gown when all the other guests are wearing jeans and t-shirts. Wouldn't you feel a little out of place? Likewise, if you were to transform your cozy cottage into a luxurious, three-story mansion, it would probably stick out like a sore thumb in your neighborhood of modest ranch-style homes.

    Find out how similarly priced homes in your neighborhood measure up, and make improvements based on your specific marketplace.

  2. Swimming Pools
    This one is a big surprise for many homeowners. Believe it or not, a swimming pool rarely adds value to a home in this day and age. First of all, it usually costs a small fortune to have an in-ground swimming pool installed. Secondly, you're probably not going to recoup your investment. Why? Because many homebuyers view an in-ground swimming pool as a high-maintenance hassle and safety hazard.

    When a homebuyer sees an in-ground pool in your backyard, they may have visions of spending ridiculous amounts of money and time on pool maintenance chores. Plus, buyers with young children often steer clear of homes with pools because of safety concerns. In other words, home buyers are more likely to view your in-ground pool as an inconvenience - not a selling point.

  3. Replacing a Popular Feature
    Before you consider making a major home change, such as converting your garage into a game room, take a look around. If every other home in your neighborhood boasts a two-car garage, you should probably think twice. Do you really want to be the only house in the area with no garage? Most homebuyers would prefer to have a sheltered place to park their car than a room to play ping pong and darts.

  4. Daring Designs
    We all want to design and decorate our home so that it reflects our unique style. However, if you're trying to sell your home, now is not the time to incorporate bold design choices into the décor. For example, if you have lime-green granite countertops, leopard-print wallpaper, lavender carpet and an elaborate mural of chubby cherubs painted on your bedroom ceiling, one look will send home buyers dashing for the door.

    If your home beams with your eclectic tastes, try to tone it down before you plant that "For Sale" sign in the front yard. Tear down the flamingo wallpaper and slap a fresh coat of neutral-colored paint on the walls. Replace the lilac carpet with a standard beige or brown, and get rid of any extremely personal features that would be considered "abnormal" as opposed to "traditional." Homebuyers should be able to imagine themselves living in your home - and that's practically impossible to do if there are mounted deer heads peering down at them from the walls of every room.

Overall, it's good to put some work into your house before you try to sell it, as it can add value and make it more attractive to potential buyers. However, there are some things that will have the buyer running for the door - or will at least not add anything to the house's closing price. Keep these things in mind when you're getting ready to put up that "For Sale"sign. (For more on selling your house, check out Top 4 Things That Determine A Home's Value and Will You Break Even On Your Home?)

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