Every homeowner must pay for routine home maintenance, such as replacing worn-out plumbing components or staining the deck, but some choose to make improvements to increase the home's value. Certain projects, such as adding a well-thought-out family room or other functional space can be a wise investment, as they do add to the value of the home. Others, however, allow little opportunity to recover the costs when it's time to sell.

Even though the current homeowner may greatly appreciate the improvement, a buyer could be unimpressed and unwilling to factor the upgrade into the purchase price. Homeowners need to be careful with how they choose to spend their money if they expect the investment to pay off. Here are six things you think add value to your home, but really don't.

Key Takeaways

  • Some home improvement projects may hamper your ability to resell your property.
  • Potential homebuyers may consider swimming pools a hazard and a hassle to maintain.
  • Overbuilding a home in your neighborhood isn't always a good idea.
  • Extensive landscaping and inconsistent high-end upgrades can hurt you more than they can help.
  • Consider wood flooring over wall-to-wall carpeting.
  • Don't expect invisible improvements like an HVAC system to fetch you a higher price.

Swimming Pool

A swimming pool is certainly a great thing to have in your home or backyard. Not only does it give you and your family a place to laze around during those hot summer days, but you're also giving them a great way to exercise. And don't forget, you'll probably be the most popular family on the street.

But owning a pool can be a hassle. First, there's the cost. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost for installing a pool is $27,689. And don't forget maintenance, which can run you as high as $4,000 every year. That's a significant amount of money homeowners may never recoup if and when the house is sold. Put one in for your own pleasure, perhaps, but know that it could cost you when you sell your home.

Depending on the circumstances, a pool may only boost your resale value by a maximum of 7%.

Many potential homebuyers view swimming pools as dangerous, expensive to maintain, and a lawsuit waiting to happen. Families with young children who love the rest of your home may turn it down because of the pool out of fear their child may wander in unsupervised. Some would-be buyers' offers may be contingent on the home seller dismantling an above-ground pool or filling it in if it's in-ground. The one exception could be if having a pool is standard in your neighborhood, as it can be in warm states such as California, Arizona, Florida, and Hawaii.

Overbuilding for the Neighborhood

There may come a time when you need more room but don't want the hassle of moving. Perhaps you need an extra bedroom for your in-laws or for the new addition. Or you may need a new office and just don't have the room elsewhere. So what do you do? You could build on your current home.

Some improvements may unintentionally make the home fall outside the norm for the neighborhood. While a large, expensive remodel—like adding a second story with two bedrooms and a full bath—may make the home more appealing, it will not add significantly to the resale value if the house is part of a neighborhood with small, one-story homes. Although it may seem like a good idea, take some time to think about making an extension to the current structure of your home.

Homebuyers generally don't want to pay $250,000 for a property in a neighborhood with average sales prices of $150,000. After all, it will seem overpriced even if it is more desirable than the surrounding properties. The buyer may choose to spend the $250,000 in a $250,000 neighborhood. Although it may be beautiful, you may not be able to recover any money spent on overbuilding—unless the other homes in the neighborhood follow suit. If your area is in the midst of a gentrifying burst of teardowns and rebuilds, then an extensive remodel might be worth it.

Extensive Landscaping

Homebuyers may appreciate well-maintained or mature landscaping, but don't expect the home's value to increase because of it. A beautiful yard may add curb appeal and encourage potential buyers to take a closer look at the property, but it probably won't add to the selling price.

If a buyer is unable or unwilling to put in the effort to maintain a garden, it will quickly become an eyesore, or the new homeowner may need to pay a gardener to take charge. Either way, many buyers view elaborate landscaping as a burden and, as a result, are not likely to consider it when placing value on the home.

Inconsistent High-End Upgrades

Upgrades should be consistent with maintaining a similar style and quality throughout the home. Putting stainless steel appliances in your kitchen or imported tiles in the entryway may do little to increase the value of your home if the bathrooms still have vinyl floors and the shag carpeting in the bedrooms dates back to the 1960s.

A home with a beautifully remodeled, modern kitchen can be viewed as a work in progress if the bathrooms remain functionally obsolete. The remodel, therefore, might not fetch as high a return unless the rest of the home was brought up to the same level. High-quality upgrades generally increase the value of high-end homes, but not necessarily in mid-range houses where the upgrade may be inconsistent with the rest of the home.

Specific high-end features such as media rooms with specialized audio, visual, or gaming equipment may be appealing to a few prospective buyers, but many potential homebuyers would not consider paying more for the home simply because of this additional feature. Chances are that the room would be re-tasked to a more generic living space.

Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

While real estate listings may still feature new carpeting throughout as a selling point, potential homebuyers may cringe at the idea of having wall-to-wall carpeting. Carpeting is expensive to purchase and install. More people are turning away from carpeting because of the chemicals used to process it, not to mention its potential for trapping allergens—a serious concern for families with children. Add to that the probability that the style and color you thought was absolutely perfect might not be what someone else had in mind.

Because of these hurdles, it's difficult to recoup the cost of new wall-to-wall carpeting. Removing the carpet and restoring or even installing wood floors is usually a more profitable investment. 

Invisible Improvements

Invisible improvements are costly projects that you know make your house a better place to live in, but that nobody else would notice or likely care about. A new plumbing system or HVAC unit may be necessary, but don't expect it to recover these costs when it comes time to sell.

Many home buyers expect these systems to be in good working order and will not pay extra just because you recently installed a new heater. It may be better to think of these improvements as part of regular maintenance, rather than an investment in your home's value.

The Bottom Line

It is difficult to imagine spending thousands of dollars on a home improvement project that will not be reflected in the home's value when it comes time to sell. There is no simple way to determine which projects will garner the highest return or the most bang for your buck. Some of this depends on the local market and even the age and style of the house.

Homeowners must frequently choose between an improvement they would really love to have—such as the in-ground swimming pool—and one that would prove to be a better investment. Some research or the advice of a qualified real estate professional can help homeowners avoid costly projects that don't really add value to a home.