If you're planning to sell your house, you might be tempted to go overboard with updates and upgrades to help you fetch the highest price at the closing table. While some home projects—such as replacing your garage door or doing a minor kitchen remodel—add value to your home, others offer little opportunity to recover the costs when it's time to sell. Here are six upgrades you may think add value to your home, but really don't.

Key Takeaways

  • Some home improvements increase your home's value, but others don't.
  • While you and your family may enjoy a pool, potential homebuyers might view it as a hazard and a hassle to maintain.
  • Overbuilding for the neighborhood can be a mistake: Buyers generally don't want to buy a $500,000 house in a neighborhood where the average sales price is much lower.
  • Invisible improvements like a new HVAC system don't usually increase a home's value.

1. Swimming Pool

You and your family might enjoy a swimming pool, but it's an expensive investment that might not offer any return. According to HomeAdvisor, a pool costs anywhere from about $15,000 to $100,000 or more, depending on the type of pool and where you live. On top of that, you'll spend between $500 and $4,000 per year on maintenance.

In certain situations, a pool can add value to your home, but not necessarily by an amount that makes it worth the cost. HouseLogic estimates that a pool can boost your home's value by up to 7%, but only if:

  • You live in a higher-end neighborhood where pools are the norm
  • The style of the pool fits the neighborhood
  • You live in a warmer climate where you can use the pool year-round
  • The pool doesn't take up the entire yard and you still have space for play or gardening
  • The pool is well-maintained
  • You can attract the right buyer—for instance, families with young children may be concerned about safety issues, but older adults or people without kids may love the idea of a pool

Otherwise, think of a pool as an investment in your lifestyle, but don't expect it to be an investment in your home.

2. Overbuilding for the Neighborhood

At some point, you may need more room but don't want the hassle of moving. Perhaps you need an extra bedroom for your growing family, or a home office now that you're working from home.

Some improvements may unintentionally make your home fall outside the norm for the neighborhood. A large, expensive remodel—like adding a second story with two bedrooms and a full bath—may make the home more appealing. But it won't add significantly to the resale value if the rest of the neighborhood has small, one-story homes.

Here's why. Homebuyers generally don't want to pay $500,000 for a home in a neighborhood where the average sales price is much lower. In general, the price per square foot should align with neighboring homes. Otherwise, your house will seem overpriced, even if it is the largest (or most luxurious) home on the block.

3. Inconsistent High-End Upgrades

Updates and upgrades should be consistent throughout the home. Stainless steel appliances in your kitchen or imported tiles in the entryway could do little to increase the value of your home if the bathrooms still have vinyl floors and the shag carpet dates back to the 1960s.

A home with a beautifully remodeled kitchen might be viewed as a work in progress if the bathrooms haven't been updated. And that means the remodel might not fetch as high a return unless the rest of the home is 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 wouldn't consider paying more for a home simply because of its high-end features. After all, the room might be re-tasked into a more generic living space once the new owners move in.

4. Invisible Improvements

Invisible improvements are pricey projects that you know make your house a better place to live in, but that nobody else will notice or likely care about. You might need a new plumbing system or HVAC unit, but don't expect to recover the 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.

5. Wall-to-wall Carpeting

While real estate listings may still feature new carpeting throughout as a selling point, homebuyers may cringe at the idea of having wall-to-wall carpeting. 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.

Because of these hurdles, you probably won't recoup the cost of new wall-to-wall carpeting (and having carpet as the primary flooring in your home can actually lower its value). It's almost always better to remove the old carpet and restore or install wood floors. That's what most of today's buyers want and even expect, depending on where you live.

6. An Expanded Owner's Suite

A new owner's suite with a luxury bathroom and walk-in closet can be a huge selling point that increases your home's value. But, that's not necessarily the case if the remodel turns your three bedroom home into a two bedroom home—or if you lose some other living space in the process.

In general, the more bedrooms a home has, the higher the price it can fetch. If you take away a bedroom, your home will be priced according to homes in the neighborhood with the same number of bedrooms—even if that owner's suite is huge. Fewer bedrooms also mean fewer potential buyers, which can make it harder to sell your home at the price you want.

The Bottom Line

If you're considering a home improvement, it's helpful to decide if the update or upgrade is something you will enjoy, or if you're just trying to increase your home's value. If a pool is something you would use and enjoy for many years, you may be able to justify the cost, even if you don't recoup your money. On the other hand, if you plan to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a remodel just to boost your home's sale price, you'd better be sure that money is well spent.

When in doubt, compare features of comparable homes in your neighborhood, research real estate trends in your area, and consult with experts, including home designers, real estate agents, and contractors, who can help ensure you make a good decision.