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32 Home Upgrades That Are a Huge Waste of Money

Updated: Feb. 13, 2023

Home upgrades come in different shapes and sizes. Converting an extra bedroom into a home office may be just as satisfying as installing motion sensor lights, but neither one adds significant value to your home. If you want to add real resale value to your home, don't waste your money doing these.

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Not all home upgrades are worth it

It could be a great idea to upgrade certain aspects of your home, just make sure you’re choosing the upgrades that are worth the investment. Click on to see the home upgrades that are a huge waste of money.

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Improving too much

One of the first resources realtors use to determine the value of your home is the neighborhood you live in and the homes in it. “If you improve your home too much, in any area, you may price your home outside of the neighborhood you live in,” warns Ryan Fitzgerald, owner/broker of Uphomes. A large or expensive remodel that doesn’t make sense in your neighborhood won’t match up with the price per square foot with neighboring homes. “You may find you’re priced well outside the neighborhood price range,” says Fitzgerald.

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Design and fixtures

A farmhouse style kitchen tricked out with fixtures, shiplap, and subway tile may be your design dream come true, but if the rest of the house has gold fixtures and shag carpet, it’s a home upgrade that doesn’t add value. “If you go from modern brushed nickel fixtures in one room and then walk into a room full of gold fixtures, your home is going to feel inconsistent to the buyers. Keep your fixtures and designs consistent,” suggests Fitzgerald.

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Upgraded home maintenance

Replacing an HVAC system, water heater, or roof can be standard home upgrades for most homeowners, but with regard to resale, don’t get too excited about regaining much of your investment. “Buyers will view these improvements as necessary for the home to function properly and assume the reason you made the purchase is that you received full use of the old one,” says Fitzgerald.

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Upscale deck

All those weekend trips to Home Depot buying woods, nails, and stain for your DIY home upgrade produced an expansive deck to be envied —just don’t expect to recoup the cost of a composite or upscale deck, because the market isn’t demanding it, warns Fitzgerald. Don’t worry, you could make worse mistakes like these stupid things people have done to their homes.

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Extensive landscaping

A beautifully landscaped yard is pretty to look at but don’t expect a lot of green to come back your way. “If you’re paying for extensive landscaping such as fountains, or rock walls, don’t expect buyers to pay for it,” says Fitzgerald. You may enjoy hours toiling in the soil and tending to your koi fish but potential buyers see a lot weeding, watering, and maintenance.

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Swimming pools

“One of the biggest misconceptions in real estate is that by adding a pool your home’s value will increase,” says Fitzgerald. In-ground pools and above-ground pools are expensive and require time and money to maintain and insure, not to mention additional safety measures to consider if you have young children. “If you’re going to add a pool do it for pleasure, not for resale value. Many folks will never recoup the cost of the pool when they sell their home,” Fitzgerald says.

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DIY project fails

“You may think you’re saving money by doing projects yourself instead of paying a professional to do it, but not when it comes time to sell,” cautions Fitzgerald. Buyers scrutinize the small stuff. “One of the first things buyers notice is the craftsmanship, especially if things aren’t done correctly. The few bucks you might save doing it yourself may end up costing you thousands in the sale,” says Fitzgerald. These epic DIY home improvement fails will make you cringe.

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Sun rooms

“A sun room addition may seem like a beautiful investment into your home, but proceed with caution,” warns Mary Ann Graboyes, a real estate agent with Weichert Realtors® Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. It does provide that coveted square footage everyone wants but your taxes may increase. Plus, a sun room can take away from yard space, which may be a negative thing for some buyers.

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Murals and wallpaper

Painting murals or adding some wallpaper to a dull wall may seem like a cheap home upgrade, but it’a not the best way to invest your money according to Graboyes. Removing wallpaper or painting over murals can be expensive and difficult. Potential buyers often have a hard time seeing past them. Here’s how to create a stunning color scheme in your home.

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Back-up generator

Unless you’re in a rural area or a location that experiences power outages, a back-up generator isn’t going to wow the socks off home buyers. Graboyes says this home upgrade is pricey and but doesn’t generate a lot of cash for the $10,000 to $20,000 investment you make.

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Specialty built-ins

Built-in fish aquariums and hot tubs are unique items that may deliver personal joy, but they also require a lot of maintenance and may not tickle a buyer’s fancy. “More often in real estate transactions, a specialty built-in becomes a hindrance to the sales opportunity,” says Graboyes. These are the decorating tricks interior designers won’t tell you for free.

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Garage or gym?

Your commitment to fitness is stellar but converting your garage into a gym is more an exercise of sweat equity than home upgrade value. “Most buyers want their garage available for cars, not gym equipment. Before finishing a garage with gym equipment, flooring, and electric, plumbing, and heating, take your gym to the attic or basement,” advises Graboyes.

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Personal and custom renovations

Your home should reflect who you are, but if you’re not going to live there forever and plan to sell it someday, steer clear of personal and custom renovations, like a yoga and meditation studio or a wine cellar. “Buyers are looking at the home as their own and they do not want to have to do more renovations. Keep your renovations clean and simple,” recommends Justin Krzyston, contractor, designer, and owner of Stonehurst Construction.

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High-end upgrades

Sauna, steam showers, and heated floors and towel bars are creature comforts we love, but usually, it’s money down the drain for these home upgrades. “Unfortunately they won’t bring back money when you go to sell your home. These upgrades are costly and a little too personal to the current homeowner,” says Krzyston. Don’t worry, there are cheaper home repairs that anyone can do.

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Over the top tech

Expensive sound systems, high-end pool lights, or showy DIY home upgrades like LED shower heads and toilets aren’t likely to add any real value to your home. “They are fun upgrades, but they are so costly to install and won’t add a significant resale value,” says Krzyston.

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Wall-to-wall carpeting

“Instead of installing brand new wall-to-wall carpeting before you sell your home, just spend the money to get it cleaned,” suggests Krzyston. Even luxurious blends could be seen as a deterrent to home buyers because of allergies or high maintenance. “Chances are that the buyer doesn’t want carpeting or they don’t like your choice of carpet, so let them choose what they want and they can spend the money to install carpeting,” says Krzyston.

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Fireplace mantles

A favorite of cheap DIY home upgrades but won’t fire-up the value of your home. “Homeowners shouldn’t spend money on renovating their mantles or adding built-in bookshelves on the sides of their fireplace. Instead, make sure they get their fireplace inspected. Cracks in the fireplace can scare buyers away, so make sure the inside of the fireplace is seller ready,” says Krzyston. Find out which 13 home improvement projects practically pay for themselves.

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Front door

First impressions are everything but spending money on a new door, hardware, and a fancy facade doesn’t open the door to more cash coming in. “Spend a little extra cash to power wash the front stoop. Power washing will clean things up quickly and it is far less money than building a new porch,” suggest Krzyston.

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Master bedroom addition

If you live in an older home that was built before the advent of master suites, you may be tempted to add value by building a master bedroom to compete with other homes for sale. It’s an extensive home upgrade that will be costly. “Simply put, it’s a waste of money. It’s likely going to cost you much more than you realize when you could sell your home, buy a new one, and spend much less!” says Fitzgerald.

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Converting an extra bedroom into a home office

“This is one surefire way not to recoup the money you spend on renovations, especially if you are taking the home down to two or three bedrooms,” warns Fitzgerald. “That is going to have a serious impact on the buyer pool, and the families who are looking for four bedroom homes won’t even see yours on their search since it doesn’t match their search requirements.”

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Solar panels

We’re all for going green when we can, but solar panels won’t increase the value of your home, according to Fitzgerald. “In fact, most solar panels will deter buyers based on their appearance. Most buyers are not open to sacrificing appearance for saving on monthly expenses,” says Fitzgerald. In some cases, the panels are leased and not owned by the homeowner, another factor to consider. “If you’re going to add solar panels, do it because you intend to live in the home for a long time.”

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Top of the line flooring

“Any flooring, whether it is hardwood or carpet, must be in top condition for a great return on your home upgrade investment,” says Fitzgerald. If you need new flooring, Fitzgerald says to choose something clean, modern and cost-efficient. “This will do the trick in both the online photos and in the showings.”

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Motion sensor lights

Motions sensor lights outside are a desired safety feature, but adding them everywhere inside? Not such a bright idea for added home value. “This is something that is very specific both in design and function and not every homeowner would want motion lights around their home,” says Veronica Sniscak, a realtor and partner at Bob Lucido Team of Keller Williams Integrity.

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Closet upgrades

As much as we try to downsize, custom-made closets with ample storage are still a home upgrade most people would love, but Sniscak says a prospective buyer may not realize the value. “These kinds of closet systems can be costly and I don’t see them increasing the value to the home especially compared to the cost of installing them,” says Sniscak.

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Replacing garage door

The front door and garage are part of that all-important, first impression curb appeal but if your current garage door is functional, adding a new designer one that is quieter or has a keyless entry isn’t going to increase the value of your home, Sniscak says. These inexpensive improvements will make prospective home buyers do a double take.

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Over renovating bathrooms and kitchens

An updated kitchen and bathroom do bring value, but the key is not going over the top when you renovate. “When a homeowner over renovates with top of the line European appliances, granite, marble, and other bell’s and whistles, it doesn’t bring in the value the homeowner would expect,” says Wally Fakhreddine, a realtor with Top Edmonton Real Estate. “What might seem great to some might not be a big deal to others.”

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Over-the-top fencing

Good fences may make good neighbors but home buyers won’t pay extra for over the top fences, Fakhreddine says. Concrete posts, wrought iron fencing, elaborate finials and decorative caps are nice to look at but they won’t give you a big return on your investment. Stay with the basics (white picket, black steel) if you install fencing. But these for 52 things that make your home look expensive are totally worth it.

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Taking rooms away

Is creating a new, roomier bedroom worth sacrificing an existing bedroom? Not a good idea, according to Fakhreddine. “Taking a bedroom away from a home could be a negative when a family with children is looking at your home and they are in need of bedrooms for everyone in the family.”

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Building an out-building

She sheds, barn-style like game rooms, and man-caves in the backyard are fun bonus structures to your home. The good times roll when you’re hanging out with friends or going head-to-head in a fierce game of air hockey. In fact, Steve Frellick, licensed contractor and Founder/Owner of Yonder Vacation Rentals calls these outbuildings a “return on enjoyment” which according to Frellick is immeasurable but unfortunately, loads of enjoyment don’t add up to added home value.

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Changing the electric system

Unless you need to upgrade the electrical system, don’t upgrade do it. “There is no added value during an appraisal and because most buyers do not see the new wiring, they will most likely not be wowed or interested in paying more for this,” says Luis Dominguez, a realtor with Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

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New sheetrock/drywall

It’s difficult to keep the walls in your home pristine—dings, dents, and spills are nearly inevitable—but replacing the entire wall is overkill. “This can cost thousands and literally add zero in value,” says Dominguez. A cheap DIY home upgrade of patching the holes, sanding, and painting is sufficient.

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Interior doors

Solid wood core, six paneled doors are the creme de la creme of interior doors. A house with these matching doors promotes an overall richer look but installing new doors doesn’t open the door to increased value Dominguez says. For a cheap home upgrade, repaint or re-stain the door and change the door handles. You won’t want to miss these other 31 home improvements that double the value of your home.