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5 home improvements that may not pay off when you sell

Lumber is stacked at a Home Depot store in Londonderry, New Hampshire, on July 11. Don’t let your desire to upgrade your home downgrade your home's market value. Before you make a renovation fantasy a reality, consider whether the project will pay off when you're ready to sell. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Lumber is stacked at a Home Depot store in Londonderry, New Hampshire, on July 11. Don’t let your desire to upgrade your home downgrade your home’s market value. Before you make a renovation fantasy a reality, consider whether the project will pay off when you’re ready to sell. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

By KATE WOOD
NerdWallet

You spent the holidays bingeing on HGTV, and now visions of shiplap accent walls and freestanding soaking tubs are dancing through your head.

Don’t let your desire to upgrade your home downgrade your home’s market value. Before you make a renovation fantasy a reality, consider whether your planned project will pay off when you’re ready to sell. Plenty of home improvements add value, but others — like these five — can hurt it.

1. A CHEF-QUALITY KITCHEN

If you love to cook, a high-end kitchen could be the ultimate gift — for you. But if you think a massive overhaul will greatly increase the resale value, you might be in for a surprise. A kitchen renovation recoups just 54% of its cost in added value, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value report.

“If you do marble countertops and high-end appliances, you could spend $100,000, and it doesn’t necessarily mean your house is worth an extra $100,000,” says Beatrice de Jong, a consumer trends expert for Opendoor, a San Francisco-based direct home buyer and seller.

Smaller kitchen improvements could yield a bigger payoff. Chris Arienti, broker and owner of Remax Executive Realty near Boston, suggests keeping modifications reasonable: Think granite rather than marble, and GE instead of Sub-Zero.

2. DIY PAINTING

A bold statement wall can say the wrong thing to buyers if workmanship is questionable. Streaky, chipped or low-quality paint can knock $1,700 off a home’s sale price, according to Opendoor data that looked at home offers made from June 2018 to June 2019.

“A good paint job is not easy,” says Sarah Cunningham, a real estate agent at Ethos Design + Remodel in Boise, Idaho. “It is all in the prep work, and most people don’t want to do the prep work.” Hiring a professional to paint can help ensure a more attractive result.

3. AN EXPANDED MASTER SUITE

Knocking down a wall to have an oversize master bedroom or stealing closet space to build out a spa-style bathroom may sound dreamy. But how about as a selling point? “If you go from five bedrooms to four, and you can make it work, no big deal,” Arienti says. But he cautions that losing a bedroom in a small house could lower the selling price.

As for cutting into closet space, residential building codes don’t mandate that bedrooms have closets. But, Arienti says, “Once you take the closet out of a bedroom, to a buyer, that no longer looks like a bedroom.”

4. PLUSH WALL-TO-WALL CARPETING

Carpet can be especially unattractive to first-time home buyers, who may be used to landlords changing carpet between renters, de Jong says.

“In general, people are grossed out by (carpeting). It can make a room look a little bit dated.”

It can also ding your sale price. Carpet as the primary flooring in a house drops the value by $3,900 — and carpeting in the master bedroom will lead to a $3,800 plunge, according to Opendoor. Conversely, a 2019 report from the National Association of Realtors estimated that sellers could recoup the entire cost of refinishing hardwood floors. New wood flooring could actually add value, and sellers could get $1.06 for every dollar spent, according to NAR.

5. A SWIMMING POOL

It doesn’t matter if it’s infinity edge or above-ground: Any pool can be seen as a drawback by buyers who don’t want to deal with maintenance or insurance. Even in Florida, a pool doesn’t add value, Liede DeValdivielso, a real estate agent with the Keyes Company in Miami-Dade, said by email. If you’re thinking resale, it’s not worth it — you’ll never recoup the cost, DeValdivielso said. But if you’ll use it and enjoy it, put in a pool.

HOW TO DECIDE IF A RENOVATION IS WORTH THE COST

To ensure you’re making an informed decision:

CONSIDER YOUR TIMELINE. “If you’re going to be in the home for 30 years, you can do anything, because at that point, your mortgage is paid off,” Arienti says. Looking to sell in the near future? Pay close attention to whether your choices will appeal to a buyer.

CONSULT AN EXPERT. “Talk to a professional so you aren’t making misinformed choices that are going to work against you in five to 10 years,” Cunningham says. A designer can help you tell fleeting trends from future classics; a contractor can explain what kind of work a proposed renovation would entail.

LOOK AT HOME FEATURES IN YOUR AREA. De Jong suggests looking at comparable homes for sale near you and going to open houses to make sure your improvements align with what’s normal for your neighborhood.

GET AN APPRAISAL. A licensed appraiser can do a study to estimate your home’s current value and its likely value after the improvements.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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