Top Home Renovation Mistakes to Avoid

December 30, 2020

Home renovations can make a house more enjoyable to live in and increase resale value. Done wrong, they can cause untold headaches. Here are the 4 biggest home renovation mistakes.

Americans are crazy about home renovation and without a doubt, DIY culture has become the norm. With people stuck indoors for most of their day due to COVID, home improvement projects soared in 2020. Three in five American homeowners have taken on home improvement projects since March of 2020 and are spending an average of $6,438.

But just because your home has upcoming improvements, it won’t necessarily lead to more interest from potential buyers or increase the value of your house. Not being strategic about what renovations to make may end up hurting you.

Before starting your home renovation project, consider the ROI

There are certain home renovation projects that could yield a better ROI, or return on investment. Thinking about the ROI will help you tackle the projects that are worth your time and will add value to your house.

For example, these upgrades may give your home more bang for your buck:

  • Attic insulation: On average you will see a 108-116 percent ROI
  • A new garage door: On average you will see a 92 percent ROI
  • Steel entry door: On average you will see a 91 percent ROI

Before you decide what you need to fix, check out what home renovation mistakes you should avoid.

Here are the top mistakes you do not want to make:

1. Focusing only on kitchen and bathrooms

In an outdated home, a kitchen and bathroom remodel can make a big impact.

The average cost of a kitchen removal is around $22,000 and a small-scale remodel for a bathroom will set you back about $10,000.

If you have other rooms and outdoor space to fix, reassess the budget to see how you could include those with the kitchen and bathroom upgrades.

This may mean scaling back on high-end materials or forgoing the desire to go all out in the kitchen and bathrooms. Home experts don’t recommend doing major kitchen or bathroom remodels, as it may not get you the most bang for your buck.

A basic home maintenance project such as new siding could potentially be a better investment, for example.

Sundae tip: When doing any renovations, compare similar homes in your area and what their kitchens and bathrooms look like. If homes in your area are using granite countertops instead of a more high-end marble, for example, just go with granite and call it a day.

Related: Home Maintenance Guide: Kitchens and Bathrooms

2. Extensive or exotic outdoor landscaping

Waterfalls, a koi pond and a rose garden—these additions will no doubt beautify and wow any buyer, but it won’t necessarily bring you any real value upon resale. It may also backfire and scare potential buyers because they won’t want to maintain the upkeep.

Keep the landscaping minimal, and go with the local climate to help dictate what kind of landscaping you decide to go with. In Arizona, for example, it wouldn’t make sense to have a sprawling lawn that requires a lot of watering.

Keep it simple, since the new homeowner may want to change it to their liking after they move in.

See also: The Effect of Landscaping on Property Value

3. Knocking down walls to combine bedrooms

While creating a bigger room from two rooms seems like a good idea, it’s probably not worth the time and effort, especially if you don’t plan on staying in the house for a long time.

Small bedrooms add value to homes—about 15 percent per room, so changing a four bedroom to a three may decrease the value of your house. Conversely, if you wanted to add bedrooms to your home, it could potentially increase the value by about $30,000 to $50,000.

Combining rooms may even reduce the amount of buyers who would have otherwise looked at your house. For example, if a potential buyer happened to be a family with kids that needed more rooms, they may spend time looking at a four-bedroom home vs three.

Instead of knocking down walls, use lighter colors and strategic staging furniture to make the space look larger.

Sundae tip: Keep in mind that most homebuyers today use home listing websites. These sites have filters that let users search homes by number of bathrooms and bedrooms. Maximize the number of prospective buyers you can reach by ensuring your listing has the highest number of bedrooms possible.

Read more: How to Decide on the Best House Size

4. Not budgeting or planning

While there are certain renovation projects to avoid, there are also mistakes in the planning and budget part of going through a home renovation.

The general rule is that home renovation projects usually take longer than expected and are more expensive than originally estimated.

Start your planning process by researching what projects you want to take on and what the potential cost for labor and materials will cost. Then factor in the timeline. Then add on an extra 10 to 20 percent to your estimated budget.

Here are some mistakes that may end up costing you time and money.

  • Not starting with a plan or set budget
  • Not factoring in for mistakes or unforeseen costs after starting a home renovation
  • Taking on too much

Final thoughts

As much as you want to make the kitchen look amazing, if your house needs new gutters and a drainage system because the roof is leaking, a potential buyer won’t be interested. The last thing you want is to find out your improvements did not increase the value of your property.

Talk to real estate agents and contractors to find out which projects make sense and how much it will cost before getting started, and most importantly, put a plan in place.

Also consider:

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Claire Tak

Claire Tak is a writer and content expert with a background in personal finance. She is an advocate for improving financial transparency and literacy through content and education. Claire's work has been featured and syndicated in Bloomberg, MarketWatch, GoBankingRates, and The Motley Fool. When she's not writing, you can find her on a snowboard, watching a movie, or traveling.