Part of the dream of homeownership is the endless possibilities.

During your years of renting, your creative intuition was held back. You couldn’t paint your apartment interior green or do what you really wanted to with your front yard. As a homeowner, you now have nearly unlimited freedom to change everything from the home’s floor plan to the finishes and fixtures on your cabinets and counters.

So if you’ve just got to have that slate flooring or fashionable new carpet, you can remodel to your heart’s content. But beware – not all home improvements are created equal…

One man’s hardwood floor is another man’s shag carpet

That’s why home improvement projects often fail to add value to a home. Sometimes they can even deter buyers or leave them with a bad impression.

If your home improvement caters to a specific taste or provides some kind of luxurious amenity that doesn’t quite fit your area (like installing a gourmet French kitchen in a rough part of downtown), then you could be spending a small fortune to improve your personal quality of life – without really improving the actual value of the home.

Given the proliferation of home improvement ideas and articles now available everywhere online, it’s also hard to find the balance between projects that are cost-effective and also provide a positive return on your investment in the home’s sale price.

For example, if you enjoy swimming and build a top-of-the-line pool with remote lights, waterfalls, and a connecting spa, you may be happy spending six-figures in the process.

Unfortunately, you shouldn’t expect to recoup the total cost of that project when it’s time to sell your home. If you’re fine with a modern, somewhat plain, but not over-the-top pool, you can save thousands in renovation costs without missing out on adding substantial value to your home.

With that in mind, let’s look at the top Do’s and the Don’ts of home renovation, starting with high-priced projects to skip …

Don’t Skip the Kitchen & Office

Home renovation projects often start in the kitchen. They often stop there, too.

It’s the most expensive room in the house to remodel. Upgrading the lighting may require an electrician. Updating the layout will require serious plumbing work. Getting top of the line stainless steel appliances could set you back five figures depending on the bells and whistles you want, and that’s to say nothing about the flooring, new granite countertops, or the cabinetry.

photo-1415226581130-91cb7f52f078While a dream kitchen may be wondering if you’re inclined to spend long hours preparing gourmet meals, the average family is looking for a space that’s simple, and easy to use (and clean).

The average remodel runs about $23,000 for a modest 200 square foot kitchen. That works out to $115 per square foot. In some parts of the country, you can pay less than that for a decent home.

A top of the line kitchen upgrade to the latest and greatest could run over $60,000 if you’re adding an island or other substantial improvements. That’s more than the average American family earns in a year!

Given that a newly remodeled kitchen adds around $15,000 to a home’s value, this feature is just about guaranteed to lose money. And that’s not factoring in all the fast food you’ll be eating on that beautiful granite countertop. Again, if you really want a top of the line kitchen in your home, feel free to create a space that works for you. Just don’t expect a return of your money when it’s time to sell the house.

Likewise, home offices have become more prevalent in recent years. With an increase in telecommuting, a second job, or a need for space to work, spare bedrooms have been converted into home offices.

But, again, that’s not what a buyer’s necessarily looking for. A bedroom that’s been wired for lots of electronic devices and features built-in space may involve substantial costs to restore the space to a plain, simple room.

Estimates are vague since home offices aren’t as prevalent as a kitchen—yet—but the numbers aren’t good. These spaces add little value to a home to prospective buyers, and in some cases may be a turnoff.

Do Give a Good First Impression

A prospective home buyer sees the outside of the home first. That’s true whether they’re looking at photos online or driving through a neighborhood. A good first impression—that critical curb appeal—goes a long way.

That means a crisp, uncluttered yard, ideally a reasonably fresh coat of paint… and the most critical, but overlooked, value-add of all—the front door.

Research indicates that a new door—which you want a buyer thinking of as their future front door—can add as much as $24,000 to a home’s value.

But here’s where that’s a great return. It’s a small project, and likely a do-it-yourself one. And it can be done for less than $500. If you install fancy double-doors with higher quality locks and stained glass, the price could top $2,000. But it’s harder to find a better return on your money when improving your home. Even if you’re not planning on selling, a new door can make the whole home feel fresh and new again.

Doors have, interestingly, also advanced with the times. Old, warping wooden doors should definitely be replaced, either with fiberglass doors with insulated cores or with steel doors. Both are stronger, more resistant to warping, mold, mildew, and discoloration over time compared to wood.

After upgrading the gateway to your proverbial castle, it’s time to look at upgrading the throne room.

The conventional wisdom is that a bathroom upgrade won’t add value to the home’s resale value. For high-end improvements, that’s likely true. After all, it’s a small room. A top of the line bathroom with all new appliances may add only $5,000 or $10,000 to a home’s value… when it could easily cost twice as much to refurbish.

But for a thousand dollars or less, you can make significant improvements by updating the mirror, faucets, caulking, and maximizing counter and storage space. That can take a dated space and make it look respectable. While it may lack the full effect of a complete remodel, most homebuyers aren’t looking for over-the-top extravagance in a bathroom, particularly compared to a room like a kitchen.

So a simple refurbishment can provide a huge return for a small outlay of money… and your time. After all, the best part about these renovations is that you probably won’t need to hire a professional to handle these simple tasks.

Even if you’re not looking to cash out your home and move on, at some point you’re probably going to want to update your digs. Most home changes don’t require major renovations. And a new buyer may want to make their own imprint on the place. Stick with a few simple, easy-to-perform projects, and you can save thousands in costs while still adding value.

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  1. Paul Sian says:


    I have seen the house where the owner upgraded beyond what the local housing prices would support. It has been listed as an FSBO for quite a long time. They were of the opinion this is a diamond in the rough but the buyers did not agree hence sitting for a while. This is good advice to heed.


    1. Seth Williams says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Paul! I think we’ve all stumbled across a house or two like this in our experience in the market. It’s always kind of a sad story to see – but it should serve as a good reminder of how UNwise it is to pay for things that don’t really add value.

  2. Amit Jain says:

    i appreciate your all the idea and suggestions. keep posting like that and share with us all the helpful and informative information.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Glad you liked the post Amit!

  3. Jordan says:

    Very solid tips here! I especially like your example that one’s hardwood floor is another’s shag carpet – can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen add a renovation they personally saw as an improvement rather than standing back and seeing what the house NEEDED.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jordan, glad to hear this stuff resonated with you!

  4. DDR says:

    It is really appreciatable that the blog has budget and useful plans to do a bathroom and kitchen remodeling.

  5. Kitchen Rennovation Contractor DDR says:

    Very useful tips on how to get the job done and also add value to the house at the same time, you make an excellent point, when stating that some buyers may be discouraged from buying the house. Hence, it is important for home owners to plan home remodels strategically.

  6. Jen says:

    This really helps! I feel great I came across to this, now I finally made up my mind on my renovation plans.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Awesome! Glad to hear it Jen!

  7. Bruce says:

    Awesome article. I really enjoy this post, your useful tips help me a lot, I’m going to try them out with my home remodeling project. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Glad to hear it Bruce!

  8. Green Energy Audits says:

    Thanks for the great share! I also like the idea of Home Improvement. The best part I like is this: The reliability and availability of modern energy sources cause people to tend to assume that it will always be accessible. And as for the case of non-renewable energy sources, most people do not know or maybe even refuse to accept that it will eventually run out.

  9. Lindsay White says:

    I agree with you when you say ‘Most home changes don’t require major renovations.’ This is exactly true. The simplest home renovation can actually have a great impact than the expensive home renovations. Focus on simple renovation with greater impact!

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Agreed! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lindsay.

  10. Mike says:

    Great tips here seth, Im gonna try a few of these and i think they will make the home look a lot nice. a lot of people think that you gotta make huge changes during home renovation but every bit helps

    1. Seth Williams says:

      That’s great to hear Mike! Best of luck!

  11. Jasper Taubman says:

    This is very educational content and written well for a change. It’s nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post!

  12. LNWeaver says:

    That’s really impressive that a new door could add as much as $24,000 to a home’s value. I guess curb appeal really matters. I’ve been thinking about getting an ornate door to go with the traditional design I have in mind for my home improvements.

  13. Amy Tang says:

    Great article and very well explained. I believe in professionals so this is a very useful article for everyone. Many thanks for your share.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Thanks for the comment Amy! Glad you enjoyed the article.

  14. Adriana Wilford says:

    I think the biggest problem is ego. Are you attached to a house? Do you really want to make it look amazing? Fine, but if you can’t turn a profit, you will be left with no food on your families table. I understand it can be quite delicate to make that decision. Unfortunatly, passion isn’t everything.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Adriana! Great to hear your perspective on this.

  15. Kenneth Lee says:

    Every homeowner wants to remodel their home in a unique way. The improvement cannot be limited to a particular area. You can undertake repair, maintenance and/or modify a specific room or the entire home. Each room can be transformed in a unique way. According to the quality of work, the remodel price varies. You have to pay more attention to its exterior for eye-catching. When you require this, you are suggested to search for a reputable home contractor for getting the best services on a budget.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kenneth!

  16. Jam Herry says:

    I was great reading this whole article. Keep it up and keep posting.
    Subscription done!

    1. Seth Williams says:

      That’s great to hear! Thanks for subscribing!

  17. Thanks for sharing such a great bathroom renovation. It’s inspired me a lot to renovate my bathroom after a long while. Great work done by you. Thanks a lot for sharing such a great tips!

    1. Glad you got something out of it Emma! Thanks for the comment.

  18. Jack says:

    Thanks for the really good read Seth. You’re article calls to question my motivations to renovate, especially when I believed that I would get a return on the money I put in! I think I’ll follow your tips and do some painting and sprucing up the kerb appeal first before splashing out the mega bucks.

    1. Thanks for reading Jack!

  19. I really liked that you mentioned the importance of giving a good first impression. This will help you and the person you hire to help you with making your house that much nicer. My fiance and I will keep this in mind as we look into getting home renovations.

    1. Thanks Alexandria! Glad to hear you liked it.

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