Every seller wants their home to stand out from the crowd, which often means partaking in some shiny new improvements before placing it on the market. Sometimes owners go overboard, however, and the repairs become costlier and time-consuming than they’re worth. To help you learn from others’ mistakes, realtor.com gathered actual stories of home sellers who regret the pre-sale renovations they made.
Regret No. 1: Going too trendy
When it comes time to beautify your home, beware of falling for decor fads. For example, one seller’s original lighting fixtures were pretty standard, boring brushed nickel and oil-rubbed bronze, circa the 2000s. Thinking the home needed more of a “wow” factor before placing it on the market, the seller swapped out all of the perfectly serviceable lights for bold Mid-century fixtures that wound up costing about $2,000. While this is great if you’re sure your buyers are going to love that style, the eventual buyers may not. In this case, the buyers made an appointment for the day after closing to replace every single one.
Regret No. 2: Smart house, not so smart of a decision
Living in a house surrounded by technology is not everyone’s cup of tea. One seller decided to make his home high-tech, with the lighting, window shades, and sound system all controlled from via a smartphone. He paid a lot of money for these expensive bells and whistles, but none of the prospective buyers who came in cared. Instead, buyers were all focused on the space itself—and the lack of light and poor views. The eventual buyer turned out to be a person interested in tech and smart homes. But by the time the deal closed, he felt the technology was outdated and therefore wasn’t interested in paying extra for the existing features.
Regret No. 3: Adding a guesthouse
Not every home shopper dreams of bringing in extra income by renting out the guesthouse, and one seller found this out the hard way when he made the rash decision to renovate his detached guesthouse to function as a vacation rental property. Thinking it would add value, he spent about nine weeks—and $3,000—on the project while the property was on the market. He painted the exterior, resurfaced interior floorboards and replaced the stairway. After all that, the eventual buyer ended up demolishing the guesthouse and replacing it with a pool.
Regret No. 4: Rehabbing the roof
Rehabbing a major system in the house—like the roof—might seem like a great idea when it comes to attracting a buyer. But it’s not always worth it. One seller was told by several buying agents that they could sell their house faster if they replaced their roof. Without talking to their own agent, the seller tore off the roof and installed a new one for $11,390. When the project was done, the house sat on the market for months, despite the brand-new shingles. To move the property, the sellers ultimately had to reduce the price by $17,000. Not only did the roof not make a difference in the home sale, but the decision to sink money into the repair led to a total loss of $28,390. Instead, the sellers should have looked at the recently sold houses—not just those that were listed—in their area to determine what to fix or leave alone.
Regret No. 5: Doing it yourself to cut corners
Some home improvements are better left to the pros. That’s one lesson a seller learned when she put her first house up for sale, thinking she was going to easily flip it for a giant profit. Instead, she made all kinds of unneeded improvements that didn’t increase the home’s value. They only narrowed her profit margin. Her biggest mistake was purchasing four “granite-look” painting kits to redo the counters in the kitchen and baths on a budget. It turned out terribly, and the counters all had to be redone, costing thousands of dollars more than she had originally budgeted.
Regret No. 6: Opening Pandora’s box
It’s common to want to complete some home improvements before listing your home, but doing so might plunge you head first into a mess of expensive repairs. One seller, for instance, wanted to renovate his two-family home before putting it on the market. The seller wanted to install new insulation throughout the home, despite the contractor’s warning that gutting the walls could lead to plumbing problems. Sure enough, the difficulties started piling up and the seller had to install a new sprinkler system throughout the entire house to meet new building codes. This ended up costing thousands of dollars, and the seller did not receive a good return on the investment.