10 Home Improvements to Avoid if You’re Planning to Sell

Some home improvement projects may not recoup the money you put into them.
Last updated June 2, 2022 | By Jenny Cohen | Edited By Chris Kissell
young builder makes a plasterboard ceiling

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

With the housing market still hot, some homeowners might think that it’s a good time to sell and possibly make a profit on their real estate investment.

But before you make changes to get your house market-ready, take a step back and decide if that new project is really worth taking on.

Here are some home improvements you may want to avoid if you’re planning to put up the “For Sale” sign in your yard soon.

Remodeling the kitchen

ungvar/Adobe custom kitchen cabinets in various stages of installation

A kitchen renovation can be a costly and time-consuming project, which is not likely to be among the moves you want to make before home prices fall.

If you are worried that your kitchen may look dated or not high-end enough for buyers, consider cosmetic changes that might not cost as much as a total remodel but will still look good. For example, repaint your cabinets with a light color to make the room brighter or replace your dated window treatments above the sink with something more modern.

Breaking down walls

spatesphoto/Adobe Inspecting the work in a home renovation

Some buyers may prefer a more open-floor plan, but not everyone is looking for that one-room-for-everything kind of space. In fact, some people may prefer to have a separate space for the kids to play. Others may want a room that they can turn into an office if they continue to work from home.

If you want to appeal to those seeking an open-floor plan, invite an interior designer or artist to draw up some potential open-concept options for buyers to look at so they get an idea of what’s possible for their needs.

Cutting back on bedrooms

Mariakray/Adobe big wardrobe with different clothes for dressing room

You might think your small bedroom closet won’t be appealing, but perhaps converting a bedroom into a master closet oasis to attract buyers is not the answer. Home prices can depend on the number of bedrooms you offer, and more often is better.

If you are worried about buyers seeing your overstuffed closets, declutter before showing your home. Packing away extra clothes and shoes is a quick fix to make the closet space look more inviting.

Redesigning the living room

New Africa/Adobe elegant living room interior with comfortable sofa

Bright pops of color and modern graphic wallpaper have become more popular in recent years. However, the time to experiment with color is not right before you put your house on the market.

Instead, you might want to go for simple home improvements that can increase your home’s value, such as giving the walls a fresh coat of neutral-colored paint so they will appeal to a wide variety of buyers.

Remodeling the bathroom

Jo Ann Snover/Adobe Wet room tiling in progress

If you’re about to put your home on sale, it might be too late to be worried about how your bathroom will look when a buyer walks through. A bathroom remodel can be a major project that takes months, and you may not have that amount of time before you list your house for sale.

Also, consider the possible return on investment — or lack thereof — for an expensive bathroom remodel project. According to Remodeling magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report, a midrange bathroom remodel has an average cost of $24,424 but a return on investment average of $14,671, recouping only 60.1% of the cost.

Pro tip: If you decide to take on an expensive project like a new bathroom, look into a home improvement loan to possibly help cover the costs.

Overdoing landscaping

white78/Adobe beautiful landscaping with beautiful plants

Curb appeal is real, and you want your house to make a good first impression when a buyer drives up to the home. So, feel free to freshen up your home’s look with new flowers and plants, and remember to clean up your yard by pulling weeds and adding some additional mulch to flower beds.

On the other hand, you may want to think twice about more expensive investments, such as additional stonework like a walkway or a brick patio to the backyard.

Buying new furniture

Gorodenkoff/Adobe happy young couple moving new couch into the living room

Are you worried about those outdated living room couches and the bed that’s too big for your guest room? Investing in new furniture may not be the best plan of action to fix those issues now.

Instead, consider putting the furniture in storage and asking your real estate agent for recommendations about having someone stage your home. A home stager may have modern options that can work for the space you have at a price that’s cheaper than buying new. You can then take those savings to the home you buy and get furniture that best suits the new space.

Pro tip: If you decide it is the right time to buy furniture, because your existing set is too worn out and may negatively impact the appeal of your home, consider purchasing it with one of these three credit cards that will let you hit pause on interest until nearly 2024.

Converting a loft space

Daniel Jędzura/Adobe attic living room with textile sofa and coffee table

A loft space can be a great place for a sitting area or an office — or it might be wasted space you never really figured out how to handle. Converting it into an extra bedroom may be a good idea in theory because it adds to the number of bedrooms in your home. However, such a project might be easier to imagine than to execute.

Factor in any kind of construction needed to complete the project and remember that there may be building permits that have to be approved as part of the process.

Rewiring lights

Joy Fera/Adobe installing light box

Lighting can make a room look bright and inviting to buyers. But changing and rewiring lighting can be a big added cost you might want to avoid right before putting your home on the market.

Instead of adding extra recessed lights or installing pendant lights in kitchens and bathrooms, think about changing out your current light bulbs for replacements that are brighter and more energy-efficient. That little change can warm up a room while also giving homebuyers a chance to make their own changes when they move in.

Adding a deck

tab62/Adobe deck remodel with new red cedar wooden boards

A deck may be a nice thing to have in your backyard for warm months, but you might not recoup as much of the cost as you had hoped when you sell.

Adding a wood deck costs an average of $16,766, according to Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value Report, but gets a return of $11,038 in resale value. That means you might recoup 65.8% of the deck’s value when you sell.

Bottom line

deagreez/Adobe electronic machine technician

It can be wise to invest some money in your home before you put it on the market. Some small changes can pay big dividends when it is time to sell. But be cautious about where you spend your money and focus on the right projects to get the best return on your investment.

Unison Benefits

  • Co-invest with Unison and unlock the cash in your home
  • Get cash in exchange for a share in your home’s change in value
  • No extra debt, no interest, and no monthly payments
  • Access up to 17.5% of the value of your home

Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.