Talk about hindsight being 20-20. Before you start demoing walls and buying everything mid-century modern, consider the wisdom of realtors who have seen the renovations homeowners really regret.
Creating a great room
It’s rare to watch an episode of Fixer Upper without seeing the crew tear down walls to create a huge great room. Sure, it’s trendy and the appeal of having an open and spacious living area is tempting, but you may regret it for reasons you didn’t think about, especially if a large island replaces the family dining table. “While the room may be very large, it doesn’t offer many options: It leaves the family with only one room to relax in, any mess is immediately visible and remains that way until tidied, there is no table where you can relax and enjoy a meal, and sometimes you don’t want to hear whatever the kids are watching on TV,” says Michele Morrison, a realtor in the Greater Bay Area of California.
Luxurious spa tub
A free-standing spa tub is a quintessential element in the coveted spa-like bathroom but this renovation may prove to be a renovation washout. They take up a lot of room and are difficult to keep clean and tidy. “These tubs take up a lot of space in the home, I don’t think they’re going to be used much, and, in fact, in California and other drought-prone states, they’re very unlikely to be used at all either now or in the future. Water conservation and large, single-use tubs are not a great combination,” says Morrison.
A bedroom converted to a walk-in closet
You never use the spare bedroom so why not make it into something more useful, like a walk-in closet with a dressing area? Before you get excited about slanted shoe shelving and a valet pole, you may want to consider the lost livable square footage. “It’s wonderful for you and your clothes, but what happens when you decide to sell your home? You lost a bedroom when you created the closet. Your home also lost value, unless you convert the closet back to a bedroom,” says Leneiva Head, real estate broker and owner of Welcome Home Realty.
Customized tile and hardwood designs
You’re drooling over the gorgeous, artsy custom tiles you’ve seen in all the glossy home magazines—and that nautical inlay design on the hardwood floor you saw in the resort would be perfect for your foyer. Hit the pause button on your fantasies. “These can’t be changed as easily as an accessory,” notes Head. “What will you do when the ‘it’ color or design isn’t ‘it’ anymore?” Is this just a passing phase? Or will you still love it years down the road?
Granite and quartz countertops? C’mon. You’d rather embrace something a little hipper like the rustic meets industrial trend of concrete countertops. Head admits it’s her favorite trend in countertops at the moment, but she says, “You can’t just change that baby out when you tire of your glassware suffering a great fall.” Besides broken dishes, concrete surfaces are porous and have to be resealed regularly and they have a tendency to crack. Things like olive oil and red wine spills can mark the surface… or make a great patina in time.
The farmhouse kitchen design really brought the open shelving to the forefront. “It’s much more versatile than cabinets by way of placement design. Aesthetically it’s a great concept!” says Head. But if you think about it, people who lived in a farmhouse kitchen all those years ago probably didn’t need a room full of cabinets because they didn’t have the abundance of dishes, cookery, and gadgets that we do today. “You may regret this stunning concept when you realize there’s truly no storage space. Who doesn’t have a need for the Tupperware cabinet?”
Riding the trend
Farmhouse and mid-century modern are undoubtedly cool interior design trends but Luis Dominguez, a realtor with Douglas Elliman Real Estate has some advice before installing ship lap on every wall or converting a spare room with a Mad Men-inspired bar that would make Don Draper proud. “A homeowner should be careful to not fall for a trend that will most likely come and go. I would personally give them time to settle and would pick the best option once it’s matured,” he says. Of course, if you own a home built in the mid-30s to mid-60s, mid-century modern makes sense, but if your house is a Victorian, probably not so much.
Frogs and ivy
When it comes to outdoor renovations, extensive maintenance and unforeseen expenses are what usually leads to regret. For example, a koi pond is a lovely element in your garden, but it requires a lot of hours to maintain and they tend to attract frogs. Another green feature Dominguez sees as regret for some is climbing ivy. Sure, it’s charming and ever so quaint when it’s creeping up a stone exterior, but people on the east coast will be the first to tell you ivy is a pain in the butt because it’s invasive. “It will require a lot of maintenance, not to mention that it may cause structural damage over time,” he says.
Converting the garage
“It can go 50/50 when it comes to re-purposing a garage into additional living space,” says Mary Ann Graboyes, a real estate agent at Long & Foster Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. All that square footage is tempting to convert to a family room or gym, especially if you don’t use the garage much for parking your car. But then that unexpected season of rain or harsh winter comes along and you’re singing a different tune when you’re hauling groceries into the house. And what if you want to sell the house later? Prospective buyers may not be too crazy about not having a garage to park cars and store the lawn mower and kid’s bikes. “Homeowners should think about the home’s potential resale value prior to making that commitment,” says Graboyes.
Demoing the garage
Demoing an unattached garage or small one-car garage in back of your small city lot for more green space may seem like a no-brainer, especially if you’re not using it for your car. But where will you store the extras like patio furniture, bikes, and garden tools? How much green space will you gain if you have to build a shed to house all that stuff? And for resale value? “Buyers who are car fanatics and don’t want a car outside in bad weather typically will not look at a home without a garage,” says Graboyes.
Plastering over the fireplace
Not a lover of the open flame? Or maybe you want to hide an old fireplace that isn’t being used to create more wall space. If you plaster over the fireplace be aware that a fireplace is one of the top ten must-haves for home buyers, especially in regions where cold winters and power outages are common. “If the fireplace is plastered over, the fireplace becomes a detriment to the sale of the home. Many home buyers who do purchase homes with a covered fireplace typically remove the plaster to expose an old brick fireplace. Brick fireplaces give a home added character, even when re-painted a modern gray or white,” says Graboyes.
Removing a tree
You love the vibrant colors of the leaves but raking them, not so much. Before you call Paul Bunyan, consider what you will miss by chopping it down. “Air under tree canopies can be as much as 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding air. It can help keep your home’s interior cool, and your neighbors as well,” says Cassy Aoyagi, president, FormLA Landscaping. “The loss of an established tree can decrease not only your home value but that of your neighbors.” There is one caveat: trees with large, dead limbs that pose a risk to your home should be removed; have a professional arborist weigh in.