7 Things That Won't Increase Your Home Value

In fact, these improvements may turn buyers off

Modern backyard
••• Clive Nichols/Getty Images

Homeowners often assume that upgrades and renovations always make their place more valuable and sellable. But many home improvements do not, in fact, add value to the home—and in some cases, could even act as a detriment if and when the property goes on the market. Here are the seven of the most common.

Extensive Professional Landscaping

You can build an entire amusement park in your backyard and it won't bring you big bucks upon resale. If you want to put in a waterfall that cascades down into a Koi pond, for example, do it because you enjoy the water feature, not because you're hoping to recoup the investment. Landscaping choices are a personal preference, and all the hand-crafted bridges and unique pergolas in the world won't dramatically boost your bottom line.

Upgrading the Utilities

Although you may have paid thousands to install copper plumbing or replace the sewer or upgrade the electrical wiring from aluminum to Romex, it's unlikely to bring you more dollars. These types of improvements are considered maintenance—and your neighbors probably made them years before you. Of course, getting everything state-of-the-art isn't a bad idea: In certain quarters, that's considered standard, and without it, you could take a hit when selling time comes. Just don't think these upgrades let you mark up the price tag.

New Roof or HVAC

Some buyers in the marketplace appreciate a home that features a brand-new furnace or HVAC system, but they won't pay extra for it. Ditto regarding a new roof: Replacing a roof past its average life expectancy of 30 years is considered a maintenance issue. It's like expecting to get paid more because you swept off the front steps.

Swimming Pool or Personal Spa

The TV commercials for water-related improvements depict nonstop frolicking among kids in the pool (zero focus on drownings) or late-evening soirées in the hot tub sipping adult beverages. Sadly, though, the cost and expense of aquatic amenities never find their way back into your pocket. Many people won't buy a home with a swimming pool; they don't want to deal with the upkeep or safety issues. In fact, as part of negotiations, a buyer might insist that you tear out the pool or whirlpool. If you want to install a pool or spa, do it because you will enjoy it.

Making Dated Decor Changes

You might like white appliances or white ceramic counters, for example, but young home buyers do not. Those are no longer "in." Same thing with carpeting, unless it's exotic and high-end—and don't even go down the road of gold-toned bathroom fixtures and door hardware. Even 12-inch-by-12-inch ceramic flooring has lost its appeal. The point is, don't deliberately decorate in the latest style for resale reasons. Fashion just changes too fast.

Painting Your House

Although painting is the single most cost-effective improvement you can make before selling your home, it won't return any bang for your buck unless you do the painting yourself. Fresh coats on the exterior or interior certainly make any home more saleable, but appraisers don't boost your value because of them.

Solar Panels

Sure, the salespeople at the solar panel company tell you that installing solar panels will enhance your home's value, but that's just not true. It may be an admirable thing for the environment, but solar panels do nothing for the residence's selling price. Moreover, if you have financed the solar panels, you probably can't sell the home without paying off the balance at closing, something that often is not disclosed.

The Bottom Line

Some folks are devastated to find out that the improvements they invested in and perhaps borrowed money for not only do not improve the value of the property but might actually detract from it. Fortunately, while most of these enhancements won't help you turn a bigger profit, they won't hurt, either—and they might make it easier to sell your home by giving the buyer peace of mind. Just don't confuse peace of mind with an elevated price tag.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.