The nine worst home renovations for the money

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Sandy Smith| Domain

From adding luxury features such as a wine cellar or gym, to taking out the bath or converting the garage into a bedroom, there are some home renovations that will never give you a good return on your investment and others that may even damage the value of your home when you come to sell. 

“Many home owners think they need to create their dream home to get the best price, but it just isn’t worth it if you’re going to sell,” says Ben Munro Smith, licensed real estate agent at McGrath Estate Agents, Balmain, Sydney. “What you want might not be what your buyer wants and they certainly won’t pay for it.”

Here are nine home renovations to avoid:

1. Wine cellars and gyms

“Wine cellars can create a sense of luxury and make us imagine sourcing the best wine from around the world, only bringing out the best bottles when hosting an elaborate dinner party,” Munro Smith says. “However, installing one in your home is unlikely to justify the cost and loss of floor space. A gym will be the same. It might be perfect for you but a buyer won’t pay a premium for the privilege of sweating in privacy. In everyday life, most buyers will already have a gym membership and, depending on your suburb, be on a first-name basis with their local bottle shop owner.”  

2. Expensive on-trend kitchens or bathrooms 

It is easy to overspend on a luxury kitchen or bathroom but don’t expect to get that money back when you sell. You run the risk of alienating buyers who have their own distinct taste, and it’s an expensive and time-consuming undertaking says Emma Cahill, interior designer at Melbourne-based architecture practice Clarke Hopkins Clarke. “You’re better off leaving alone or updating the paint, handles and shelves if it’s really run down,” Cahill says.

3. Swimming pools

Depending on the suburb, a pool probably isn’t worth the investment,  Munro Smith says. “Sure it will increase your appeal to buyers, but they come at a high cost to you (both financially and with the wasted time at council) and compromise your yard space. When it comes time to sell, you’re much better off selling the possibility of a pool if you have a buyer who wants one. Ask yourself why you haven’t installed a pool up until now and you’ll understand exactly why it isn’t worth the effort.”

4. Removing a room

“Any renovation that reduces accommodation is detrimental,” says David Wood, director of Hocking Stuart, Albert Park, Melbourne, who has also appeared as the auctioneer on Channel Nine’s The Block. “For example, increasing a living area but taking away a bedroom in a three or four-bed house will, in most cases, negatively impact sale value.” Similarly, a renovation which increases space but takes away off-street parking in an area where parking is limited can be detrimental to a property’s value, he adds.

5. Overpersonalising your home

If someone were to paint a house in a very strong colour it “would severely limit the market for the home and therefore potentially reduce its price,” says David Kaity from Revolutionary Real Estate in Brisbane. 

“If faced with the choice, choose white walls over colour. Colour runs the risk of alienating buyers,” agrees Cahill.

6. Quirky features

Secret rooms are another no go, Munro Smith says. “You may think it a bit of fun but it will creep most buyers out.” Don’t go for pull-down or wall beds either, he adds, or bathtubs in the bedroom. “Trust me, most people just see wet carpet, a dust collector or a trip hazard in the dark.”

7. Built-in wall units and bookcases

Additional storage is high on most buyers’ lists, but built-in television units and bookcases aren’t, Munro Smith says. “People have their own furniture or like the option to  choose something in their taste. They don’t want a constant reminder of you and your decor in their new home. Think of it as a ticking time bomb, waiting there to be chipped or become outdated. They also bring the walls of the room in, making it appear smaller.”  

8. Exteriors

“Home owners may spend thousands of dollars painting or adding modern textures to the exterior of their home only to find the resale value has dwindled, because their property doesn’t fit within the overall norm of the neighbourhood,” says Steve Jovcevski, property expert at comparison site  “For instance, modernising the exterior of a property by rendering or adding alucobond may cause it to stand out negatively in a street of old-style federation homes and is likely to shy away potential buyers.”

9. Renovating without approval

You can be prosecuted by council and fined, says property lawyer and town planner Darryl Richards. “The biggest expense is where people don’t get inspections done on the frame or the footings.  You then need an engineer to do an invasive inspection and report. It could cost tens of thousands to fix this. If you need planning approval then you have to allow six months and $10k in approval fees. The buyer will want double to triple that for the risk of it not going through.”



Comments 1

  1. David

    This will be a helpful guide to all those who are planning to have their homes renovated or improved. Projects like these should be well planned and budgeted. Hard earned money must not go to waste. Thank you for sharing this.

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