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The worst return on investment with home remodeling projects

Home Inspector with Mid America Inspection Services, LLC North Dakota 19 & 93



The worst return on investment with home remodeling projects


Recently I was writing on the return on investment with various remodeling projects, little did I know that someone would turn that on its head and look at the worst return of investments. Bob Villa, once upon a time the host of HGTV's This Old House, wrote that the worst of the worst is a built in home aquarium and to avoid worsening the worst don't even consider turning it into a reptile dwelling. Ugh!


Just slightly better is the addition of built in electronics systems. The problem here is that they become out of date before the ink is dry on your receipt. One seller bragged to the appraiser that he had spent 20% of the estimated value of his home on a built in sound system. In this case that was $650,000 essentially down the tubes. That sounds like a bad idea. Pun intended.


A third example of shooting oneself in the foot involves eliminating a bedroom to gain a walk in closet. In home inspections I have seen this successfully done in very old houses where the bedrooms were often maxed out with a twin bed but this type of housing stock in diminishing and most of the time this will hurt both the sale price and the time on market.


Bob also mentions that basement projects most often provide a poor return when compared to a similar effort above grade. He feels that finishing an attic, installing a dormer or even raising the roof will beat the basement improvement every time. Your mileage may vary. A wine cellar that can double as a storm shelter my well bring a decent return in some areas.


As a final note, depending on your location, the return on yard/outdoor living space can well yield rotten returns. When I lived in Tucson the yard could be used almost everyday of the year. Now I live in western Minnesota and I can make a tank of propane last two years even if I cook out every nice day - well almost.


As a final reminder Bob suggests keeping in mind what the appraisers call "cost to cure". What will it cost to restore a bad investment to salable form? Now I need to figure out what to do with my pet Boa constrictor and .....


Mid-America Inspection Services, serving Fargo and West Fargo, North Dakota, Moorhead, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, Wadena and the Minnesota Lakes Region


 218-443-3555, 320-846-0004, 218-287-0877, 218-841-0444





Liz Wallace
Century 21 Sherlock Homes - Rockville Centre, NY
Broker C21 Sherlock Homes, Rockville Centre, LI, N

I'm with you on the aquarium and never a reptile tank.  A lot of people will not even step in a house with reptiles in it no matter how secure the tank.

Mar 03, 2013 04:49 AM
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND

Thanks for stopping by. I really don't have a snake but I used to have a gallon pickle jar filled with formaldehyde and a 5' snake in it on my dresser when I was in school. It kept people from getting into my stuff. ;-)

Mar 03, 2013 05:04 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Pasadena And Southern California 818.516.4393

Hi Marshall - I'm with you and Liz ---- don't even think about a reptile tank!  Yikes!   

Mar 07, 2013 10:53 PM
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND

Thanks for stopping by, Mike. Yeah, snakes not good.

Mar 08, 2013 11:31 AM
Mark Lebkuchner
Warwick, RI
Personal Lines Consultant

The home aquarium is the worst of the worst remodeling investment?  This baffles me!!!  I suppose you'd need to fill it with sharks & swordfish to make it worth the cost.

Apr 02, 2013 09:18 PM
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND

My thought, as a former salt water aquarium owner, most sane people would not want to pay to add that much work to their daily lives. On second thought, sharks and misbehaving kids might be a good mix from time to time.

Thanks for your comments.

Apr 02, 2013 10:25 PM
Michelle Gibson
Hansen Real Estate Group Inc. - Wellington, FL

Marshall - Every time my husband and I remodel something in our home I always put my Realtor hat on otherwise we'd be living in a sinking ship. 

Jul 04, 2014 06:17 AM
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND

Michelle, thanks for stopping by. Wow, blogs DO really last foever.

Jul 05, 2014 01:19 PM
Silvia Dukes PA, Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS, SRES
Tropic Shores Realty - Ich spreche Deutsch! - Spring Hill, FL
Florida Waterfront and Country Club Living

Marshall, great article and I think we can. all be in agreement about home improvements that really are not. I used to love watching This Old House

Feb 11, 2015 09:47 AM