7 Mistakes Sellers Make When Renovating Their Home

Industry Observer with ValuePenguin

If you're considering renovating your home, you’re in good company. Americans typically spend over $400 billion a year on home renovation projects and repairs. But not all home improvement projects translate into an increase in home value. In fact, making the wrong moves during renovations could cost you when it comes time to sell your home.

7 mistakes to avoid while renovating 

Whether you’re working with a professional contractor or you’re planning to DIY your renovations, watch out for these common mistakes homeowners make when remodeling.

1. Being blind to finances

One of the unofficial rules of renovating is to expect it to cost more and take longer than initially planned. So, before you begin knocking down walls, know what you’re going to spend and how you’re going to pay for it.


  • Set a budget. Create a priority list of projects you plan to attack and assign a dollar amount to each. Make sure there is a cushion in the budget to handle unexpected costs or additional, necessary projects.

  • Consider the best financing options for renovations. Whether you’re thinking about using the equity in your home or plan to take out a renovation loan, crunch the numbers to determine which financing option makes sense for you. Choose what will provide the most flexibility should you go over budget. 

  • Be realistic about your expected ROI. Many homeowners incorrectly assume $15,000 of renovations will increase their home value by $15,000. Except for a few projects, you're not likely to recoup what you spend on renovations dollar-for-dollar.

2. Picking the wrong projects

Unless you’re gutting the entire home, you’re going to need to choose what projects to focus on, especially depending on how you're financing the renovations. Cash-out refinancing, for example, often comes with interest rates lower than personal loans or credit cards, so it may be better for your longer-term projects, whereas a credit card (especially one with a good rewards program) may be your best bet for quick purchases. 


Regardless of how you pay, if you’ll be living in the home before selling, then you’ll want to prioritize your needs when renovating. But if your primary objective is to increase the value of the home, consider these projects most likely to add value, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).  

Exterior Projects Most Likely to Increase a Home’s Value


Estimated Cost

Estimated Increase to Value


New roofing




New vinyl windows




New Fiber-Cement siding




New wood windows




New vinyl siding




Interior Projects Most Likely to Increase a Home’s Value


Estimated Cost

Estimated Increase to Value


Complete kitchen remodel




Partial kitchen remodel




HVAC replacement




New master bedroom suite




Bathroom renovation




Source: NAR 

3. Ignoring the front yard

Curb appeal. Many homeowners make their buying decisions based on curb appeal but forget about it when it’s time to sell. Even if the majority of the renovations are inside, don’t forget the importance of addressing the front yard and other exterior projects. Some buyers will not be able to see past an unkempt lawn or a front door with peeling paint. 


Keep things simple, though, as overly complicated landscaping can scream high maintenance and may deter some buyers. 

4. Adding too many unique features

A common mistake many sellers make is assuming that their taste and needs are the same as everyone else’s. If you converted a spare bedroom into a dance studio with a wall of mirrors, that may have worked for you but could be a turnoff for buyers who will see that as wasted space they’ll need to renovate. 


If you’re prepping to sell, avoid customizing the home in a way that tailors specific tastes. Instead, opt for features that provide universal appeal, like new appliances.

5. “Over-renovating” for the neighborhood

When choosing your renovation projects, it’s important to consider the character of your current neighborhood. If you make too many updates, it’s possible to price yourself out of the market. Consider the community and how it has (or has not) changed in recent years when determining what upgrades to consider. You should also consult with a real estate professional to see what’s expected in your market.

6. Renovating based on trends

Trends come and go, so play it safe by choosing upgrades that will stand the test of time and will be appealing to a variety of tastes. If you overhaul your home based on a farmhouse aesthetic, that may not appeal to a buyer with contemporary taste. The same goes for incorporating technology. What is current now may be obsolete by the time you go to sell. 


Focus on trends that never go out of style, like making the home more energy-efficient.

7. Prioritizing cosmetics over the basics

Kitchens and bathrooms definitely provide the “wow factor” for prospective buyers, and many homeowners put a lot of attention there when renovating. However, don’t forget the less fun but functional areas of the home, such as the plumbing or electrical systems, which also increases a home’s value.




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Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

A lot of emphasis is open floor plan with new kitchen cabinets and a huge slab. The vinyl flooring etc are very affordable more so than carpet or pavers. They are the essentials.  As for cosmetic faux stome siding, high end custom mailbox, crown moulding that may or not have an impact on value. Also green house are certainly more desirable.

Jan 17, 2020 06:47 AM #1
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

Those are great tips and I always ask my sellers to allow me to visit their home and discuss different upgrades that they are thinking about doing before they do them.  I want them to get the most bang for their buck!

Jan 17, 2020 06:55 AM #2
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Joe Resendiz important mistakes sellers to avoid when renovating home.

Jan 18, 2020 07:49 PM #3
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Joe Resendiz

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