Home “Improvements” That Aren’t

Make sure your upgrades don’t end up hurting your home’s value.

One of the most heartbreaking things that can happen at an Open House or private showing is walking through a perfectly charming house, envisioning its potential, then walking headlong into a deal-breaker.


Maybe it’s shiplap or panelling in the den. Maybe it’s a baby pink bathroom. Maybe it’s wallpaper EVERYWHERE. How about a different paint color and carpet in each room? These are the kinds of “improvements” that probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but now work as time machines, taking you back to an earlier, and uglier, era in home design.


For most Buyers, a deal-breaker is an element that is too unattractive to live with and too expensive to fix. Even if the rest of the house is great, the deal-breaker makes everyone turn around and exit — quickly.


Whether you are a Buyer deciding what upgrades you’re willing to pay for or a Seller considering some timely updates before you put your home on the market, it’s a good idea to think through some of the current design trends that might become tomorrow’s deal-breakers.

Out-of-sync Styles

Maybe you live in a bungalow but you want a marble bathroom fit for a Queen. You live in a luxury home, but you’re more the down-home, country type. Or perhaps you’re looking at starter homes and find one with super luxe finishes. Anything that is far outside of the norm for the home style and the market probably won’t serve you well financially — it may even make your home less desirable by being out-of-step with the taste of most Buyers.


  • If you’re a Seller thinking of adding some updates, make sure they’re in keeping with the style of the home and the local market.
  • If you’re a Buyer, don’t be tempted to pay more for an upgrade that isn’t really adding value.

Over-the-top Upgrades

A backlit, translucent zinc shower wall straight out of Vegas. A gourmet kitchen that would intimidate Martha Stewart. A backyard pool that gives the local water park a run for its money. Gold leaf as far as the eye can see. While all of these no doubt said “fancy” to the homeowners who installed them, they’ll probably turn off most potential buyers. Remember that what works in a magazine or in a luxury hotel or spa may just be too much in a home.

  • If you’re a Seller thinking of adding some luxury upgrades, keep in mind the overall style of your home and your market. Add touches here and there rather than going all-in.
  • If you’re a Buyer, make sure you’re taking into account the maintenance and upkeep required by a mega-upgrade like a pool or gourmet kitchen.

Too Much Theme

Whether it’s a child’s bedroom that looks like a castle, a kitchen that looks like a barn, or a backyard that looks like a fairyland, some homeowners love a theme. Cutesy or chic, too many elements built around a specific theme are off-putting for Buyers and limit the number of people who’ll be interested in the home. And when the theme is in a child’s room or play area, you’ll be surprised how quickly they outgrow it.


  • If you’re a Seller thinking of organizing your renovation around a theme, remember that neutral is more appealing and helps you sell faster.
  • If you’re a Buyer tempted by a themed space, think about your life a year from now. Five years from now. Will that theme still be appealing then?

Ultra-Personal Elements

Perhaps you work from home and crave a really fabulous home office instead of the dining room you never use. Maybe you want to convert a spare room into your own designer closet and dressing room. Or perhaps you’re thinking of a Star Wars themed media room renovation for the bonus space. While you’ll no doubt enjoy these unique elements, if you’re thinking of resale you may want to re-think such extreme measures.


  • If you’re a Seller, work with your decorator or contractor to create a plan that can be converted back to normal at a later point.
  • If you’re a Buyer, think about how that space will work for you over the next few years. If you plan to have children, for example, that spare room or formal dining room may be more appealing (and necessary) than it is right now.


One homeowner’s dream home is another’s deal-breaker. While you want to enjoy your space and make it work for your family, be cautious about design decisions that may undercut your home’s value down the road. Whether you’re a Seller wanting to discuss upgrades that get big returns on investment or a Buyer who wants to discuss comps for your favorite neighborhood, I’m here to help! Contact me today and let’s get started on a plan to make your real estate dreams a reality.


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