Makeover Mistakes

As someone who just completed a bathroom renovation (and is considering new floors & counters in the kitchen), an article in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune caught my eye. Instead of the usual “best resale investment” list, they went the opposite way with the worst choices–“Renovations that won’t come close to paying for themselves”. The list was all about what how much of your investment you’ll get back on resale, and while there were several no-surprise, a couple raised my eyebrows.



  • Swimming pools: I wouldn’t want to deal with one either–unless everyone else in the neighborhood has one (and buyers are expecting it), don’t expect to make the money back. Boyfriend’s sister and her family just bought a house with a pool, and the purchase was definitely in spite of the pool, not because of it.


  • Over-the-top or too personal: Koi pond with water feature? Bathroom bigger than the living room? Basement model-train workshop? Huge garden of native flowers with ornamental shrubs? Great for making you happy…probably not going to mean so much to the person who might buy your house. The one above is gorgeous, but for a non-gardener like myself, it isn’t a selling point.
  • Bright colors: I love my teal hallway, but I understand others might not. And your bright orange kids room? Or the cobalt blue bedroom? Do it for you, but don’t think someone else will automatically love it as much as you do. Other than paint, my personal rule is that anything I install in my home should be pretty neutral. A new owner can change out my bathroom paint without much fuss, but green tile? Stuck with it.

Teal Hall outside bedroom door

  • Amateur Hour: Only DIY if it doesn’t LOOK DIY. Especially if it would be pretty expensive to get someone with actual skill to do it. (Of course, if you can pull it off, go for it.)

But the list contained a few things that I didn’t expect…


  • Granite countertops: I’m considering upgrading my laminate to granite (or maybe quartz) so this was a big surprise, although the article does go on to explain that “it’s a poor investment to top your counter with granite in a Formica neighborhood.” So that’s a little different; I think especially when space is limited (in, say, Chicago condos) homes distinguish themselves with their finishes. A bigger surprise was a real estate agents comment that granite is too trendy–in five years it will “mark a home as being outdated.”


  • Converted garages: I was surprised that adding extra living space to your house wasn’t considered a plus–but the article explained that many people look for a garage, and converted garages are often not-exactly living space, missing insulation or connection to the HVAC. They even talked about a house flipper who says his biggest profits come from buying homes with converted garages…and changing them back. The image above is from a real estate website article addressing this, and interestingly they all say the best case scenario is that they are a wash, but in most cases they reduce the value of the home.


  • Home office: My home-stager friend and I were just talking about this, so this one was a big surprise. He told me that you should stage a spare bedroom as an office, because many buyers are looking for that space. My neighbors just sold their condo, and staged the second bedroom as a baby’s room, but buyers with limited imagination may not be as likely to see something used for a different purpose. And on the flip side, if you need room for baby, you’ll figure out that its a better choice than the office. So what was the problem? Built-ins. The picture above is Amanda‘s old office, with tons of amazing cabinets and shelves that her husband built from scratch. It’s pretty awesome. The issue comes in if you want to use the room as a bedroom–built-ins really limit options. So, unless you have plenty of space (they had four other bedrooms, so this was a great choice) use a room as an office but leave it flexible for other purposes too.

Did any of these surprise you? Should I still get granite countertops?


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