Costly Home Update Mistakes That Sellers Make

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Smart Diva Dwellers buy homes that need a little work and make updates to them over time. One of the many questions we receive is what type of work should we do to update our home that will add value. And what type of costly updates will be regret down the road.

Team Diva works with both savvy buyers and sellers, and we know exactly what buyers want. We also know what the likely selling price may be for different types of properties in Seattle and its surrounding towns, and there are certain updates that simply cost more than the value they add. At the end of a day, a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house is still just that, and you can definitely overspend on remodels and updates.  If you want to be smart and savvy about the renovations you make to your home, then read on to discover the costly home update mistakes you want to be sure and avoid.

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, there is one caveat to this conversation.

If you intend to buy your home and live in it for 10+ years, then, by all means, do whatever you feel the need to upgrade your home to make it special for you.

This advice might still be useful for you but as a long-term homeowner – you get significantly more flexibility and grace where cost vs appreciation is concerned. That said – making sure the updates you make in 2021 don’t look dated in 2030 might be something else to consider.

This blog is for people who only want to live in their house for about 5 years. Maybe you don’t necessarily have the intention of flipping a home, but you know you want to buy now, make some smart updates, and resell it for a profit in a few years. Or, perhaps you just don’t know what it means to remodel a house and you don’t want to make a costly mistake where you won’t ever get your money back! 

What to Keep In Mind to Make Sure You Don’t Update Your Home with Costly Mistakes?

Seller Education - Costly Home Update Mistakes That Sellers Make

  1. Design is More Important Than Materials
  2. The Quality of Your Updates Need to Match Your Home’s Style and Price Point
  3. Your Million Dollar Home May Not Need Spendy Updates
  4. Get a Sense of What Your Updates Will Cost You in the Long Run
  5. Super Trendy and Expensive Updates Will Not Get You a Return on Your Investment
  6. Making Cosmetic Updates & Ignoring Structural Issues
  7. Building Weird Additions Onto Your Home
  8. Making Design Choices That Are Incongruent with Your Home

Let’s dig and make sure you are a smart Diva Dweller who doesn’t update your home with costly mistakes.

A Costly Home Update Mistake That Sellers Make is Spending A Ton of Cash on Highly Customized Features 

Updated West Seattle Bungalow Kitchen

The #1 costly home update mistake that sellers make is doing a super expensive renovation that is incredibly unique and useful to only them. Frankly, Team Diva is all for being eccentric in your own home. The Divas have their own style and are not afraid to let it shine. But if you plan on expecting someone else to love and pay top dollar for the oversize sunroom that you use for your massive orchid collection you are mistaken, my friend. 

People have different tastes and styles when it comes to designing homes. Some aesthetics are more generally likable and ready to stand the test of time, while others are very niche and highly specific to someone’s own personal taste and style. 

Design is More Important Than Materials 

Wilana Co-Op Capitol Hill - Wall Unit

Space for a home office with built-in bookshelf.

How much money you spend on materials does not equate to something looking glamorous. Yes, you should buy quality materials that don’t look cheap, but dumping a bunch of money into something and being able to say how much it cost is NOT going to get you the ROI you want. 

One example of this is someone spending an exorbitant amount of money on high-end Italian tile in their kitchen or bathroom. (Yes, we really have seen it all.) Most people do not care if your tile is Italian or some fancy material or brand, and it will not impress them that it cost $20,000. And if the design is too out there or specific, there’s a high chance they’re going to rip it out and replace it once they buy your home. If you think that tile is going to reap your rewards, it’s probably not. If the tile is adding $20,000 to your kitchen remodel, you’ll want to reconsider it. 

Now, if you adore this tile and you’re just doing it for YOU, then, by all means, go for it! Just do not expect a return on investment. 

The Quality of Your Home Updates Need to Match Your Home’s Style and Price Point 

Mount Baker Craftsman Kitchen - 1

Mount Baker Craftsman Kitchen – 1

If you live in a cookie-cutter home in a neighborhood of similar homes and want to update your generic bathroom, spending $5,000 on the fancy tile in your bathroom or buying a $7,000 sparkling gold tub (yes, we’ve seen this!) is not the best idea. No one is going to care that you spent $7,000 on the tub or that it’s “worth” $7,000. 

Now, if you personally just love the tile and tub and want to enjoy it, then again, we totally say go for it. But do not expect to have thousands of dollars added to how much your home is going to sell for. You can still update your bathroom (and a cute, mid-range update can go a long way!), but it needs to match the overall tenor of your home.

What type of updates you make and what materials you use will depend on your overall home. Spend some time checking out what’s selling in your neighborhood and how much money it is selling for. And of course, get the advice of an experienced agent who knows what types of homes are selling at what price points. 

Your $1 Million Home in Seattle May Not Need Luxury Amenities or Fancy Finishes

North Admiral View Home Open Main Living Area, Dining Area, Kitchen, Upper Deck, Seattle View, Soapstone Countertops, Apron Sink

In the Seattle area, a million-dollar home is not necessarily considered a luxury. We’ve seen lots of million+ homes with Ikea kitchens, and it can work great. What the homes with well-designed Ikea kitchens sell for vs. what similar homes with super-expensive designer kitchens sell for isn’t that different. 

Get a Sense of How Much a Remodel Should Cost 

When you approach a remodel, you should get a basic understanding of what a low-end vs. medium vs. high-end remodel would cost and go from there. Of course, if you choose the high-end remodel, your ROI will definitely be lower (unless your home is at a multi-million-dollar price point. Then things are a little different.). 

This Seattle Times article “Calculating the cost to remodel in Seattle” by Jason Legat in March 2019 has a ton of useful info about remodeling. The first major point to consider is that national averages regarding remodeling are not comparable to Seattle in many cases due to our high housing costs. A kitchen remodel in the Midwest will have a much different price tag than one in Seattle. 

The Seattle Times article shares information from Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, which provides free information about project costs vs. their resale values (as the title suggests!). This is fascinating information as you start your remodel journey. 

According to the report, a kitchen remodel in Seattle costs an average of $145,658.

An “upscale” primary suite bathroom remodel in Seattle costs an average of $74,198 (and if you don’t change the bath’s layout, the average is closer to $50,000). 

Super Trendy and Expensive Updates Are a Waste of Money If You Expect a Return on Your Investment 

When you spend a lot of money on trendy materials, that’ll be a costly mistake. We all know how quickly things can go out of style, and in 10 years, that ultra-chic bathroom you overpaid for is not only not going to be trendy, and it’s not going to be worth the money you put into it. Maybe you put multi-colored shimmery mosaic tile all over your bathroom because you thought it was glamorous (and maybe it was… at the time). But it’s not good from an investment perspective. Even if it was expensive! 

A Costly Home Update Mistake That Sellers Make is Making Cosmetic Updates & Ignoring Structural Issues 

Making your house pretty but ignoring bigger structural issues is like polishing a turd—you can polish that turd all you want but it’s still going to be a turd! Sometimes people will spend a ton of money making their home cosmetically appealing, but they fail to update structural aspects that might be failing.

For example, if you’re spending a ton of money updating your kitchen but your electrical and plumbing systems are failing, this is a big mistake! Having things like plumbing updated is definitely not as sexy as designing a new bathroom, but you need to take care of the essential systems first. 

Making Design Choices That Are Incongruent with Your Home is a Costly Mistake 

Don’t try to turn your 1920s house or your mid-century house into new construction. Mismatched design choices are a huge mistake that will cost you big $$$. If you’re going to update a vintage home, you don’t have to do everything vintage or buy everything to be period-appropriate, but the overall aesthetic should be cohesive with the era of the home. 

Building Weird Additions Onto Your Home Is A Costly Mistake 

Seward Park View Home Exterior - 1

Seward Park View Home Exterior – 1

Many people believe that adding more square footage to their home will instantly increase its value. This is a big, big, BIG mistake. Slapping on a 2-story addition to the back of a one-story house is very likely going to result in a huge eyesore! Additions can be done, but they are expensive and must be done extremely well. 


Avoid Making Costly Home Update Mistakes… At All Costs! 

Top Real Estate Seller Education Seattle Contact

Team Diva has extensive, in-depth knowledge when it comes to working with buyers and sellers. We know exactly what buyers of different types of homes in different Seattle neighborhoods want. We also know how much money different homes in different neighborhoods are likely to sell for. There are certain updates that do not increase the value of a home, and if you’re considering a remodel, it’s essential to make sure that your home updates will be relative to the property you’re selling. 

Steps to Make Sure You Make a Smart Renovation On Your Home

  1. Design is More Important Than Materials
  2. The Quality of Your Updates Need to Match Your Home’s Style and Price Point
  3. Your Million Dollar Home May Not Need Spendy Updates
  4. Get a Sense of What Your Updates Will Cost You in the Long Run
  5. Super Trendy and Expensive Updates Will Not Get You a Return on Your Investment
  6. Making Cosmetic Updates & Ignoring Structural Issues
  7. Building Weird Additions Onto Your Home
  8. Making Design Choices That Are Incongruent with Your Home

Additional Nerdy Blogs to Help You Renovate Your Home Correctly

One way to avoid making costly home update mistakes is by reaching out to an experienced real estate agent for advice ahead of time. Team Diva can advise you on making smart and savvy home updates, even if you don’t plan to sell for a few years. We can’t wait to chat with you! 

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