12 Home Upgrades That Are a Waste of Money

home upgrades

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home upgrades
Cheapism / fotografixx/onurdongel/istockphoto / Realtor.com

Money Pits To Avoid

While doing routine home maintenance is essential, it's also important to know the difference between necessary upkeep and frivolous upgrades that aren't worth it. Regular checks can help homeowners save money by identifying serious issues like leaks, cracks, and other problems before they become hefty expenses. This can also help owners maintain (or even boost) their home's value.

But while maintaining a home is crucial, not all upgrades offer the best return on investment — some can quickly turn from a benefit to a financial drain. Here are 12 upgrades that may look cool but are actually money pits in disguise. 

Peachtree Kitchen

1. Over the Top Kitchen Upgrades

While kitchen renovations can improve a home's value, spending a fortune on luxurious materials and high-end appliances is not always worth it. This is because upgrades don't typically offer a dollar-for-dollar return. "A $1,000 refrigerator looks similar to a $10,000 one, and they both do the same job," says Jeff Vasishta of Bob Vila. "Buyers usually won’t notice much of a difference, and renters will care more about energy efficiency."

Related: 13 Little Home Improvement Projects That Make a Big Impact

Tankless water heater

2. Installing a Tankless Water Heater

These systems provide hot water on demand and are known for being more energy-efficient than traditional water heaters. But they have high upfront costs and may require expensive retrofitting in existing homes. In areas where the climate is milder, the savings on utility bills may not justify the initial investment for many years.

Related: Redditors Share Their Best Money-Saving Tips for New Homeowners

Warehouse Carpet Store

3. Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Installing carpet throughout the house might seem like a solid investment. But in reality, many buyers may prefer hardwood or laminate flooring due to easier cleaning, especially if they have pets or young kids. Hard surfaces like wood and laminate are also considered more durable and long-lasting when compared to carpet, which can show wear and stains over time — potentially detracting from the home's appeal and value.

Houseboat by the Beach Interior

4. Sunroom Additions

While sunrooms add extra living space and access to natural light (talk about reading nook goals), they are typically very expensive to build and maintain. According to Rocket Homes, the average cost for a sunroom addition is $30,000. Many buyers also do not view them as essential, making the cost-to-benefit ratio relatively low compared to other home additions or upgrades. 

If you're looking for an upgrade that yields higher returns, consider insulating your attic. This upgrade can give you more than a 100% return on your investment, according to a cost vs. value report by Remodel magazine.

Related: 13 Surprisingly Simple Home Repairs You Can DIY to Save Big

Oprah Winfrey home

5. Extensive Landscaping

While elaborate landscaping can enhance your home's curb appeal, overly personalized or high-maintenance designs may not appeal to all buyers and can be very costly to maintain. Investing in basic landscaping, while keeping the design simple and clean, is usually more cost-effective. Your water bill will also thank you. 

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Peachtree Bathroom

6. Luxury Bathroom Upgrades

While high-end bathroom renovations, such as steam showers, customized vanities, and heated floors, are nice and luxurious, they can be super pricey. These types of swanky upgrades often do not yield a return proportional to their cost, especially in neighborhoods where such luxuries are not standard. "Before splashing out thousands on top-of-the-range models, check the local comps and budget accordingly," advises Vasishta.

Related: 17 Low-Cost Home Renovation Ideas With the Biggest Payback

Home cinema entertainment: watching a film from a video projector in a room.

7. Built-in Electronics

Home theaters and sound systems that are built into the structure of a home can become outdated or obsolete as technology advances. Plus, these features may not appeal to all potential buyers, which makes them a risky investment. The space that these systems take up can also limit the functionality of rooms for other uses, potentially turning away buyers with different lifestyle needs or preferences. 

Exterior Of Luxurious Modern Villa With Swimming Pool And Garden

8. Swimming Pools

We get it — who doesn't love going for a dip in the pool during a scorching day? In regions like Arizona, Florida, and California, a swimming pool can add value to a home. But in other locations, pools may not be a worthwhile investment. This is because they can be quite expensive to maintain, can increase insurance costs, and may deter buyers concerned with safety and routine maintenance. 

Hardwood Stairs

9. Exotic Hardwood Floors

Exotic hardwoods and lumber like Brazilian redwood or Teak can be attractive thanks to their unique grain patterns and sleek, contemporary look. But they're often significantly more expensive than other materials such as vinyl, tile, or laminates. As such, they may not provide a return on investment commensurate with their cost, especially if the local market doesn't place much value on luxury materials. 

open garage

10. Converting Garages Into Living Spaces

While this can seem like an effective way to add square footage without building additional structures, it may not always pan out. Many buyers seek garages for safety and storage, and the absence of this space can deter those who value having a covered, secure parking space, especially in climates with harsh weather.

Hemlock Haven Cabin: More (hot tub)

11. Whirlpool Bathtubs or Jacuzzis

Popular in the 1960s and '70s, these tubs were once considered the height of luxury and a must-have feature for any modern home. But they take up considerable space and require significant water and energy to operate. Today, many consider whirlpool tubs and jacuzzis to be outdated and impractical, opting instead for larger showers or freestanding bathtubs that are easier to clean and maintain. 

senior man stands on ladder and cleans a roof gutter

12. Upgrading the Roof

While a sturdy, leak-free roof is an obvious must-have, opting for high-end materials like slate or copper can be very expensive and not worth the investment. Compared to more conventional choices like asphalt or metal, these materials are much pricier and may not justify the expense. This is especially true if the increase in home value does not include the cost of a high-end roof. 

Related: 32 Ways You’re Ruining Your Home and Don't Even Know It