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You’ve saved up some money and you’re ready to start a home remodeling project. Whether the updates are to prepare your home for the market or simply for your own pleasure, you want to be smart about this investment.

Get Started: 8 Affordable Ways To Upgrade Your Primary Bedroom
More Rooms: 8 Affordable Ways To Upgrade Your Kitchen

As a savvy homeowner, you know all home upgrades don’t offer an equal return, so you want to choose a project that will raise your property value. Here’s a look at four expensive remodeling mistakes you don’t want to make, along with budget-friendly alternatives truly worth your money.

Niche Updates


Your home is a reflection of you, so you might be tempted to spring for a custom renovation that reflects your interests. However, Isabelle Emond, a real estate broker and the owner of RE/MAX Ocean Surf and Sun, based in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, recommended against excessive improvements specifically tailored to your preferences.

“Converting an extra room into a knitting room, converting the garage into a game room or installing wine cellars may make it difficult to find purchasers, because not everyone will share
your interests,” she said. “You should avoid these luxury rooms because most buyers would prefer to have the extra space as a blank slate, rather than [have to] modify it to suit their tastes, if they decide to purchase your property.”

Options: How To Maximize Space in a Small Bedroom: 7 Affordable Solutions

For reference, the average cost to build a wine cellar is $40,000, while converting a garage to a living space costs an estimated $14,419, according to HomeAdvisor.

Instead: If you have the funds and you’re committed to a major project, consider converting your basement to a living area. This is more universally appealing because many buyers want to use the garage for its intended purpose. 

Transforming your basement into a living area costs approximately $46,900 and you can expect to recoup 64% of the costs, according to the 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, released by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and the National Association of Realtors®.

If your budget isn’t quite that large, but you still want to take on a big project, consider adding a new roof. This will cost an average of $7,500 and you’ll likely recoup 107% of the costs, according to the Remodeling Impact Report.

See: 5 Affordable Ways To Make Over Every Room in Your House

High-End Kitchen Remodel

A kitchen is the heart of the home, so you might think no dollar value is too high to invest in it, but Emond said that isn’t the case.

“Avoid redesigning the kitchen with the most recent smart equipment with overly sophisticated features that a buyer would not appreciate,” she said. “Over-renovating to the point where you can’t recoup your initial investment is a bad choice.”

While innovative appliances might be fun for you in the short term, Emond said it’s best to focus on upgrades that appeal to the masses.

“Instead of rebuilding a kitchen to be extremely smart, refinish the cabinets, change the backsplash and repaint the walls, because these features are easier and less expensive to change for the buyer.”

You’ll also save a lot of money by opting against a high-end kitchen remodel, as the average cost for this type of project is $149,079 — with 53.9% of costs recouped — according to the 2021 Remodeling magazine Cost vs. Value report.

Instead: Toning your kitchen remodel down to a mid-range price point offers serious savings. If you’re looking for a total overhaul, a major mid-range kitchen remodel costs an average of $75,571 — with a 57.4% return on investment — while a minor kitchen remodel costs approximately $26,214, with 72.2% of costs recouped, according to Remodeling magazine. 

Find: 26 Home Makeover Ideas That Each Cost Less Than $500

Waterfall Countertops

Speaking of kitchen improvements, if you’re thinking about hopping on the popular waterfall countertop trend, Martha McNamara, head of design and product curation at Vevano Home, a firm that provides virtual interior design services and specializes in major home renovations, advised against it.

“Although they are a beautiful statement piece, it often doubles your countertop price,” she said.

Expect to spend $40 to $100-plus per square foot of stone slabs for a waterfall countertop and up to $100 per square foot for installation, according to Caesarstone. While the site notes these costs are comparable to what you’d pay with a conventional countertop, it’s this up to $2,000 fabrication costs and $200 to $1,200 resealing costs — needed up to twice per year with granite — that really bring the price up.

Instead: If you’re having second thoughts about that waterfall countertop, McNamara suggested finished cabinet panels that extend the depth of the overhang as a great alternative. She said this option is also more versatile and can work with more traditional styles, whereas the waterfall countertop is hard to pair with anything but a modern look.

Overall, expect to spend an average of $3,068 for countertop installation — including both materials and labor — according to HomeAdvisor.

Start Now: 20 Insider Tips To Save Money on Every Part of Your Home

Home Gyms

At the beginning of the pandemic, home gyms were all the rage, but Ben Fisher, a luxury real estate agent with The Fisher Group in Salt Lake City, Utah, said this trend has gone out of style.

“If you really want to do some serious workout in your home, you can just buy a treadmill for running and a few other materials like a dumbbell, skipping rope and others,” he said.

The average cost of building a home gym is $2,000, according to HomeAdvisor. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of better renovation options for your money.

Instead: It’s not the most exciting update, but an insulation upgrade costs approximately $2,400 and you’ll recoup about 83% of the costs, according to the Remodeling Impact Report.

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