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12 Improvements That Didn’t Pay: Learn From These Rehab Mistakes

12 Improvements That Didn’t Pay: Learn From These Rehab Mistakes

3 min read
Justin Pierce

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Two weeks ago I wrote a warning about over-improving and last week I told you about a house that I over-improved. I went long last week and I didn’t get to share any numbers with you. This particular flip was unique because there was another rehab home just around the corner from mine. It was the exact same model home and similar lot. It went on the market just about a week before mine. In my post project analysis it was easy to compare and contrast my home with this other rehab and identify my mistakes.

Here are the Big 12 ill Advised Home Improvements I Made


  1. Shower Jets: $1,600 – We didn’t have room to put a jetted tub in the master bath. So I had the bright idea to install shower jets instead.
  2. Marble Tile: $800 – We decided that we wanted to give the master bathroom a little sizzle. So we decided to go with full marble tile floor and surround. It cost us about $800 more that the original ceramic tile quote.
  3. Slate Sidewalk and Porch: $4,600 – Landscaping is always risky. We wanted to really give the house some curb appeal. It did look nice. I wouldn’t do it again.
  4. Sidewalk Removal: $950 – There was a cement walkway right down the middle of the yard. We didn’t like how it cut the yard in two. We had it removed.
  5. Redo the Path at the Side of the House: $800 – I won’t take any credit for this one. My partner got fixated on the side of the house. I told him to breath and let it go but when I came back from a trip I found that he’d ordered a new concrete path and grass in this area. The $800 is just the sidewalk.
  6. Retaining wall: $1,600 – This did look really nice. In the backyard we had a walk out basement that was covered by a large deck. My partner wanted to beautify this area. I just wanted to clean it up. We compromised with a dry river bed and a small retaining wall. If I had to do it again it would have just done the dry river bed it only cost a few hundred dollars.
  7. Hot Tub: $3,500 – Boy did I get a deal on this hot tub. It had like 500 jets or something. It turns out that there is a factory that builds them just a few hours from here. I got this one directly from the manufacturer; it probably would have cost like $6,000 retail. It didn’t really matter though because (even thought the hot tub was built into the deck) the appraiser gave us zero credit for it. Hot tubs are always very risky moves. I knew the risk. I did it anyways. I lost. And, this was all my doing. I can’t blame this bright idea on anyone.

    Gazebo for the hot tub: $1,700 – Need I say more? We’ll keep this as a part of the hot tub . . .

  8. Exterior Paint: $3,800 – The house was brick. There was nothing wrong with the brick. We just wanted to give the house a richer look. The comparison house had the exact same brick. They didn’t paint it. The appraiser gave us zero credit for the paint of course because it’s a taste thing.
  9. Jenn Air Appliances: $3,000 – Top of the line stainless steel appliances. The total package cost us somewhere around seven grand. That is easily $3,000 more than a good GE stainless steel package would have cost us. The GE stuff would have done just as well.
  10. Top of the line custom Cabinets: $14,000 – The comparable home had mid-grade cabinets at best. The appraiser gave us no credit for the extra expense. My cabinet guy could have done a very nice kitchen for about half this cost. I figure this move cost me about $7,000.
  11. Granite countertops for the bathrooms: $1,200 – I don’t think this needs explaining.
  12. French Door in the Dining Room: $1500 – We took out a big picture window and added a French door to the patio from the dining room. It looked nice but the comps didn’t have this door. The appraiser of course gave us no credit for it.


This gives a grand total of approximately $32,050.00 of over improvements. It hurts because at the beginning of the project we had considered just selling the home as is (no improvement.) I’m certain that if we would have skipped the improvements and just sold it in the same condition that we bought it, then we would have made about $30,000 more than what we made after putting in all the extra work.

Our buyers didn’t even say thank you for all of the free stuff! In fact, they still made me come back and fix the light post and a couple other little handyman items. The vast majority of people have no idea of how much cost and effort these improvements take. If you want to get into real estate (any field of residential real estate) you had better get educated. These mistakes I listed here could have bought me a year at a pretty nice college.