Real Estate Investing Basics

5 Home Renovation Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Finance, Real Estate News & Commentary, Business Management, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Marketing, Mortgages & Creative Financing
103 Articles Written

If you want to get top dollar for your house, you may want to invest in a few renovation projects prior to listing. But any time you embark on a renovation, there’s always the chance that something could go wrong—so be careful!

Want more articles like this?

Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up for free

5 Renovation Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

You can find a YouTube video or HGTV episode that will walk you through any home renovation project imaginable. The problem? They use convenient editing and experienced professionals, which make things look easy and effortless. They always make smart choices, very little goes wrong, and the home sells for a healthy profit.

Unfortunately, you can’t edit and splice your life until it’s ready for production. Your life is the production, and you can’t afford to make the following renovation mistakes prior to placing your house on the market.

1. Choosing the Cheapest Contractor

Very rarely will the contractor that offers the lowest bid provide the best quality work. Skilled contractors know that they're valuable and therefore are able to charge a premium for their work. While you don't have to blow through your budget and go with the most expensive contractor, it's smart to get a bid from at least three different contractors and go from there. When comparing their portfolios, ideas, and referrals, you’ll find that the cheapest contractor is typically cheap for a reason.

Related: Rehabbers Beware: 5 Big Issues Distressed Properties Hide (& How to Detect Them)

2. Designing According to Personal Tastes

It’s natural to approach the renovation process with your own personal tastes in mind, but you have to remember that you’re putting the house on the market. Your tastes don’t really matter. What’s important is that prospective buyers like the style. Avoid designing according to your personal preferences and instead look at what’s popular in your area.

3. Making Things Bright and Flashy

"Some people enjoy bright colors in their living space, but this can be done with accents. If you're looking to freshen up the walls, stick to white, beige, and sand tones. Don't overdo it with brightly painted rooms and accent walls," Maui real estate professional Fred Haywood advises. “The new owner can take care of that after escrow. You’re better off appealing to a wider group of people by staying with neutral colors.”

This suggestion sort of goes hand in hand with the previous one. While you may think it’s boring, the goal is to make your property as appealing to the masses as possible. A lot of buyers will find it difficult to look past bright and flashy walls.

4. Failing to Get Proper Approval and Permits

Just because you own your home doesn’t mean you’re free to tear things up and build new features. Any time you have a project that involves more than simply slapping on some paint and changing out hardware, it’s important to inquire about approval and permit procedures. The last thing you want is to rip open your walls and then get a steep fine from the city for failing to follow the proper procedures.


Related: Is It Better to Buy & Rehab or Purchase Turnkeys? Let’s Look at the Pros & Cons.

5. Obsessing Over the Small Details

Finally, homeowners often make the mistake of stressing out over small details. Again, you have to remember that you’re selling the home. While you shouldn’t cut any corners, don’t let small, insignificant details hold you back. Focus on the big picture and find satisfaction in the things that are going right.

Be Smart With Renovations

Renovations prior to a home sale only make sense if they add value to your property. Remember this as you rip out cabinets, replace flooring, and repaint walls. A home renovation project can get away from you if you aren’t careful, so only bite off what you can chew—and avoid these five mistakes!

Anything you’d add to this list?

Leave your comments below!

Larry is an independent, full-time writer and consultant. His writing covers a broad range of topics including business, investment and technology. His contributions include
Read more
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I agree with that you should avoid designing according to your personal preferences, but I would carefully evaluate what’s popular in your area. “Trendy” tends to look great for the first weeks or so, but become downright tacky-looking within about six months. Stay away from crystal clear shower doors, mirrored closet doors, side-by-side refrigerators, and sinks in a kitchen island, as some examples.
    Mike White Investor
    Replied over 3 years ago
    But trendy is exactly what you want when you plan on selling in a month or two. Let the buyer worry about how things will go out of style or are less functional in the long run. You want the current bling!
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied over 3 years ago
    No, as a buyer , I do not want the current bling. Most of it is overpriced garbage anyway, like those glass tile back splashes that were popular a few years ago. They look gorgeous at first, but within six months, those tinsy, tiny pieces of glass are falling off. I prefer to put my own “bling” in. I do not want someone else making my design choices and then expecting to be paid a premium. Just keep it simple and basic.
    Gary Wyatt from Prescott Valley, Arizona
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Are you saying stay away from clear shower doors because of the Alkali? Also, why stay away from side by side refrigerators?
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Clear shower doors are impossible to keep clean. The amount of soap scum and calcification they attract is unbelievable. I actually prefer shower curtains because you can simply throw away the inner curtain. IF the shower must have a door,let it at least be frosted. Clear doors are also a problem when the unit only has one bathroom. Sometimes one of the other residents simply must use the toilet… Most side-by-side refrigerators are too narrow to accommodate a pizza box. The best energy savings is when the freezer is on top.
    Cheryl Vargas Rental Property Investor from Rohnert Park, CA
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I thought you were going to list some specifics about which things are too small to worry about. Like putting hardwood floors or engineered wood floor. Or granite vs. quartz countertops Or do I get rid of the kitchen cabinets, or just change the doors? I would have liked to hear more about the cost effectiveness of specifics like those.
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Very good list, especially the part about not making the house what you want it to be but what it needs to be to get the proeprty sold or rented. You’re not making your dream home.
    Gary Wyatt from Prescott Valley, Arizona
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Would you recommend changing out cabinets in homes that have shaker style cabinets that are in a home that is around 8 years old?
    Holly Bacon from Pueblo, Colorado
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Nice article! I definitely have to watch out for making my house for renting not for my personal tastes!
    Replied over 3 years ago
    That’s a great post Larry. I agree with these points. I have a 10 years old house of mine which i have thought to renovate it.These points are of great help. I think along with this one must plan electrical lining before arranging the things, Plan how much lightning is required near the dining table and in other areas.Once again thanks for valuable post…
    Kevin Polite Flipper/Rehabber from Decatur Atlanta, GA
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Look at most homes sold in your price point and how long they sit on the market and look at the finishes of those that sell the fastest. Beige is only used in lower end flips these days in most areas. Gray has become more than the it color of the month/year, it has become the new beige.