Selling February 7, 2024

Remodeling Projects to Avoid When Selling Your Home


It’s common for homeowners to feel compelled to remodel their homes before they sell. Renovating the spaces in your home can increase its value and help you compete with comparable listings in your area. However, some remodeling projects are more beneficial than others as you get ready to hit the market. Always talk to myself or another local agent to determine which projects are most appealing to buyers in your area.

When preparing to sell your home, you want to strike the right balance of upgrades. Making repairs and executing renovations will attract buyer interest, but you don’t want to dump so much cash into remodeling that you won’t be able to recoup those expenses when your home sells.

So, how do you know where to focus your efforts? Your agent is a vital resource in understanding your specific situation—I typically offer guidance to my clients on remodeling efforts that will help sell their home for the best price. Here are a few projects sellers will want to keep off their to-do lists for the best return on investment…


Major, Pricey Upgrades with Long Timelines

For any remodeling project, an analysis of your home’s value will be key to helping you determine its risk/reward potential (reach out if you’d like one for your home). This dynamic is especially important for big remodels and home upgrades, due to their higher costs. The latest Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report ( data for the Seattle area shows a generally negative return on investment for major, upscale remodeling projects—they only recouped about 25%-30% of their cost…

Cost vs. Value for Remodeling Projects in Seattle

These projects come with hefty price tags and longer timelines than minor repairs and upgrades, which can complicate factors as you prepare to sell, especially if you have a deadline to get into your new home. They have the potential to temporarily displace you from the property, meaning you and your household may have to find somewhere else to stay until the project is complete.

The Bottom Line: To go through with a major home upgrade before you sell, its schedule must fit with your moving timeline. It should also align with buyer interest in your local market. If the project doesn’t meet these criteria, it should be avoided.


Non-Permitted Projects & Building Code Violations

Before you decide to finish out the basement or make changes to your home’s wiring/structure/mechanical systems, it is important to make sure you obtain the proper city, county and/or state permits + inspections. Non-permitted square footage does not reflect on the county tax record and can lead to low appraisals when the buyer tries to get a loan. Obtaining permits also helps ensure your alterations meet the current building code—otherwise, you may face legal exposure should they create a safety hazard. Furthermore, any non-permitted remodels must be disclosed to the buyer on your Form 17 if you live in Washington State. The buyer’s mortgage lender may also have stipulations saying that the loan may not be used to purchase a home with certain features that aren’t up to code, which could lead to them backing out of the deal.

If you’re selling an older home, you’re not obligated to update every feature that may be out of code to fit modern standards. These projects are often structural and require a significant investment. If the violation in question was built to code according to the regulations at the time, then a grandfather clause typically applies. However, you’ll need to disclose these features to the buyer.


Trendy Makeovers and Upgrades

Lastly, it’s best to avoid remodeling projects that target a specific trend in home design. Trends come and go. Timeless design is a hallmark of marketable homes because it appeals to the widest possible pool of buyers. Keep this in mind when staging your home as well. Creating an environment that’s universally appealing and depersonalized allows buyers to more easily imagine the home as their own.


Wondering which remodeling projects might help your home sell? Reach out any time…I’m never too busy to discuss your options and offer advice based on the current market.



Windermere Mercer Island


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1©2023 Zonda Media, a Delaware corporation. Complete data from the 2023 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at

Adapted from an article that originally appeared on the Windermere Blog, written by: Sandy Dodge.