Is Home Remodeling Worth It?

in progress demo of a bathroom with tools on the tile floor
Thanatham Piriyakarnjanakul / EyeEm/ Getty Images

Are you considering remodeling your home? Maybe you should think otherwise. If you watch enough home shows and read popular home remodel blogs and sites, you might get the notion that remodeling your home is a given. Even your neighbors will show off their their own home remodels and enthusiastically pass on their contractor's name to you.

But home remodeling is not for everyone or for every house. Before you pull up that corner of carpet or slap on a tester patch of paint in the living room, consider reasons why you may want to avoid—or at least delay—those home remodels that you have been dreaming about.

You May Not Break Even

You buy your house for $500,000, put in $50,000 worth of work, and sold it for $550,000 or more. Did you break even?

In a house sale, so many factors are at play that it is impossible to identify how each one contributes to the selling price. Factors unrelated to remodeling may have a bigger impact on a house's price, such as economic climate, comparables, mortgage rates, and more.

Some home remodels retain high value: major kitchen remodels, additions, bathroom fixes. Other remodels return little value upon sale. Investigate the resale value of home remodel projects and accept reality. Maybe that pirate-themed office you built for yourself is just that--for yourself, not for subsequent buyers.

Eco-Friendly Remodels Are Still Difficult

Recent advances mean that homes are more eco-friendly than ever. But the process of remodeling is an inherently wasteful process. Just look at the contents of your dumpster on your next kitchen remodel and you will see 40 cubic yards of drywall, wood, carpeting, vinyl flooring, wire, and glass—all destined for the landfill. Not only that, consider the energy wasted in manufacturing and transporting the building materials.

However, you can make your next remodeling project as green as possible. If you're not sure how to go about this, LEED consultants exist for this very reason. Be sure to always purchase EnergyStar-rated appliances for the kitchen and laundry room.

Home Remodels Can Fray Relationships

Home remodeling can have a corrosive effect on marriages and other close, personal relationships. Reclaim your life by maintaining a good balance of remodeling and living a rich, full life with your people, whether this means your spouse, children, parents, friends, or whomever. Investigate all the ways to keep your relationships healthy. Budget a long-term hotel stay for any remodeling project that takes a major room out of commission.

Costs Always Seem to Rise, Not Fall

Find a contractor who can deliver a bathroom remodel on time and on budget, and he'll have guaranteed business for the rest of his life. More realistically, large-scale remodeling projects are riddled with change orders that increase the cost and extend the finish date. Even small remodels have a unique way of inching upward in cost.

Get an accurate, third-party view of remodeling costs. After that, mentally add 25-percent to both the cost and the schedule.

Some Home Projects Are Difficult to DIY

The clarion call of home remodeling shows and blogs is that you can do it all by yourself. Energetic home bloggers will install their own air conditioners or furnaces, build additions, install metal roofing, jack up the house, add house siding, or any number of other complicated home projects.

Some projects are tidy and well-defined: for example, interior painting, installing floating floors, replacing electrical outlets, or building small items like benches or coat racks.

But things get costly when you begin a project by yourself, find yourself out of your element, and then shift the project to a contractor. To avoid that problem, categorize projects as do-it-yourself, hire-a-pro, or either way. Match projects against easily discernable home improvement skills that you already possess—not home improvement skills you hope to possess.

You Might Get Scammed, so Be Careful

If you go through life worrying about getting ripped off, you'll never go anywhere. But a healthy dose of caution is always in order when approaching a giant home project that may run into the five or even six figures.

Yet home improvement scammers do exist and they are out there, on the prowl for their next victim. The lure of a big payday is exactly why unscrupulous contractors prey on unsuspecting homeowners.

Scam artists especially like to target exterior projects, such as those involving driveways and roofs. Others operate in a gray area. Water pipe insurance, while a legitimate business, might be completely unnecessary for your home. Mold remediation, too, is a legitimate business, but many scammers insinuate themselves into this industry as a way to separate homeowners from their money.

Thoroughly research contractors to reduce the possibility of getting scammed. Make sure that you seek out the contractor, not vice-versa. If the contractor comes to the door unsolicited, a possible scam might be in the works.

Your House May Not Really Need Remodeling

If you believe this five-figure kitchen remodel is necessary, can you answer why? In most cases, an unattractive but functional kitchen can boil an egg as well as will a pristine kitchen with seating for twelve at the breakfast bar.

Many homeowners add space to their house or recondition a bathroom for no discernible reason. Outside influences may fuel your decision to remodel: low home equity rates, boosterism from home remodeling shows, and neighborly peer pressure. None are good reasons to remodel.

Carefully consider your next home remodeling project before committing yourself. Realize there is no shame in deciding not to proceed with the remodel at all.