white house with black fence and blue front door

The One Space Experts Say Not to Touch If You Want to Resell Your Home

If you're looking to resell your home for a bigger profit but want to avoid squandering money on home improvements that will hurt your resale value, you're in luck. We've tapped seasoned real estate pros to find out which projects to steer clear of when maximizing pricing. Whether you're looking to sell your home fast or invest in the bare minimum updates needed to attract buyers, there's one room you shouldn't spend time and money renovating if you plan to sell.

Meet the Expert

  • Ajay Patel is a broker and president at Hershey Real Estate Group in Pennsylvania.
  • Candy Brown is an Associate Broker and Realtor of Rivoli Realty in Georgia.

First, Skip Renovating Below Ground (Unless It's for Your Needs)

basement with wood paneling sectional sofa and gallery wall

Design: Emily Henderson & Priscilla Frost, Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Main floor additions are the best way to invest your home improvement dollars, especially if you're on a budget. Ajay Patel, president and broker of Hershey Real Estate Group, encourages homeowners to "invest their money on renovating their home above ground rather than below because that's what an appraiser looks at." However, each state will have varying regulations when defining which spaces count toward square footage calculations. Patel, who is located in Pennsylvania, states that "basements here are not included as square foot value" but agrees that "every state is different."

And if your state prohibits you from including your basement in your total square footage, you can always have your listing read as two separate square footage totals.

And like with most home renovations, you'll only recoup a portion of your investment. According to Zillow, basements are no different, giving you an average return of 70 percent. But, unless you intend to stay in your current home for years and need a functional basement to fit your lifestyle, it's best to prioritize renovating above-grade (above-ground living square footage) spaces first.

Candy Brown, associate broker and realtor at Rivoli Realty, agrees. "In general, it doesn't matter if basements are finished or unfinished, especially because it's a rare occurrence to see this space in the southern region," she says, working with sellers and buyers in Georgia.

A finished basement means it's habitable. For a basement to be considered usable, it needs to be up to code, have flooring, temperature control, insulation, and painted walls at a bare minimum.

"When basements are found, most buyers are excited just for its storage aspect, not aesthetics," Brown adds. In this case, it may be best to leave your basement unfinished if you plan to sell soon. However, like any home improvement project, whether you move forward with your basement renovation will depend on your local real estate market, home goals, and local laws.

When basements are found, most buyers are excited just for its storage aspect, not aesthetics.

Another Space to Skip: Bedrooms

bedroom with custom headboard

Design: Malcolm Simmons, Photo: Keyanna Bowen

Though we love a beautiful bedroom makeover, you may also risk losing buyers if you over-customize a bedroom space into something hard to reverse, like a home theater or pottery studio. This is because hobby spaces may limit the type of buyers you attract, even preventing several from viewing your home (if they don't share that particular passion).

Renovating bedrooms will probably bring the least resale value, which typically just need a bit of clean up and staging.

However, as long as your bedrooms aren't overly tailored to your needs, "buyers are extremely forgiving to bedrooms and whether they're personalized or specific. It's not a hindrance," notes Brown. "They'll look at the room size, open the closet, and move on to the next room. And the clutter and personalization will not read negative to a buyer."

Patel also shares this sentiment, adding that "renovating bedrooms will probably bring the least resale value, which typically just need a bit of clean up/staging" during the resale process.

For a Boost in ROI, Here Are A Few Rooms You Should Touch

kitchen renovation with white subway tile

Design: Cathie Hong Interiors, Photo: Christy Q. Photo

According to Remodeling Magazine's 2022 Cost vs. Value report, garage door replacements, manufactured stone veneer, and minor kitchen remodels (mid-range) ranked highest in terms of cost recouped—with garage door replacements at 93.3% and minor kitchen remodels coming in at 71.2%.

Patel agrees, "upgraded kitchens and bathrooms will give you the highest return," adding "regarding any renovations, I would stay with natural colors, hardwood flooring, and high-end stainless steel appliances."

"Another area of importance is the curb appeal and location of your listing," Patel adds.

The takeaway? The best way to maximize your return on investment is to keep your spaces clean, invest in low-maintenance landscaping, and maintain your home in an aesthetic that appeals to most buyers.