Want a summer home improvement project? Dig a big hole on your property, throw a bunch of money in it, throw a match in and bury it once the flames subside.
In some cases, it's never a good year to make those ideas happen. We asked those in the know which projects homeowners should stay away from this summer. The following is a list of home "improvements" in which the return on the investment is at best subjective and, at worst, a money- and time-draining waste of warm weather:
An in-ground pool is a $25,000 to $50,000 gamble before a homeowner even considers tucking into their first cannonball.
That same pool costs about $2,000 more a year to maintain, hundreds more to heat and insure and hundreds more in filter and pump repairs within less than a decade. When cracks inevitably appear, resurfacing can cost upward of $10,000 shortly after that first decade.
Sure, the National Association of Realtors' National Center for Real Estate Research says an in-ground pool can add about 8% to a home's resale price, but that value swings from 6% in the frosty Midwest to 11% in the toasty Sun Belt. An above-ground pool will have cheaper upfront costs, but the Center for Real Estate Research says it adds no value to a house and can actually subtract 1.9% of a house's value if the buyer decides the eyesore needs to come down.
A master suite addition
So you have a little extra space on your property and always wondered what it would be like to have a full bathroom and walk-in closet all to yourself. Here's the answer: Not as great as you'd think.
Remodeling magazine's Cost Vs. Value report cedes that homeowners will get their 24-by-16-foot master bedroom with walk-in closet/dressing area, whirlpool tub in ceramic tile platform, separate 3-by-4-foot ceramic tile shower, and double-sink vanity with solid-surface countertop. Those homeowners should just be prepared to sink more than $106,000 into a project that will add $63,000 to the price of their home at best. It's a 59.2% return on their investment that's actually a worse deal than remodeling the kitchen, refinishing the basement (66.8% return) or putting a bedroom in the attic (72.5%).
This one's a really tough call that families in one- and 1 1/2-bathroom households struggle with every year once it's time to host holidays and family reunions.
If you love your old home but would love it more if the folks who built it a century ago took 21st century personal-space needs into account, the cost of another bathroom is probably the deciding factor. Even on the cheap, a 6-by-8-foot bathroom addition can cost upward of $40,000. While your family and visitors will no doubt appreciate it, it'll be underwhelming to homebuyers who've been looking at properties with the same number of bathrooms all day.
A bathroom addition automatically drops 50% of its value, which means the $40,000 you spent to stop your family's ceaseless complaints tacks on only $20,000 to your selling price. Thanks for the $20,000 loss, kids.
This is an idea that seems better with each passing summer but never quite lives up to its potential.
Remodeling puts together a bare-bones, 200-square-foot sunroom with 14 windows, 10 vented skylights, a sliding door and wiring for ceiling fans and sconces and still manages to spend more than $74,000. A homeowner will be lucky to get $34,000 of that back in the sale price; a sunroom's value tends to drop by 54% or more.
That's assuming you've built a sunroom in a climate that actually, you know, gets sun every so often. If you've made this splurge in the Northeast, Great Lakes or the Pacific Northwest, expect buyers to put a bit less of a premium on your view of the clouds.
Home office remodel
Listen, we fully understand the home office. There's a lot more telecommuting these days, there's still a need for a professional working environment and this keeps everything nice and clean when the expense reports need to be mailed out and the taxes need to be filed.
That's great, but Remodeling says it's perhaps the least valuable home improvement you can make. Converting an existing 12-by-12-foot room to a home office with custom cabinets, 20 feet of laminate desktop, new wiring for electronics, cable and telephone lines and drywall and carpeting to cover it all up costs around $28,000. That same office won't be worth $12,000 when you try to sell the place to someone who actually likes the doughnut shop on the way to work and listening to the radio on the ride home.
That's a 57% loss that may be worth consulting the accountant about before the next W-2 arrives.
Click here for more home improvements that will waste time and money.