Do appraisals take into account home renovations? To what extent?

There are always pros and cons with any home renovation. The biggest pro is that your home always looks way better, and the biggest con is that it always costs too much money.

Bricks Home RemodelRenovation pros and cons also apply when it comes to home appraisals.

Renovations give your home the added value, but never as much as you spent on the renovations in the first place.

The question is then, are they actually worth it?

We will touch on that in a second. But first, let’s talk about the problems with them and the ones that contribute the most and least value.

But first, I want to note that this is all written from the perspective of an appraiser. Homes sell higher than the appraised values all the time for many reasons. I wrote this article without the bias of outside factors that influence home values.

If you’re getting an appraisal and need to know what you should to prepare, get our free home appraisal checklist.

The problem with renovations and appraisals

A common problem with renovations is that people are spending money on the wrong things. They spend money on things that are not always practical when it comes to added home value.

Backlit onyx and Carrara marble might be appealing to you, but do they add more value in an appraisal?

Not so much.

The majority of the time, renovations like these are for the owner of the home, and not for the added value. Think of how many buyers would actually appreciate these kinds of finishes?

I’m assuming not very many.

Another common problem is that a lot of times the updates are required for safety or convenience.

These kinds of updates, like plumbing and electrical, might cost a lot, but don’t add much value.

So what kind of renovations should you do then?

Keep reading.

Renovations that contribute the most value

PaintingAt this point, you’re probably thinking, why even bother with renovations at all?

Well, I can tell you for sure that there are some that add the value you hope to get.

Most of these renovations are much needed cosmetic updates to outdated homes.

Many of them you can even do yourself, without the help of contractors. However, if you do try and do these yourself, make sure you know what you are doing.

These renovations include things like:

Renovations that contribute the least value

On the flip side, there are many renovations that don’t make financial sense. These are typically renovations done from emotions and not practicality.

The ones that contribute the least value are usually completely unnecessary.

The added value (Or lack of) reflects that.

The worst of these (Unless you live in Beverly Hills), are high-end fixtures and finishes.

I have seen people pour half a million into high-end finishes for their home, only to get half of the cost back or less.

Here are some other renovations that don’t make financial sense:

  • Installing a pool
  • Converting a bedroom to some other use (No, you don’t need a wine cellar, and neither does the new owner)
  • Putting carpet over the hardwood
  • Converting the garage into a “studio” or “man cave”
  • Closet renovation
  • Bathroom/bedroom addition
  • Plumbing and electrical
  • Insulation
  • Extensive landscaping
  • Outdoor kitchen
  • Crown moldings
  • Things appraisers can’t see
  • Overbuilding for the neighborhood
  • Fountains, ponds, gazebos, playgrounds
  • RV garages
  • High-end fixtures and finishes (I can’t stress this enough)

So are they worth it?

Yes and no.

Now that you have read the lists above, it’s up to you to make the call. Renovations can work in your favor, and sometimes they won’t.

Some general rules of thumb:

Contribute the most value:

Most of the time, if you are updating old features of your home, you should be safe. Just keep the spending reasonable and deliberate.

Contribute the least value:

If you are renovating out of personal preference for luxury or fun, then you might find yourself in the hole.

Ask an Appraiser

If you have any appraisal questions that you would like to ask us, head on over to our Ask an Appraiser page and fill out the form.

Austin Fernald

10 thoughts on “Do appraisals take into account home renovations? To what extent?”

  1. Hi Austin! I have a question.

    My wife and I purchased a really runned down home. We only put down 10% because we needed the money for renovations. It’s a 3 bed and 2 bath. We changed everything on your listed.

    Remodeling kitchens and bathrooms (We went all out)
    New windows and bigger size
    New hardwood flooring
    New paint
    Replacing the front door
    Replace garage doors
    New furnace
    Canned lighting in dark rooms
    Remove popcorn ceilings
    Open up some walls (If they are not load bearing)
    New roof

    All interior is complete! We are still stuck in PMI. Our goal is to get out of it!

    The issue is. We need more time working on landscaping and deck. Does it make sense to get appraisal even when the exterior isn’t complete?

    • I’m not sure where you are located, but that sounds like enough improvements to be able to get enough equity to remove your PMI. Landscaping does not contribute nearly as much value as all of the improvements you have made already. As long as it doesn’t look like a dump from the outside, you should mostly likely go for it if you think it will help you to get out of PMI.

  2. We have just started demo for a remodel of our house. Two different people have contacted me, interested in buying. The second person says they want to do the remodel themselves. We have already pulled up carpeting in two rooms and started some painting, but not finished. We are working out clearing the land to open up the property lines as well. After we finish the landscaping and deep cleaning, should we do any more of the remodel process for the rooms we have already started? Or are there certain things we should go ahead and do before getting an appraisal? Both people live in close proximity, so I’m hoping that having the extra interest will help get the best offer.

    • Doing an appraisal during a remodel is always a bad idea because the appraiser has to find comparable properties in the area in similar condition, which means they have to find properties that are under construction like yours.

  3. I have a few questions.
    What about a new roof when the roof at purchase was 35 years old? (IE. near end of serviceable life) How about solar panels? (purchased outright or with unsecured loan)

    When we purchased the house the 1st floor square footage was not included in the appraisal, It was a “game room” type space and the appraisal called it a basement (but none of the walls touch dirt, the house is sitting 100% above grade). I assume this was because it did not have HVAC in that space but now it does. Do you think that square footage should be included in the gross living area now? (it’s heated and cooled, it sits 100% above grade, and it’s accessible via a stairway to the 2nd floor main living area, IE you never leave the house coming or going from the game room).

    • New roofs are taken into consideration in the overall condition and quality. In most cases, owned solar panels do add value. The additional room you are referring to should definitely not have been called a basement. I would have just called it a bonus room. If it is accessed from the main house (Without going outside or through the garage), and it is heated/cooled and finished like the rest of the house, then it would be considered part of the overall square footage.

  4. Would adding an Electric Fireplace that is attached to the wall add appraisal value? It is hung on the wall using brackets that screw into the wall studs. It will plug into an existing outlet (the mantel slides off to access the outlet as needed).

  5. Own a 1960’s home in PA that does NOT have AC. Looking to add AC, new windows, update roof but wondering do I perform improvements then refi or can an appraisal provide insights as to which project to do first and then refi to get best bang for buck.


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