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6 Do’s and Don’ts of Home Renovations


Birds eye view of Montecito Estate is for sale to illustrate the dos and don'ts of home renovations

Before beginning their next home renovation, Montecito homeowners should think twice. Sometimes, the home they own and love needs specific home improvements, due to a structural flaw, aging plumbing or another major issue that needs fixing. Those projects must be done right away. However, for things that aren’t structural, homeowners can have a difficult time deciding between aligning their home with their personal taste and setting themselves up for a lucrative sale. That’s because there are certain renovations that, if done correctly, will have a strong return on investment and others that are a total waste of time and money.

“Fabricating and customizing to your very specific tastes doesn’t necessarily mean those are the tastes of the market,” Jeremy Sopko, CEO of privately owned mortgage lender Nations Lending explained. “That’s especially true of lavish upgrades that don’t fit in with the surrounding environment. “The classic real estate advice is that it’s never good to have the most expensive house in the neighborhood. If, after your upgrades, you’ve got a $600,000 home in a neighborhood surrounded by similarly sized homes selling at $400,000, it’s a risk,” Sopko said.

So, before you put your contractor to work, consider these 6 do’s and don’ts of home renovations that can increase — or bring down — the resale value of your home, making it tougher to eventually sell.

a Chef's kitchen like the one in this image can help sell a home.

  1. Kitchen Upgrades
    As the heart of the home, the kitchen is often viewed as the most desirable room of the house. Experts believe potential home buyers are likely to base their decision on that one room: what many call the most valuable room in real estate. Typically, kitchen renovations shouldn’t exceed 25% of the home’s value. Still, kitchen renovations can be costly for Montecito home sellers. Some elements add value while other features simply don’t. The most valued features are custom cabinetry, kitchen islands, creative lighting, and granite counters.

As I explained in the previous blog, Add Value to Your Home With a Chef-Inspired Kitchen, the homes in my portfolio that have upscale kitchens sell for more. A chef-inspired kitchen can certainly appeal to today’s homebuyers.

What exactly is a Chef-Inspired Kitchen?

According to the experts, there are 5 amenities that must be included to make a chef-inspired kitchen and add value to your home.

  • Refrigerator drawers
    We’ve all been there: stirring a boiling pot when you realize you need to add something from the fridge. Refrigerated drawers in the kitchen island give you quick access to common ingredients. The essentials are an arm’s length away.
  • Wine staging area
    A mini wine fridge is a common amenity in luxury homes, even homes with wine cellars. This is both a time-saver and a great way to ensure your meal and wine pair well.
  • Stacked plate ware
    Stacking dishes so they’re easy to grab, like in a commercial kitchen, is another must-have for today’s home chefs. Forget about the open shelving. Plating is an important final step in meal-prep.
  • Tasting counter
    Think about it: chefs love good flow. A tasting counter, with ample counter space and a breakfast bar with barstools, puts the chef at the center, where they should be. That way, guests can partake and sample the food while the chef creates his or her masterpiece.
  • Outdoor Extension
    A substantial outdoor kitchen is a must here in Montecito. But it isn’t just about the grill. Consider adding a wok range, pizza oven, mini-fridge, sink, and ample counter space. That way, you can prep, cook, and plate a meal without having to step inside. 

According to Zillow, the one thing that received the highest sale premium in listings was the keywords “steam oven.” If your Montecito home has a wall oven that steams food, you can expect your abode to sell for 34% more than expected. The only caveat was homes in the same metro area and price tier with steam ovens tended to sit on the market for the longest: 22 days longer than similar homes.

  1. Poorly Conceived Room Additions
    One of the most common types of renovations – actually properly called a “remodel” — that can destroy a home’s value is a poorly conceived room addition. Avoid any construction that will appear as lobbed onto the side of an existing home without much thought.

Even though additions offer the potential for higher cost-value ratios than other renovation or remodel projects, you still may not recover the full cost of the addition when you sell. It’s a gamble that many homeowners make. Building an addition with the full knowledge that you will sell the home within a year or two usually means losing money, unless you’re in a particularly hot real estate market like right here in Montecito.

You must create a viable plan before starting the emotionally taxing process of adding a room to your home. Consider that this new room will use up valuable property space. Do your due diligence before you begin. Ask me or other professionals for our recommendations or check out the reviews of top-rated service providers in our area on Angie’s List.

A beautiful blue pool in the backyard of a Montecito home that is for sale.

  1. Pools
    When it comes to homes with pools, the saying is, “Everyone loves a pool, but not the maintenance.” Besides being costly to build and maintain, pools present a safety hazard to families with small children. However, under the right circumstances, a pool could boost your home’s value by as much as 7%. Here are the conditions:
  • You live in a higher-end neighborhood where most of your neighbors have pools.
  • You live in a warmer climate like Montecito where you can enjoy a pool year-round.
  • The pool doesn’t take up your entire yard—there’s still room for a swing set and a garden.
  • The style of the pool fits with your home and neighborhood, and it’s well maintained.

Before you begin, make sure to check out this guide that breaks down all the costs associated with building a pool, from materials, maintenance, additional features, and more. Because in the end, if your heart is set on adding a pool, don’t look at it as an investment in your home, but in your lifestyle. A pool can add to your family’s enjoyment of your home, and you can’t put a price on that. Just be prepared for the ongoing costs and responsibility to maintain it as well as the obstacles that might crop up once you put your home on the market.

The same goes for many other big-ticket, expensive luxury items, like Jacuzzis or heated floors in the bathroom. These things don’t necessarily hurt, but you’re simply not going to recoup the money you invest in them.

Anoffice inside a Montecito home that is for sale.

  1. Room Conversions
    As much as you might want a home office or gym, it’s usually not a great idea to fully convert a bedroom or garage into a place for another use, especially if it involves a bedroom.

The number of bedrooms a home has is a feature that virtually all home buyers consider when deciding whether to even look at a property. That means if your home has one less bedroom, or a converted garage, that info could undermine initial buyer interest.

While the bedroom doesn’t offer as much opportunity as the kitchen and the bathrooms do when it comes to renovations, there are some small things Montecito Homeowners can do to make their bedroom more appealing to potential buyers.

  • Make sure there’s ample lighting. That might mean replacing old fixtures or even bringing in some new lighting to help illuminate the space.
  • Repaint any areas of the bedroom where the current paint is cracked or peeling, or where the color isn’t neutral; you’re always going to want to pick something off-white or fairly light. Dark or garish colors should always be avoided.
  1. Quirky Customizations
    Experts say one decorates their home for living, and one should re-decorate their home for selling. That is because most likely, the person who ends up buying your home will not have the same taste and style you do. So, when it comes time to sell your home, you must remove yourself and your history from the overall picture.

A home buyer wants to be able to envision him or herself in your home, not wonder about you, your lifestyle and your family. So, when taking into account the do’s and don’ts of home renovations, you don’t want to distract from the task at hand, which is to sell your home.

Tone down those bright and cheery colors and save them for your next home. Instead, use softer, more neutral tones like creams and off-whites that can make spaces look lighter, airier and brighter. If your home is covered in brightly patterned wallpaper, you ought to give serious consideration to removing that as well. Potential buyers may be deterred by the paper knowing what a colossal nuisance it can be to remove it.


  1. Wall to wall carpeting
    If you walk into a home that hasn’t been on the market for decades, you’ll probably see a lot of wall-to-wall carpeting. This was common in the mid 20th century. Not only did carpeting help reduce heating bills, but it was also seen as physically comforting and less sterile.

Fast forward 50 years: a time when most buyers prefer gleaming hardwood floors and/or Spanish tile. Those floor coverings make a space feel less confined and give it a new, clean feeling. No matter how many times the carpet has been cleaned, there’s something about stepping on someone else’s carpet with your bare feet that turns off today’s buyers.

These days, home buyers are looking for hardwood floors throughout. Even if they aren’t in the best of shape, hardwood floors are much more appealing than wall to wall carpeting. That being said, if you’re going to go through the trouble of replacing the flooring in your home, you might as well spring for a hard surface such as wood or tile rather than carpeting. If you can’t rip out the wall to wall, at least have it professionally steam cleaned.

Prior to renovating your home and putting it on the market, you should ask your Realtor to provide a list of homes in your neighborhood that have recently sold, then take a look at what type of amenities and upgrades those homes had. I always share the info with my customers.

As a homeowner, when it comes to home renovations, you’re free to make any changes you want. You’re the one who has to live there, after all. So, if you plan to stay awhile, don’t shy away from upgrades that make it more comfortable and enjoyable.

Understand, however, that when it does come time to sell, you might need to invest in additional renovations or upgrades that make your home more attractive to potential buyers.

Easy Updates Designed to Sell

Whether or not you’re planning on selling your home anytime soon, making small improvements to increase your home’s value is always in vogue. Exterior curb appeal is always an area to concentrate on when the time comes to sell. Here are some things to consider:

  • Add a new exterior light fixture, a small expense that can really change the look of your home.
  • Replace your front door. This is particularly advantageous if your current door doesn’t let in much natural light.
  • Clean and repair your gutters.
  • Invest in some proper manicuring for your front lawn area. You want it to look vibrant and colorful without being busy or crowded.

In addition, the following easy updates will get you, your family and your home ready for sale:

  • Install a no-touch faucet on your kitchen sink
  • Swap old drawer pulls with a more modern design
  • Replace the fluorescent light fixtures in your bathroom
  • Upgrade your frameless builder-grade mirror to a more stylish one
  • Paint the front door and shutters a vibrant color
  • Clean the yard
  • Add Smart Home Features

Just by completing these simple changes, you’ll be updating your home to enjoy it now while making it easier to sell when you’re ready to list (with me, of course).

Your home is more than just a dwelling; it’s a place worthy of your love. Ready to show your house some love in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities while upgrading it for sale? Find out what other luxury Montecito homeowners did to prep for sale by visiting my website. Then call me at (805) 886-9378 or email me at I can be an invaluable resource to anyone considering listing their home in the near future.


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