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Is Renovating Worth It?


Are home renovations worth it?

My partner and I have lived in our house since January 2021. We haven’t really made changes or upgrades to the house in the two years we’ve been here, aside from regular maintenance like replacing our broken water heater and installing gutters.

Our house was built in the 1980s, so some of the aesthetic choices are a bit outdated. We have bright blue formica countertops in the kitchen, bright blue carpet upstairs, and linoleum in the mudroom and one of the bathrooms. But I’ve just designed around these little quirks, making sure the paint colors and furniture I chose wouldn’t clash with them, and accepted them as part of the charm of living in a slightly older house. 

My Partner Is Eager to Upgrade

My partner, on the other hand, is very eager to make upgrades and is getting kind of antsy about it! Our master bathroom is pretty tight and has a small shower with an off-white bath fitter surround that’s not the most aesthetically pleasing. I don’t see it as an emergency or something that needs to be dealt with right away, but my partner feels differently and wants to start saving for a bathroom remodel.

Our walk-in closet is actually part of our master bathroom, so we’ve talked about getting rid of it so we can expand the bathroom’s footprint and install a bigger shower. Our bedroom has an alcove where we could put a new master closet to replace our old one. 

But as a personal finance writer, I’m not sure if taking on a major renovation like this is worth it, at least financially. A middle of the road bathroom remodel—nothing extravagant like marble tile—costs about $21,000 on average, which is like buying a used car. And I’ve read that you can only expect to recoup about 65% of this cost when you sell your home. So it seems like we’d lose money by upgrading our perfectly functional, but small and slightly outdated, bathroom. 

Renovating Seems Trivial Compared to Other Financial Goals 

Since renovating the bathroom isn’t the best financial investment, I don’t think we should plan on doing it yet while we still have a mortgage. I know plenty of homeowners make cosmetic home upgrades before paying off their mortgages, and some even take out home equity loans to cover the cost of them. But I want to make sure the house is fully ours, not the bank’s, before we sink tens of thousands of dollars into nonessential upgrades. From my perspective, making sure we always have a roof over our heads is much more important than having a nicer bathroom, as harsh as that sounds!

However, my partner is more of a spender and values aesthetics more than I do after attending college at a top art and photography school. So we’re kind of at an impasse in regards to this issue. My partner wants to start saving for home upgrades, and I don’t want to make them until we’re further into our careers and more financially secure with a paid off home and more investments.

That’s why I thought I’d ask all of you for advice! Do those of you who have done home renovations think remodeling is worth the cost? Did upgrading your space markedly improve your quality of life? 

How would you come to a compromise on an issue like this when one of you is a spender and the other is a saver? My partner and I usually agree on other financial matters, but home-related expenses seem to trip us up! This house was a compromise in and of itself because I wanted something smaller and cheaper, and my partner wanted a bigger home with a lot more acreage. 

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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  • Reply Walnut |

    Can you split the difference? Divert half of what you’re sinking into the mortgage into a savings account for a bathroom renovation. Start doing research, physically taping things out just to get a feel, do you need a general contractor or can you put together a plan and hire trades to do small portions? It seems like you could break it into two parts by creating the new master closer first and the actual bath after. Or maybe you can get buy some sort of wardrobe furniture that might be more affordable than construction? Costs are very high right now, so breaking the project down to figure out actual budget would be a good start.

  • Reply Angie |

    I get a big tone of housing insecurity from your posts. It seems to be clouding your judgement a bit on financial decisions. I would explore this personally or in therapy. I’ve never once heard anyone say they would wait until their mortgage is paid off to make any updates to their home. that comes off as pretty dang extreme.

  • Reply Den |

    I think it’s important that both partners are happy in their home.

    We moved into our forever home and immediately renovated the kitchen, added a mudroom, and redid the floors on the whole first floor. We did a lot of the work ourselves, but hired out the tough stuff. It was totally worth it as we have enjoyed the kitchen for the past 15 years and hosted many family parties over the years. We chose finishes that are timeless (not trendy) and our real estate friend mentioned she could sell the house in an instant because of the kitchen. So definitely improved the value of our house AND we’ve enjoyed it for 15 years plus.

    So my advice would be to start saving for the renovation. Figure out what you can do yourself (maybe the demo), and research fixtures and finishes that will be classics. Updated master suites are a huge selling point plus you will enjoy it.

    Houses are not just shelter for some people (you hubby?), they are homes and an important part of their happiness.

  • Reply Hope |

    I immediately remodeled my bathroom and kitchen. And I did what you describe kind of in turning the master bedroom 1/2 bath and closet into a larger master bath. And I have ZERO regrets. We did a GREAT DEAL of the work ourselves, hired an amazing contractor who was reasonably priced so long as we worked around his job schedule. We didn’t pay anywhere close to $21K for either of our bathrooms, both of which were taken down to the studs. We even had to replace some floor joists in our main bathroom (only full bath.) I believe this is an area you can compromise and do it a bit more reasonably if you are willing to take your time and contribute sweat equity.

So, what do you think ?