Have you seen the new HGTV show called “Bang for your Buck”? The objective is for two experts, a real estate agent and a designer, to compare three renovations of the same space, within the same city, all with the same budget, to see who obtained the highest profitability. I just saw the one that just aired comparing three $65,000 kitchen renovations in the city of Phoenix, Arizona. Given that my husband and I did a major kitchen renovation just 3 years ago and spent nearly twice the national average, I found this story particularly interesting.

I LOVED the first renovation. that was beautiful! In fact, his kitchen reminded me a lot of mine. They chose dark walnut cabinetry, contrasting white quartz countertops, dark hardwood floors (which they so badly wanted, but too practical to get), and high-end stainless steel appliances. They sacrificed an eat-in kitchen space for a bar that offered more storage space and better suited their lifestyle. At first glance, you wouldn’t see anything wrong with this until you start evaluating where the house was located, etc.

EXPERTS: This is a mid-level 3 bed, 2 bath home with a big “wow”; They got too much better for the neighborhood.

OWNERS: There is no such thing as over-improving. We don’t want to spend as much as everyone else because when it comes time to sell, our house is still the same as everyone else’s.

ALICE: In real estate, there is such a thing as over-improvement, “IF” your ultimate goal is to get back all the money you put into selling the house. Spending the same amount as everyone else does NOT necessarily mean you’ll get the same results. Obviously, these 3 renewals are a perfect example. They each spent $65,000 and got completely different results. This couple has great taste and even if they spent 50% less, in all likelihood, they would have achieved fabulous results. They could definitely have achieved a similar look for less.

EXPERTS: Removing the kitchen-dining room from a bar was not a good idea.

OWNERS: They didn’t need two spaces to eat; they wanted more storage space and a bar for entertaining.

ALICE: I agree that not having an eat-in kitchen could hurt them when it comes to resale because judging from the specs it looks like a beginner family neighborhood and not having an eat-in kitchen would not be suitable for families with children. Because they are a young couple with no children, they have not seen that as a problem. Ultimately, since the house is so beautiful, I think the buyers would forgive him and simply make the necessary adjustments.

EXPERTS: The glass mosaic backsplash was a bit of a concern, too much of a compromise.

OWNERS: That was our personality. People care too much about neutrality and forget about their personal lifestyle. If you are going to live in a house for 5 years, make it yours.

ALICE: I agree with the owners. Sometimes neutral is taken so literally and to the extreme that you end up with a box of vanilla = BORING! My own glass mosaic tile backsplash gets compliments all the time.

EXPERTS: The stainless steel appliances (built-in refrigerator and oven) were all top of the line; they have the best kitchen in the neighborhood, but people are not going to want to pay for it.

OWNERS: This is how we want to live in our kitchen. That’s what worked for us. We know we spent more, but that’s what we wanted and it was our waste.

ALICE: I totally agree with the homeowners again. I also created my “dream” kitchen to some extent, knowing that it is the best kitchen in the neighborhood. Will we recover our investment? In this market, NO. When the market was up, YES. Over time, MAYBE. Regardless, this is what he wanted and he wouldn’t have been happy with anything less. At the time, I was already cutting back to try to keep the budget as low as possible. My biggest regret is that I didn’t spend the money on radiant heated floors. Believe me, during the colder months, my husband and I kick ourselves every day! Again, as long as owners agree to spend more for personal enjoyment and not necessarily resale value, they’ll be fine.

LESSONS LEARNED: Don’t over-improve your area. Consider using alternative materials to save money, but don’t sacrifice your own wishes for the sake of resale. You should customize your home to suit your lifestyle and taste, as long as you understand that you may not get back all the money you spend and some extreme customizations may need to be changed when it comes time to sell.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I address the lessons learned from the other two revamps.