I paid $426,250—a deal by New York standards—because it clearly needed work. The kitchen would need a complete overhaul, and the bathroom was in sorry shape, too. So I decided to splurge on my renovation.
I started with the kitchen. I reconfigured the layout, had custom cabinetry built, and procured top-of-the-line appliances. I found the prettiest granite for counters, along with beveled subway tile for a backsplash, a wine rack, a spice cabinet, and many other bells and whistles.
Next, I set my sights on the bathroom. Before I knew it, this dark, cramped space was encased in floor-to-ceiling Carrara marble. I had the dingy old bathtub demolished and replaced with a floor-to-ceiling spa shower.
All told, these upgrades cost me almost $90,000. Sure, it was a lot of money. But I was planning to live there for a long time—and if I ever sold it, I expected to make all of it back, and then some. At the rate the housing market was going, how could I not?
Fast forward six years, the housing market had crashed, and a job offer in Los Angeles had forced me to put my New York apartment on the market. Despite my pricey renovations, I was shocked when my broker presented me with what he thought was a fair listing price for my apartment: $470,000.
Given that I’d paid $426,250 for the place and poured almost $90,000 into renovations, I’d be selling at a significant loss.
That’s when I came to realize that while all my design decisions might have sounded (and looked) great at the time, many simply didn’t justify their cost when it came time to recoup my investment. Here are some of my biggest renovation regrets, with the hope that I can help others avoid the same fate.
1. Carrara marble
One of my favorite splurges in the bathroom, the Carrara marble, ended up being my biggest nemesis. Much to my chagrin, the expensive marble bench I installed in the spa shower wasn’t as waterproof as the contractors had claimed.
Despite my best efforts of frantically wiping the surfaces down as soon as I finished showering, brown rings and stains remained where I had placed shampoo and body wash containers.
Considering that the spa shower was the centerpiece of the bathroom, it became increasingly difficult to hide the stains through the gleaming glass doors.
2. High-end stainless-steel appliances
Since my kitchen opened up to the rest of my apartment, I justified the price of selecting high-end appliances by maintaining that they would be the stars of not only the kitchen, but the living room as well.
I didn’t bat an eyelash at the cost. I loved to cook, spent a lot of time in the kitchen, and enjoyed the look of my appliances—particularly my big splurge, the Viking range.
As it turns out, life and work ended up keeping me a lot busier than anticipated and I barely spent any time in the new kitchen.
Since there are a variety of more affordable yet stylish options on the market, I’d have been better served choosing several of those instead.
Since I went with real hardwood as opposed to engineered flooring, I found myself enforcing a strict no-shoe policy in my apartment.
With my previous chipped, dated parquet, it wasn’t an issue, but when the fresh, wide-plank hardwood was installed, my tolerance threshold became virtually nonexistent.
In retrospect, since the apartment was small, I could have gotten away with a nice engineered (aka composite wood) option. At about half the price (around $4,000), it wouldn’t have made much difference in the looks department, but would have saved a nice chunk of change.
4. Expensive light fixtures
Unfortunately, while picking out light fixtures, I hadn’t given thought to the fact that they’d probably end up staying in my home once I sold it.
They became a part of the presentation of the entire apartment, and, unfortunately, when I eventually sold, the buyer expected they would be left in place.
I argued that I should be able to take them, but my broker advised that since my buyer had upped her offer to full asking price, I should let that slide.
5. Light-colored bathroom grout
While it looked lovely for the first year, the grout color on my bathroom floor eventually became a problem.
I went with a classic white to complement the natural veining in the marble flooring, but it wasn’t long before it became grimy with use.
In retrospect, a medium-colored gray would have probably been the better option.
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