Can You Over-Improve A House That You Never Plan To Sell?

Design

This is a question I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. Is the concept of over-improving a house even a consideration if you never plan to sell? Now obviously, if you buy a house and plan to live there for just a few years and then sell it and move on, over-improving the house is something you’d want to keep in mind. You can’t just pour all kinds of money into the house and expect to recoup that money when you sell the house if the cost of the improvements you’ve added place the house way out of the price range of the neighborhood. I think most people understand that concept.

But what if you buy a house and you never intend to sell? What if that house is going to be your forever home, and you want it just so, and you’re willing to put the money into it to make it just so, and recouping the money at a later date isn’t something you even consider because you don’t plan to sell?

Obviously, the reason I’ve been thinking about this is because (1) I’m currently working on the final room of our current house (my studio), (2) I have some things I want to go back and change in previous rooms, (3) we’re about to start on an addition, (4) I’d still like to build a workshop in the back yard, and (5) I have lots of landscaping plans for the future, including lots of plants, a walking track, and a few structures (pergola, a new storage shed, etc.)

Many of you who have been with me on this journey will remember that we bought our house for $80,000 in August 2013. It was in rough shape, and in desperate need of some attention. But it had “good bones” and sat on a one-acre lot in a pretty quiet neighborhood, so I was sure it was the one. And somehow I was able to see the possibilities even though almost no one else could.

Living Room – Before

I have never kept a running total of how much we’ve spend on our house because we’ve always had the mindset that we’ll do whatever it takes to make the house what we want, customized for us, and we’ll stop when it feels finished to us. But while I don’t have a total, I do remember the big numbers for the biggest projects.

The first remodel I did in the house was the kitchen. I DIYed the whole thing to keep costs as low as possible, and it ended up costing $10,000.

unfinished stock oak cabinets used in my kitchen remodel
Kitchen – After

And now here I am considering an all new kitchen remodel when we do our addition. (I did that previous kitchen remodel ten years ago using the cheapest materials I could find because that’s all we could afford, so an upgrade after a decade seems reasonable to me.)

The hallway bathroom was the second remodel I did in the house, and if I remember correctly, that came in around $9000. This was the very first remodel, but since then, it got a colorful makeover, and after I finish the studio, it’s going to get another new look.

Small bathroom remodel - before and after

The original studio remodel (i.e., just to get change the structure from a garage to an actual interior room) came in around $40,000, which included the addition of a half bathroom and an HVAC system for these rooms. That cost didn’t include insulation, drywall, flooring, or any of the finishing details. All that paid for was getting it to this point.

I don’t even remember how much the insulation, drywall, flooring, and everything else cost, but I do know that in this current phase of trying to finish the room, the IKEA cabinets alone came in at $6200, not including the cost of customizations.

After that initial remodel/restructuring of the garage to my studio, we then decided to add the carport. In total, with the finishing work we just had done to it, the carport came in around $30,000.

And the final big number I can think of is our bedroom-to-master bathroom remodel, which came in around $40,000.

Master Bathroom – After

So only counting the big numbers for the big projects I can remember off the top of my head, and not including all of the other projects I’ve done in all of the other room (all of which have new drywall, new insulation, and new wiring, on top of all of the decorative stuff), that’s a bare minimum of $135,200 that we’ve put into our house in the last 10 years. If I had to take a guess at all the other stuff, I’d guestimate $50,000 as a bare minimum, very conservative estimate. (I actually think it would be much higher). So that puts us around $185,200. So including the original cost of the house, we’re sitting at minimum $265,200.

If we were going to be completely finished after I finish the studio, that number would look very reasonable. Very reasonable, indeed. Even if that true number is closer to $300,000, I think it’s still very reasonable. I mean, just try to build a semi-custom 2300 square foot house these days for $300,000! I don’t know if that would be possible.

But we’re nowhere near finished. 🙂 We haven’t even started our addition (which the contractor estimated at $200,000), and we still need a driveway ($20,000), and I’d still love to build a workshop ($20,000), plus landscaping (who knows?), and a new storage shed ($10,000), and on, and on, and on. It can all start to feel very overwhelming.

All that to say that this has actually started to stress me out lately. I sometimes wonder if it’s worth it. I try to tell myself that since we don’t take vacations (literally not one single vacation in our 21-year marriage), and we don’t spend money on extravagant things or expensive hobbies, and our lives are mostly spent right here in our home due to Matt’s M.S., it’s okay to make our home extra comfy and cozy and customized for us. But I do wonder lately…how much is too much? And is over-improving our home something that we need to worry about even if we never plan to sell it?

Things would be so much easier if I would just win the lottery. But I’m told you have to actually buy a ticket for that to be possible. 😀

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