Mixing high and low grade materials
Mixing materials of significantly different quality in the same remodel can result in a "What's wrong with this picture?" scenario.
Examples include using a material like granite for countertops and vinyl for flooring in the same room, or laminate on the bathroom counters of what is designed to be an elegant master suite.
Bottom line: Any time you break from the "feel" created by the rest of the remodel you risk detracting from the value of the completed project.
Giving up too much kitchen working space
In addition to being the unofficial heart of most homes, the kitchen is also a highly functional area, and that function depends highly upon counter and cabinet space.
In your quest for the optimal layout, conserve or add as much working area as possible, especially when it comes to counter space.
Bottom line: Sacrificing too much cabinet or counter space can result in a kitchen that looks great but doesn't quite "work" for you or future buyers.
Making the master bedroom too small
For years new homes have been built with spacious, sumptuous master bedroom suites, and home buyers love them.
While enlarging the master bedroom is not a common project, it's one worth getting right if you do take it on. Tour new construction to gain perspective, and call me for advice on the best approach to get you the effect you're aiming for.
Bottom line: Learn what home buyers expect, and allocate enough master bedroom space that you gain "wow factor."
Closing off the kitchen
The separate formal dining room is still a popular item, but the trend in kitchens is to have them at least partially open to an informal gathering space such as a family room.
Bottom line: Closing off a kitchen from the rest of the home, or not opening one up when the opportunity presents itself during a remodel results in a floor plan that is less appealing to the typical buyer.
Losing the only full bath
In a home with an older full bath (one with a tub), people are sometimes tempted to gut it and replace it with a luxurious, large stand-up shower arrangement (a three-quarter bath, with no tub.)
However, if your target market when you sell will include families with small children it's very important to keep at least one full bath in the home.
Bottom line: Without a tub for bathing toddlers, many potential buyers will move on to the next home on their list.
Crowding the kitchen
Because the kitchen is both a gathering place and a work space, it's doubly important that it not be cramped.
When changing the layout, leave enough room for two people to work comfortably, and if you install a kitchen island make sure that it does not block the flow of the room.
Consumer Reports suggests a minimum of 42 inches between a kitchen island and surrounding surface edges. (Click here to see their Kitchen Tips page.)
Bottom line: If you find yourself constantly edging around a kitchen design feature, re-evaluate whether it should be there at all.
Being too bold with exterior paint
At some point, every real estate agent has walked up to a listing that was advertised as having "New exterior paint!" and winced, realizing that the well-meaning owners just spent money to decrease the value of their home with the wrong paint color.
The "right" color of exterior paint depends to some extent on how traditional or eclectic your neighborhood is, but in general it's very hard to get away with extremely strong, vibrant colors.
Bottom line: Brilliant blue, green and yellow exterior colors tend to make home buyers look at each other and ask, "Why?"
Stopping just short of the big picture
Sometimes investing a relatively small additional amount ties your entire remodel together.
Here's a real-life example:
A lower-range remodel of a 1980's era bathroom included replacing the bathroom vanity, installing slate grey laminate counter tops, repainting the walls and adding a skylight.
However, on the advice of a contractor, the owners at first did not replace the dated, pink patterned vinyl flooring. The result was that upon entering the master bathroom the first impression was simply, "This flooring will need to be ripped out."
Spending $250 on new vinyl made the floor a non-issue and allowed the thousands of dollars worth of upgrades to take center stage.