Before you sign the contract to upgrade your home…

Home Improvements Not to Do

by Rick Kahler


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After a long, wet spring, summer has finally arrived in the Black Hills. The scent of grilling hamburgers and the sound of lawnmowers fill the air in the evenings, the parks and bike path are busy, and the city pools are beginning to fill up with shrieking children.

If you like to swim, but don't especially like sharing a pool with hordes of enthusiastic little splashers, this is the time of year you might start thinking wistful thoughts about how nice it would be to have your own private pool in your own backyard. Any time you wanted a quick dip, you could just head out the door with your towel. The only children in the water would be your own kids or grandkids, there strictly by invitation.

Maybe, you think, it would be a good idea to check with a couple of contractors and find out how much a pool would cost.

Or maybe your dream home improvement project isn't a pool, but a built-in hot tub or sauna. Maybe you'd really like a commercial-grade kitchen, a specialized workshop or studio, a room just for your electric train sets, an elaborate fountain system for your garden, a soundproof state-of-the-art audio/visual room, or a tower on the roof for your astronomy sessions.

There's nothing wrong with any of those things, if you really want them and can afford them. But before you start calling contractors for any home improvements that are out of the ordinary, here are a few factors you might consider:

  1. How much, realistically, will you use this improvement? In northern climates like South Dakota, for example, you can probably only use an outdoor swimming pool two to four months out of the year.

  2. How expensive, in time and money, will it be to maintain? Swimming pools and hot tubs require regular cleaning and attention to water quality. They can send your utility bills soaring like an August thermometer. A pool might also increase your homeowner's insurance premiums.

  3. What will this do to the resale value of your home? This may not seem important if you have no intention of moving in the next 20 or 30 years, but it needs to be considered. Sooner or later, the time will come when it's necessary to sell your house.

Putting in a deluxe kitchen might add value, but if it prices the house too far above the average for your neighborhood, you probably wouldn't get your money back. If you add a specialized workshop, hobby room, or media room, selling the house would require finding a buyer who shares your particular interest. Consider how many of those people might actually be out there.

In many areas, sales of homes with pools and without pools indicate a seller will not recoup the cost of adding a pool. In fact, in some instances, homes with pools sell for less than those that don't have pools.

Before you add any expensive and unique feature to your house, take time to consider carefully how much it will cost beyond the initial investment and how much it will be worth to you. If you decide it will add value to your life, then go for it. Just don't plan on getting back a penny of the cost, and be prepared to have it actually hurt the sale of the property.

And before you grab a shovel and start digging a swimming pool, you could check out the cost of several years' membership at the Y or the swim center. It just might be a whole lot cheaper.


Rick Kahler, Certified Financial Planner®, MS, ChFC, CCIM, founded Kahler Financial Group, and became South Dakota's first fee-only financial planner in 1983. In 2009, Wealth Manager named Kahler Financial Group as the largest financial planning firm in a seven-state area. A pioneer in the evolution of integrating financial psychology with traditional financial planning profession, Rick is co-founder and co-facilitator of the five-day intensive Healing Money Issues Workshop offered by Onsite Workshops of Nashville, Tennessee. He is one of only a handful of planners nationwide who partner with professional coaches and financial therapists to deliver financial coaching and therapy to his clients. Visit KahlerFinancial.com today!

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