That big, expensive built-in entertainment center might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but for a number of homeowners improvement projects don't increase the home's value - instead, they get in the way of a smooth, quick sale. 

However, there are several smart choices people could make when upgrading their property, and there are also a few areas to avoid making costly changes to. Before selling, everyone should have a home inspection completed to identify damage or other safety hazards with any number of components, and to ensure that any remodels were completed properly.

Buyers are adapting to changing times

In the past, home features that appealed to buyers were drastically different than what they are today. In fact, not only are preferences changing, but the economy has forced people to be more conscious about real estate decisions - from buying to renovating. 

One major selling point homeowners should be aware of when remodeling is the growing trend of energy-efficient upgrades. Any new improvements might be considered more favorably if they are considered "green," and that could help sell a home in a competitive market.

Lower maintenance and operating costs are positives, and new construction is adopting this trend, according to MSN Real Estate. The bigger the home the more desirable energy-efficient upgrades become, such as quality windows, insulation, and high-tech heating and air conditioning units. A property inspection may be a great way to spot any energy leaks and determine where "green" fixes should take place.

With the changing economy, more buyers are paying attention to the bottom line. Any home remodel that is too pricey or overly fancy might be a buyer turn-off. Many builders are making properties smaller, MSN Real Estate noted, keeping costs down.

Remodels that are worth it

Two home features that aren't going out of style anytime soon are the kitchen and bathroom. These are often the most-used rooms in a home, and because of that they make really smart places to smart renovating, according to Lifehacker. 

A home inspection might find serious problems in these areas, and it could reassure buyers if each area is nicely upgrading and in great condition. Anything that looks old or grimy on the outside might raise questions about what lies beneath, and the little details in the kitchen and bathroom could go a long way toward completing a sale.

In addition, a few high-tech remodels may pay off in the long run. For example, a homeowner who chooses to install built-in speakers may get a larger return on their investment than a neighbor who installed a swimming pool, Lifehacker noted. A central sound system, with speakers in each room is smart bet, as well as surround sound hooked up to the TV.

Another tech-savvy home improvement is a sprinkler system. Few homeowners consider this aspect, but it might turn into a major selling point. New buyers won't have to think about watering, and it may help keep the lawn and garden looking great all year. 

Upgrades that don't pay off

As buyer preferences change, there are several home improvements current residents shouldn't undertake. While any problem spotted during a property inspection should be fixed, unless there's a serious issue homeowners shouldn't tackle these projects. 

For starters, converting a garage doesn't typically help when selling, according to Many buyers aren't interested in this feature, and a number of renovations may have been completed without a permit, creating a potentially sticky situation during a sale. 

Moreover, homeowners who permanently alter a bedroom into another space, such as an office or gym, shouldn't expect to recoup much of those expenses, the news source noted. Bedrooms are what adds value, not another type of living space. Any remodels should be given thought ahead of time, and a home inspection is a great way to make sure that any changes are done properly.