Hey! Thanks for sticking with me through this series explaining home improvement loans. If you’re just jumping in, make sure to read part one, part two, and part three before reading this post. Let me know what you think of this series in the comments 🙂
Home improvements can be like leeches. Instead of blood, however, they suck up time and money. Avoid this rather distasteful analogy by planning projects thoroughly before you jump in. By strategizing ahead of time, you can reduce potential problems and delays as much as possible.
Don’t let renovation leeches become attached. Think through the process, and you’ll finish on time and on budget — with no blood loss (dropping the leech metaphor right now).
Like many homeowners, you probably have a long wish list of home improvement projects. Where to start? Sometimes it’s based on need. If you open an umbrella indoors every time it rains, a new roof goes at the top of the list. Also, consider affordability. Renovating a kitchen typically costs tens of thousands of dollars. Just how big of a home improvement loan do you want to be saddled with? A waterfall, pool, and hottub in the backyard is nice to dream about, but isn’t so nice in terms of cost. So, rein in those fantasies. We’re planning here, not dreaming. Focus.
If a home sale is in the foreseeable future, consider the recoup value of projects. If you make an improvement, how much of the investment will you recover by nudging up your selling price? Attic insulation is number one. You actually get back more than you put in. The average is almost 117 percent of the original cost. It may not be a fun or beautiful improvement, but it’ll save you — and future homeowners — money on utilities. Insulation for everyone!
Another good investment is replacing your front door or garage door. Both bring in almost 90 percent of the initial layout. Lower on the list, at about 56 percent, is a bathroom addition. With a big family you might really — really, really — need the extra facilities, but buyers will be ungrateful. The ever-popular major (and expensive!) kitchen remodel retrieves about 65 percent.
With this in mind, rewrite your remodel priority list. Separate the “wants” from the “needs.” It can be tough, but persevere. Do you really need volcanic stone for your kitchen countertop? (Hint: You don’t.) It’d be both lovely and durable, but $370 per square foot is beyond most budgets. Now prioritize the two lists. There. Your future is all laid out for you. Start at the top of your “needs” list and work your way through.
Now that you’ve settled on one project — for now — decide the details. Since you’re not a one-person encyclopedia, gather information. Hop on the Internet and check out home improvement websites. Peruse Pinterest for helpful photos. You can even start your own board of possible ideas there. Be forewarned, though: It’s easy to get sucked in. Ask someone to check on you now and then — and pull you out, if necessary.
Want more design concepts? There are apps for that. Some help narrow down the infinite array of paint colors. Others work more like virtual notebooks to let you store project information. And you can always go old school. Look at decorator or home improvement magazines and talk to friends and families about their renovations. Yes. Actually. Talk.
Determine a good time to start your project. Do you have a specific goal date, such as a wedding or graduation party? If you do, be reasonable about what can be accomplished within a set time period. You also should consider climate. Getting insulation in place before winter hits will save you bucks in energy costs. Install the new roof before monsoon season starts, and you can reserve that umbrella for outside use.
Budget time. You know what you want, now figure out what it’ll cost.
First, decide if this’ll be a do-it-yourself job or if you’ll hire professionals. Be honest about your abilities. If you start work and then flub it, you’ll end up paying a lot more.
Your previous online research should give you a good idea about prices. If you’re hiring experts, ask around for recommendations or search websites of professional organizations, such as the National Association of Home Builders or the National Association of Remodelers. Members must follow set standards. Consult a few to get estimates.
When you talk to professionals and you like what you hear, get specifics in writing, including:
No matter who undertakes the project, always build in a cushion of at least 10 percent for the cost. Then you’ll be covered in the event of unforeseen circumstances, and there are always unforeseen circumstances — unless you’re psychic, and you’re not. While you’re at it, make sure to familiarize yourself with some of the common jargon in the home improvement field. A knowledgeable contractor should be able to explain the timeline of your project in fairly simple terms, but understanding the terminology can help you understand some of the technical aspects of your project.
Depending on the project, it’s possible that your home will be temporarily uninhabitable. Don’t panic. It might be as simple as having the water turned off for the day. Plan where you’ll put all the residents during this period. If you’re lucky, it’ll just be an afternoon outing. More extensive work might require an overnight — or two — somewhere. If you’ve got friends or relatives to crash with, great. But you may have to tuck hotel costs into your budget.
Even if you never need to clear out, protect any children and pets you have running around. Tiny hands or paws mix dangerously with renovation equipment. At the very least, you don’t want them in the way, slowing down the process. Think about how to corral the littlest creatures for everyone’s safety.
Once you’ve got a plan in place, go for it. Get that home improvement project underway. The sooner you’re done, the sooner you can start enjoying it — and begin planning the next one.