Home Renovation Tips!

Home Renovation Tips!

Fixing one problem uncovers another, and then another, until that innocent first thought you had–what if we just had a little more space/another window/an extra bathroom here?–has turned the entire house into a construction site. By the time the sawdust clears, you’re not only exasperated, but also thousands of dollars out of pocket. You’re in good company, however. Many, if not most, people who start a home renovation feel they’ve gotten in over their head at some point–especially if they haven’t been honest with themselves and their contractors about the cost and scope of the project from the start. And, as any builder or real estate agent will tell you, it’s a rare individual who can be that clear-eyed.

What you’ve done, to be precise, is overspend your budget and inflate your expectations about the value added to your home. According to a 2000 survey taken by the National Association of Home Builders, 41% of respondents named a desire to increase the value of their home as a major reason to undertake a remodeling project, yet not all improvements will pay you back when it comes to selling the property. And not all changes are really improvements, so before you build that deck or put in that black marble bathroom, read on for our list of ten mistakes to avoid in home renovations.
Making A Personal Imprint
“As a rule the more personal the improvement, the more likely you won’t recover the investment.” Those expensive, hand-painted tiles from Portugal may look lovely in the bath–to you. It’s unlikely someone else will pay a premium for your decorating taste, however. And with even more substantial investments, like the facilities for an equestrian property, potential buyers already have their own ideas about stall size or type of terrain, and they probably won’t change their minds when they see what you’ve done. The grim truth: You’ll be lucky to get back 50 cents on the dollar if your renovations are a vehicle for self-expression.

Ignoring Local Circumstances
There are a few obvious ones here–a pool is a must-have in Florida, but not in Vermont. Yet other circumstances that would seem just as obvious are often disregarded. The same principle applies to an outdoor barbecue in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Changes to the house won’t change prevailing weather conditions.

Going Out Of Character
Every town’s got one: the local monstrosity. Some are new construction, like the sprawling faux-Tudor McMansion on a street lined with elegant old homes. Other properties take on grotesque proportions when their owners start adding amenities and just can’t stop. The swimming pool begets the tennis court, which begets the golf course, which begets the guest house and so on. The point being, who else will want to live in that house besides the current owners? Also, if you haven’t yet bought a house and are still getting a sense for the character of the neighborhood, find out if it’s likely to change soon. Are those rolling green fields slated to become a subdivision? Talk to your potential neighbors before you move in.
Making Invisible Changes
First impressions count for a lot, with houses as well as people. If you’ve installed radiant floor heating and a central vacuum system but haven’t bothered to paint the home’s exterior or have the siding replaced, potential buyers will think they’re getting a fixer-upper. It’s common sense: Good-looking houses sell themselves.

Making Changes As You Go
A large project taken in its entirety can seem overwhelming. The temptation is to make each decision as it comes up instead of articulating a clear vision of what you want at the beginning. According to professionals in the home-renovation business, however, the piecemeal approach is a sure recipe for wasting time and money. “A renovation will always go faster and better if everyone knows they can depend on the plans, If an owner comes in and changes something every day, the contractor gets gun-shy and is afraid to do anything.”

Not Making A (Real) Budget
Did someone say budget? It’s a word that touches a nerve on both sides of the renovation process. Owners fear contractors will charge more if they know how much money they really have to spend, while contractors worry that owners expect a level of quality that doesn’t match the price they want to pay. But pretending there’s no money involved won’t make the project any less expensive; it just gives you less than you wanted. “A lot of people have a budget that’s a little bit of a lie, But if they were honest, contractors would be able to use higher-quality materials and give them more value for their money.”

Doing It Alone
If you’re not an architect or a designer yourself, hire one. A good set of plans will cost money, but there’s a reason: It works. There may be zoning or environmental restrictions on some projects, like garage conversions or putting greens, that require permits or licenses. Professionals know the right channels to go through for permits and licenses. Don’t wait until the building inspector shows up to find out what you should have done.
Doing It Because You Can
Whether out of a vague feeling of dissatisfaction or simply because the resources are at hand, some people will undertake renovation projects that have no purpose other than to satisfy one’s ego. The project may be wrong for the property in some way–as when a bedroom is transformed into an enormous bathroom or even go against the building code. When the point is the project itself, other considerations only come up in hindsight.

Using False Economy
“The biggest mistake clients make is to choose the lowest price they get from a contractor, figuring they can take the gamble and still pay someone else to fix it if it goes awry.” In other words, if the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Someone made a math mistake, or the contractor is overextending himself in some way to give you a cut-rate price. Not surprisingly, discount prices usually translate into shoddy work. “The emotional cost of a bad job is far higher than the financial cost, It’s not about the money.”

Hiring A Contractor You Don’t Trust
Contractor horror stories loom large in the minds of homeowners, but statistically they are the exception rather than the rule. Someone who’s been in business for more than five years understands the nature of the trade, which is that it is foremost a service industry built on trust and good relationships. For a job to be satisfactory, both client and contractor should feel listened to and respected. “Interview someone as though they were going to be an employee, house guest, or dating your daughter”. “Find someone you’re comfortable with, and then only get one or two bids.”

1 Comment

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