A home remodel or addition is a major endeavor with countless moving parts, and it just doesn’t make sense to launch into such a project without taking the time to think it through. Here are seven points to consider in the planning process.
What Will You Build?
What do you hope to gain from a possible remodel? Home-improvement shows are fun, and it’s easy to get lost in the glorious photos in magazines and on websites, but unless you’re made of money, you’re going to have to make friends with reality. Maybe your family is growing and you really do need an addition with two bedrooms and a bath. Or your kitchen is not just old and ugly, but actually hard to work in because of ancient appliances and a difficult layout. Keep in mind, too, that because most home improvements don’t increase the dollar value of your home as much as the amount you spend on them, you should look at the renovations as investments in your lifestyle. These considerations will be a good place to start when planning a home improvement.
Count the Cost
Early on, you’ll need to figure out how much you can spend on this project. Do you have savings and other assets you can use? How much equity do you have in your home to borrow against? How much of a loan payment will your budget handle?
Plan to Spend More
Home renovations always involve surprises. Upfront, do as much as you can to avoid them by making sure of property lines, testing for asbestos, mold, and lead. Look for signs of termites, drainage problems, and structural deficiencies. Build in a contingency fund of about 10 percent of your overall budget. Some experts advise as much as a 20 percent contingency. This money will pay for unexpected problems and for upgrades or design changes you decide on after your project is underway. But if your budget estimate is higher than you thought you could pay, don’t be tempted to shave your contingency fund, but rather scale back your plans. Running out of money before a remodel is completed can leave you with an unfinished home or legal problems with your builder.
Choose a Designer and a Builder
This step is critical and not one to rush. Choose an architect even before selecting a general contractor, or consider using a design-build company such as COOPER Design Builders. Do your homework: Ask family members and friends for recommendations, read online reviews, call and interview builders, and check references. Make sure this is a company or a person you feel you could communicate with throughout the project.
With your designer, plan every detail of the project, down to the brands and colors of appliances and fixtures, so that you will have an accurate cost estimate. Listen to the professionals when they say something won’t work or is unnecessarily expensive.
Secure the Financing
Before any work starts, make sure to obtain your financing. Don’t get impatient and give your builder a down payment out of your pocket, because you might find that you have a hole in your yard and no money to continue because the bank turned down your loan.
Ease the Pain
Thinking ahead to your new and improved home, and seeing that transformation unfold, can be exciting. But, honestly, living in a construction zone can be unpleasant, and you should take steps to lessen the discomfort. If you don’t have the resources to completely move out of your home while the work is being done, at least find ways to separate your family from the work zone and the paths of the crews and their equipment. Agree with your contractor on acceptable work times and how much the crews will clean up at the end of each day. If you’re remaking your kitchen, you should set up a temporary place to cook and store food. Make sure any valuable possessions are kept out of harm’s way, and do the same with your children and pets. On top of all these precautions, keeping a positive attitude will get you to the end of the journey in good shape.