Whether you’re a first time home buyer or a newly minted empty nester, there are some things to think about before you decide on any major renovation project.
The first, and most critical is, of course, is how much can you afford? Equity lines are still a very affordable option if you’ve been in your current home a while, and are currently available at attractive interest rates.
Next, you need to to prioritize which projects you want to tackle. Sometimes its smart to do several things at once since you will be under construction and living with some pretty messy business for a while.
For instance, if you’re considering a new kitchen, you may want to include a laundry room as part of the project or, if removing some walls, rework the living and dining spaces as well.
Most importantly - think about how you want to use the space. Do you entertain/cook? Do you like to just hang in the kitchen and visit while you’re cooking or enjoying wine? How many people do you need to seat for breakfast or dinner party? Many activities revolve around the kitchen as the main entertaining space. Large islands have become increasingly popular as they often double as work space, eating space, buffet space, etc. Plus, it’s all about open spaces.
In older homes, there’s often only a single shared bath for several bedrooms (they needed less back then!). So, it's always key to figure out if there is a way you can borrow space from an adjacent room. For example, forfeiting a small bedroom for a generous master bath. Today’s home buyers are almost always looking for a dedicated master bathroom, so it’s smart to re-work a space for what buyers want most.
Now let’s talk realistic budgets. A full kitchen renovation can start at $20,000 (including entry level cabinets), and can go all the way up to $100,000+ for full custom, high end appliances, etc. Bathroom renovations start around $8,000 and can go up to $50,000 based on the same considerations for upgrades. Keep in mind that half of the budget is labor - plumbing, electrical, carpentry and tile work.
In terms of resale, if you are putting this kind of money into your home, make sure the project scope is in line with what’s in your neighborhood - also known as “comps”. If you’re not sure, someone like me (renovator & real estate professional) can help by looking at selling prices in your area, provide an good idea of what your house is currently worth and what a renovation would make it worth in the future.
A final note: If you are considering eventually selling your home after the updates or renovation, remember to keep the look neutral! I can’t stress this enough. Don’t be tempted to personalize things too much, like using fire-engine-red cabinets or tiling the walls with little palm tree tiles because you love Florida. Remember, while these things may appeal to you, it drastically narrows down the field of who else would think this is fabulous, which in turn translates to less dollars when it’s time to sell.
So, take the time to research and do your due-diligence. Sites like Houzz.com are a perfect way to take a look at photos of finished projects and find out what appeals to you. It allows you to create a ‘Project’, easily save photos with one click, and even ‘share’ the photos via email to a designer like me to help guide you in the process.
And don’t forget to enjoy it! A renovation should be exciting and fun. Sure, there will be stressful moments - but stay the course, be patient and be willing to make adjustments. In the end you should be delighted with the result and find it was so worth the money spent.