There isn’t much that’s more exciting than buying your first home — unless it’s buying a home with an eye toward making it even better by renovating it. Whether you’re flipping a house for profit, or simply creating an inviting and comfortable space for your future family, renovations can be a fun, productive way to spend your energy and time.
The renovation process does come with its share of pitfalls, however. And if you’re just starting out, one costly mistake can really put you in a financial bind. Take a look at six of the most common renovation-related mistakes, so that you can set yourself up for success.
1. Underestimating the Cost
Failing to budget enough money for the scope of the project is the number-one rookie mistake when it comes to renovating a home. To avoid this pitfall, plan out the renovations in detail well ahead of time — and right down to the last details such as paint color, hardware, or finishes.
Unless you are independently wealthy or have recently come into a large sum of money, you’ll need to borrow in order to finance your home remodeling goals. You might be able to score a low introductory interest rate on a home equity line of credit. On the other hand, a home equity loan might be a better bet for your particular circumstances. Be sure to ask your lender about the options, and to weigh the pros and cons of each, before signing on any dotted lines.
It’s also not a bad idea to pad your estimate by as much as 20%. That way, you have enough money to cover every finishing touch of your dream home, as well as a financial buffer in the event that unexpected costs crop up.
And if you come in under budget, after all, you can put the remaining money towards your mortgage or loan payments. Or use it to throw a housewarming party!
2. Thinking That a Shared Project Will Strengthen Your Relationship
If you’ve ever seen the 1986 movie “The Money Pit,” you know how much of a toll renovations can take on your relationship. Although the Tom Hanks and Shelly Long movie is a comedy, it should also serve as a cautionary tale.
We’re not saying that you should never tackle a DIY project with your spouse or live-in significant other, just that you should do so with a healthy dose of caution. Some experts even recommend that before you and your partner try out a smaller project before tackling a major home remodel. Build a backyard pizza oven or a chicken coop. At the very least, assemble a piece of furniture from Ikea together.
Once you’ve successfully completed this task, you’ll understand a bit better how you and your sig-o work together. In theory, this will help you work better as a team. But err on the side of sanity and carve out time to connect in meaningful ways that have nothing to do with your home reno.
3. Giving In To the Temptation of Trends
As you embark on the process of renovations, you’re undoubtedly spending some time browsing Pinterest or Houzz for inspiration. Don’t let yourself be unduly influenced by up-to-the-minute trends. Try to develop a discerning eye for classic, timeless style. And resist the urge to follow fashions that will make your home look dated in just a few years.
Do you envision yourself selling the home down the road? If so, make sure the larger aspects of your project are going to age gracefully. This means flooring, countertops, architectural elements, and appliances. When shopping, ask yourself if those popular, trendy pieces that are so tempting today will be the avocado-green-and-harvest-gold of tomorrow.
Go ahead and have some fun with paint colors, finishes, hardware such as kitchen cabinet handles or doorknobs, and even the bathroom toilet and sink. These will be much easier to switch up when you start to tire of your home’s look.
4. Not Knowing Your Own Limits
We get it; you’re already imagining the sense of pride and accomplishment you’ll feel from being able to say you completed all of your home remodeling products yourself. But everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, and there’s no shame in outsourcing projects that are beyond the scope of your experience — or patience level.
Plumbing and electrical projects, in particular, can be downright dangerous to complete if you’re a novice. Letting the pros take care of those jobs can also free you up to flex your creative muscle for the aesthetic aspects of your home’s makeover.
Find a contract engineer or general contractor for your project at the outset, even if you want to try going it yourself. It never hurts to have a professional on standby, someone who can step in and take over when you ultimately cry uncle.
5. Holding Your Renovation To a Strict Timeline
The timeline of your reno is much like the budget: it’s always smart to set conservative expectations. There are few remodels that adhere to the original schedule set out by the homeowner. Unforeseen complications and delays are the nature of the game, and can seriously rattle you if you haven’t budgeted in ample time to get things completed.
Sure, it would be great to plan on hosting the whole family for Thanksgiving or to bank on moving in and getting settled before the kids go back to school. Better to be flexible, so that inevitable setbacks don’t get you down.
The keys to successful home renovation are actually pretty simple. Manage your expectations, give yourself a lot of leeway both financially and in terms of time, plan out as many details as possible before plunging in, and don’t be shy about calling in the pros.
Have you ever tackled a major home remodeling project? Do you have any tips for beginners who are just starting out? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!