How to avoid costly home renovation mistakes


Planning a home improvement project requires careful project outlines, a predetermined budget and adequate financing. All too often, though, homeowners are in the midst of a renovation when they realize they’ve made one or more costly home improvement mistakes. These remodeling mistakes can cause delays, unplanned costs and even the need to secure additional emergency financing.

It’s important to educate yourself on the top five renovation mistakes to avoid when planning a home improvement project. Steer clear of these and you’ll have a good chance of completing the project without any major hiccups.

5 ways to avoid costly home improvement mistakes
1. Consider ROI

When it comes to return on investment, not all home improvement projects are created equal. Some modifications will help fetch a much higher selling price when it comes time to move but others could actually cause you to lose money on the sale. The home renovations that return the most at resale are garage door replacements, vinyl siding replacements and minor kitchen remodels. Each recoups, on average, more than 80% of the renovation costs.

Steer clear of trendy light fixtures, patterned or textured wallpaper and too much carpeting — all of these renovations run the risk of lowering your resale value. Recent data shows that each of these features can reduce what potential buyers are willing to pay for a home. As a general rule, if you’re trying to maximize resale value, you should stick to neutral colors and minimal patterns.

For example, one of the more common kitchen remodel mistakes is installing colorful custom tiling. While this might suit the homeowner’s taste, it could be a major turn-off for prospective buyers.

2. Create a budget

The most important part of the renovation planning process is creating a budget and identifying how you’ll pay for the project. It’s easy for spending to creep up in cost when you’re completing a home project without carefully tracking your expenses, and before you know it, a couple of bathroom renovation mistakes could cause you to exceed what you can afford. If the bottom line is more than the funds you have on hand, home improvement loans are a great way to subsidize the project without strapping yourself for cash.

Once you have a budget outlined, don’t forget to stick to it. Making impulse purchase decisions that don’t fall within the predetermined budget is one of the home improvement mistakes to avoid. Have a clear discussion with your contractor about how much you can afford to spend on the project and always leave yourself a bit of wiggle room in case of unforeseen expenses or emergencies.

3. Research contractors

You may have heard horror stories about contractors doing poor quality work, failing to complete a project on time or making other major remodeling mistakes. The best way to choose a good contractor is to do your research. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations and use online tools to evaluate potential contractors in your area. The Better Business Bureau is a great resource for trusted customer reviews.

Once you’ve identified your top candidates for local contractors, ask each for a quote that clearly breaks down the cost of supplies and labor and the estimated time to completion. Don’t be afraid to ask for references as well; any good contractor should be able to provide at least three clients from the past five years who are willing to provide a testimonial.

4. Obtain home renovation permits

If you’re under the impression that your home renovation won’t need a building permit, you might be wrong. While small cosmetic fixes can typically be done without securing permission from the local government, any significant alterations, like knocking down a wall or remodeling a kitchen or bathroom, will most likely require a permit.

In fact, one of the more frequent bathroom renovation mistakes is thinking the project doesn’t need a permit since it’s such a small room, but any plumbing, electrical or structural modifications to this space usually need a permit. Your contractor should be able to pull the appropriate permits for your area; just make sure to ask about this when getting quotes.

This remodeling mistake can have both short- and long-term ramifications. You’re likely to face fines for completing work without a permit or even have your project shut down entirely. Even if you manage to complete renovations without securing the right permits, you’ll probably face further consequences down the line. This could include difficulty selling the property, reduction of your home’s value or inability to get a mortgage.

5. Understand prive and quality tradeoffs

When budgeting for a home renovation, it’s natural to want to get as much for your money as possible. Don’t make the home improvement mistake of cutting too many corners, though. Cheap materials will show wear and tear much faster than those that are higher quality and cost slightly more, and going straight for the contractor with the lowest bid might mean the craftsmanship will be subpar. While you don’t need to splurge on every step of the project, understand that there is a balance of price and quality. Choose where you spend your budget wisely.

The bottom line

These home improvement mistakes are common errors that well-meaning homeowners make all the time. If you’re having doubts about whether you’re making the right decision on a certain aspect of your project, consult with an experienced professional and express your concerns. Most importantly, don’t forget to secure your project with financing that will cover you in the event of unpredicted expenses or emergencies.

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