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What You Should Know When Remodeling

Tips for a smooth process, start to finish

By Abigail Thorpe

The arrival of spring has us Marie Kondoing our closets and deep cleaning our kitchens, but being able to see the back of our closet or how aged that grout really is has us thinking about more than decluttering. Warm weather means it’s time for those updates you put off last year—or just a fun excuse to finally add some personal touches to the spaces you spend the most time in. Whether it’s to update an existing home, remodel a new purchase that needs some updates or prepare a home for resale, remodeling some part of our space is something most homeowners have had to face at one time or another.

With any home improvement project, it can be daunting to know where to start, what to focus on and when to call in the professionals. Here are some tips to keep you on track and help make the process a bit smoother.

Budget. Naturally budget is a main concern when it comes to remodeling your home. Under budget or set your expectations too high, and you can end up with a half-finished project and no money left. Ask any contractor, and they’ll tell you a project always costs more than you expect and takes longer to finish. Plan on spending more than you expect, and you won’t be caught unawares mid project. Carefully allocate money to each stage of the project, and never start a remodel before creating the budget. This way you can plan the stages of the process, starting with what’s most important to you, and working on each stage of the project as you’re financially able.

Set expectations/go in stages. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your dream home be. Start with a space that you spend the most time in, that is the most important to you to update, and prepare the work in stages from there. If you have the budget, it may be cost effective to schedule multiple things at once, so you’re not having subs return, but make sure you can complete the project if you start it.

Kitchen upgrades will make a difference in your lifestyle, as this is usually the room where folks spend more time,” advises Jackie Suarez, a real estate agent with Century 21 in Sandpoint, Idaho. “More efficient HVAC and water heater upgrades should save you money over time.”

Professional or DIY? You might be the king or queen of DIY, but there are certain things you just shouldn’t touch. “For buyers, the first thing to remember is to have the home inspected by a professional inspector or trusted contractor during the inspection contingency period,” says Suarez. “This will usually identify any hidden costs or surprises.”

A priority is making sure a home is structurally sound—something a contractor or inspector can help with. Outside of the structural, electrical, plumbing and any heating or air conditioning updates require a licensed professional and inspection, so don’t try to tackle these on your own.

Some demolition, countertop removal, painting, etc. can be self done, but when it comes to key updates or something you don’t feel comfortable with, it’s always best to consult a professional.

Keep resale front of mind. Making a home ‘market-ready’ is very important. It gives the seller an advantage over other homes that buyers may perceive as requiring more of their time and resources than they are willing to spend,” suggests Suarez.

If you’re planning on selling the home in the future, make sure major updates focus on areas of the home that buyers notice first. “It’s no question that the kitchen often sells the house,” says Brooke Stebbins, project coordinator for Monarch Marble & Granite. “People spend a lot of time in their kitchens, and it’s most often the focal point of family gatherings. An inviting kitchen is a sound investment in resale value as well as quality of life, in addition to catching prospective buyers’ eyes. It is a lot easier to tackle a bathroom remodel, so a buyer may be more willing to overlook an outdated master suite, for instance, if they love the kitchen.”

Be careful making updates that are very specific to your personal style if you are looking to sell. Stick with updates that are fairly neutral and on trend. Quartz and granite are popular options for countertops, advises Stebbins, as both are durable and fairly versatile. “Consider hard-surface flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpet, as area rugs are easier to replace,” adds Suarez.

Make your money count. Key updates can make a major difference, without requiring extensive work. “Replacing your countertops can have an amazing transforming effect on the space, it may not even feel like the same room when you’re done,” says Stebbins. While the countertops are most obvious in the kitchen, this goes for the bathrooms as well. New vanity tops can update a bathroom without the need to replace the vanity.

“Paint is typically the highest return for the investment, as it makes an immediate impression, followed by updates in cabinet hardware and light fixtures, bath mirrors, and if possible, flooring and countertops,” advises Suarez.

Personal touches. If you are planning to resell and still want to add personal touches to your space, paint, hardware and light fixtures are easy to replace, so feel free to add some style-specific flair. “Most of all, get good professional advice, enjoy the process and make it your own,” says Suarez.

Curb appeal. Interior is important, but it’s important to consider how your home looks from the street, particularly for resale.Remember exterior paint, yard maintenance and sprucing up plantings will entice buyers to come through the front door,” says Suarez.

Just remember, prioritize what is most central to your lifestyle or the resale of the home, budget out accordingly and stay flexible! Everything is not going to go to plan, but sometimes great outcomes come from the unexpected.

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