Today I wanted to approach a subject that is often questioned by homeowners. The folks at Allstate Insurance have graciously sponsored this post, which will help you decide if now is a smart time to start that home renovation project.
When do you know if it’s time to embark on a home renovation? Is it a good investment? Do you have the desire? Can you handle upheaval? I can tell you from experience that there are times when a home renovation is a smart decision and there are times when it makes more sense to deal with your home as is for a while.
I hope this article helps you make your own decision as to whether now is a good time to start that home renovation. I do know that it is wonderful to be able to create the home that you will enjoy living in. Hopefully you’re up for the challenge!
Do You Really WANT to Renovate?
I’m going to be totally blunt about this, having your home renovated is NOT FUN. It’s a huge upheaval for you and your family. Having walls torn out or even just painted creates dust, chaos and a mess. You can forget about privacy because while the renovation is going on, you will have workers (almost complete strangers) traipsing through your house. Even if you do the work yourself, you still have to be ready to have inspectors show up unannounced to approve any work for which a permit was pulled.
Depending on the room you are renovating, you will likely need to make arrangements to avoid using that room. Where will the furniture go? If it’s in your kitchen, how can you cook and do dishes during the kitchen renovation? If it’s a bathroom, do you have other bathrooms you can use in the meantime?
How long can you wait for the renovation to be completed? In today’s era of extreme home makeovers, oftentimes a homeowner subconsciously thinks a home renovation is a quick and easy process. I can tell you that much of the process on those makeover shows happens behind the scenes and off camera.
If I haven’t scared you off yet, let’s tackle some of the other factors that will help you decide whether or not you should proceed with that home renovation project.
Is there a Cheaper Alternative?
Truly ask yourself if renovating a perfectly good kitchen or bathroom is a smart decision. Oftentimes, you can make your kitchen look like a new space by painting cabinets and replacing the backsplash. Or simply adding an island may be enough to make you fall in love with your kitchen again. Always explore alternatives before pulling the trigger on a full blown renovation.
Moving Anytime Soon?
The number one thing you need to ask yourself is if you are planning on living in your home at least 5 more years. If you are planning on moving in less than 5 years, chances are that you won’t recoup the cost that you put into your renovation. However, if the renovation is one that is sorely needed due to a room being outdated or in disrepair, it could potentially help you sell your home faster. If this is the case, be sure not to put in materials or fixtures that are too high end (unless you live in an area that is known for all that glitz and glam.) Go ahead and update that dated room, but keep a close eye on your budget.
Where Do You Want to Renovate?
Kitchen and master bathroom renovations are the two areas in a home that will give you the best bang for your buck and will allow you to increase your home value the most. Putting in a swimming pool or an exterior building (like a shed) result in the least returns on your investment. In fact, oftentimes a pool is a deterrent to buyers (especially young couples who already have or are thinking of having children.) You also have to factor in higher homeowner’s insurance premiums and the cost of operating the pool.
Locale is a good determining factor for exterior structures. Take into consideration your climate. Adding a garage isn’t necessarily a negative in certain parts of the country where weather is more extreme (snowy and icy climates.) In that example, a garage might be more important to buyers. Or if you live in a warm insect prone area, a screen porch might be a bonus for your home.
What’s in My Neighbor’s House?
It’s not a bad idea to consult with a realtor or home appraiser before you embark on a big home renovation. Find out what the comparable homes in your neighborhood have in them. If your neighbors have inexpensive tile flooring and low end fixtures, you won’t want to put in fixtures worthy of the Taj Mahal.
What’s Your Budget?
Get several estimates before you make your final decision to renovate. Make sure you have money in your budget for the renovation. Once you begin construction, keep a close eye on your budget. If you are using a contractor or sub-contractors, be sure to keep tabs on the bill as they are working. Ask if you are still on target and within budget. It’s better for everyone involved to keep the lines of communication open. Always allow 15 – 20% over the budget for surprises or incidentals. You never know what you might find in your walls when they are opened up.
Who Will Do The Work?
There’s no doubt that doing a renovation yourself will save you a decent amount of cash. However, if you DIY something that you really aren’t knowledgable about, you may pay twice if you have to call in a professional to fix your mistakes. Also, if you DIY, be ready to accept the extra time it takes to do it yourself vs. hiring a professional who has a crew or has the expertise to knock out that renovation in no time. Regardless of who is doing the work, make sure you check with your local city/county to find out if you need a permit. Don’t just take your contractor’s word for it.
How to Hire a Contractor?
If you decide to hire a contractor (or even a sub-contractor) do your research! Ask for referrals from friends and neighbors. Check on Angie’s List, Yelp, or ask for referrals from a local supplier of home improvement materials. This is a great way to get some names. Then be sure to check to see if they are licensed and insured in your area. Ask the contractor for several references of previous customers that you can call and ask questions. Check the BBB database to see if there are any complaints filed against the contractor. It’s also worth a small investment to check out their rating on Angie’s List.
If all the background checking turns up positive, work with your contractor to draw up a contract that spells out all the details of the job: time frame, work to be completed and any warranties on their work. My father likes to build in a clause where the contractor has to deduct money from the amount owed if he or she goes over a certain deadline for work completion.
How Do You Pick Out Materials and Fixtures?
Be sure to research your new fixtures and materials as diligently as you did your contractor (if you hired one.) Google all the brands and products you plan to use. Ask others that have the same sink/faucet/dishwasher/etc. how they like theirs. Choose wisely. Avoid trendy or unique choices. You may love that pink shag wall-to-wall carpeting, but will you still love it in 10 years? Or will that be the decision that comes back to haunt you when it’s time to resell your house. Use quick change objects like art, home décor and pillows to bring in that unique punch of color instead of things that are hard to swap out.
Who Should I Notify About Our Renovation?
For starters, be sure you check with your city/county to find out if you need a permit. After the renovation is complete, it’s important to talk to your insurance agent to let them know about the changes you have made. They will be able to make sure you have sufficient limits to cover the structure and contents of your home. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to check with your agent at least once a year to review your home insurance coverage. You’d hate to find out you don’t have enough coverage when you have a tree fall through your roof and you are filing a claim (not that I know ANYTHING about that!)
Congratulations! If you made it this far, you are probably ready to embark on your home renovation project. I wish you all the luck in the world and remember to be flexible. Things can and do come up that are not exactly according to plan. But, the good news is you will make it through and you’ll have a beautiful new room/structure at the end of it.
P.s. Even if you aren’t thinking about a renovation, I can’t stress how important it is to have good home insurance. Last year we had the unfortunate situation of having to file not one, but two claims. Neither were planned for, but I am soooo thankful that we had good quality home insurance and I truly felt like we were in good hands during the restoration.
Disclosure: This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. I was not told what to write about. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day. For more great tips like this, visit our exclusive Good to Know community.