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5 Things to Keep in Mind When Considering a Home Renovation

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What we’ll cover:

During the last few months, many of us probably spent more time at home than ever before. While it might have been a nice change of pace (probably didn’t miss that long commute, right?) you may feel like the walls are closing in a bit.

All this time at home might have also got your wheels turning about ways to change said home. Maybe you want to transform that tiny bathtub into a walk-in shower, or upgrade your outdoor space with a new deck.

But before you hire a contractor or fill your online cart with new furniture, take some time to consider these five home renovation tips. Doing so will help ensure your makeover makes sense for you, both design-wise and financially.

1. Think about why you want to renovate

This is one of the most important questions you’ll have to ask before undertaking a home renovation. Whatever the reason, it’ll play into the choices you make and the value you may (or may not) receive after renovating.

Is your sole goal to increase the value of your home? Thinking about your renovation like this is totally fine – a higher home value can result in more home equity. But you may want to consider that the renovations may not be exactly your taste, and they could impact your remodeling costs. 

For instance, if you like slate countertops, but buyers in your area lean more toward marble, the difference in styles may result in a different price tag – slate typically isn’t more than $60 per square foot, while marble can be as high as $190. In this case, you might also want to ask yourself how long you’re planning on staying in your current place.

On the other hand, if you’re renovating to your own personal liking, you might not see the same increase in value when you eventually sell your home. Just because you like trendy gray slate flooring or brass hardware doesn’t mean the next owners will. 

The more customized your home, the more challenging it could be to find a buyer when you’re ready to sell. You also might spend more time making design choices in this situation, since you’ll be deciding what you like as opposed to making choices based on what will deliver the highest return on investment.

Of course, there’s also middle ground between remodeling solely for your personal taste and renovating to increase your home value. Perhaps you want to improve the overall function of your home, which could potentially hike up your home value and boost your own enjoyment. For example, improving a security or safety feature or installing devices that improve energy efficiency has the potential to do both.

2. Research the most popular renovations in your area

Considering the most popular renovations in your area is important, especially if your reason for renovating is to increase your home’s value. You don’t want to spend a bunch of money on a renovation that you think will be amazing, only to find out no one has it because it’s not “in” where you live. Some upgrades will vary based on climate: heated floors might be popular in the Northeast, but are probably unnecessary if you live in Florida.

Other home renovation choices might just vary by state. In Hawaii, the most popular project in 2016 was kitchen island installation, while people in Massachusetts and North Carolina overwhelmingly got rid of their kitchen islands. Room splitting was the most popular renovation in New York and Kentucky, whereas Georgians, Oregonians and Marylanders were most interested in energy-efficient remodels and geothermal services. Consult your contractor or peek at other local home listings to get a feel for popular renovations in your area.

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3. Estimate home renovation costs accurately

Nailing down your home renovation costs can feel daunting. You may have a general idea of how much your desired makeover is going to run, but consider the final price tag when you add everything up: labor, materials, plus those unexpected costs. 

One of the most common home renovation mistakes is underestimating the expense of a desired makeover. According to a 2019 survey from Discover Personal Loans, about 78% of people miscalculated the cost of a kitchen remodel, missing the mark by an average of $9,532. If you’re feeling uncertain about the cost, you’re not alone!

Coming up with an on-the-nose quote (or as close as you can get to one) can help your renovation feel more manageable from the get-go. You’ll have a clear sense of how much you’ll be spending and how much you’ll have to sock away. 

The exact cost of your home renovation is going to depend on a few factors like your location, particular home, desired fix ups and materials, but there are a few ways to estimate the final amounts.

According to homeadvisor.com, home renovation costs average between $10-$150 per square foot – a pretty wide range, right? Let’s break it down by project. Homeowners can typically expect to spend between $13,260 and $37,441 on a full kitchen remodel, with luxury kitchens running even higher. A new deck typically costs around $7,665 on average and if you’re looking to remodel your unfinished basement (perhaps into a new home office?) the average is $20,179.

You’ll also want to account for shipping fees and taxes. On top of that, there still might be unexpected costs, so generally, a good rule of thumb is to include an additional 20% to your overall costs as a cushion.

Also, be sure to think about adjacent expenses that may pop up during your renovation. Will the makeover be so major that you won’t be able to use your home, or parts of your home, during the entire remodeling process? If that’s the case, you may need to factor in the costs of a temporary living arrangement. 

Even if you personally wouldn’t mind living in the middle of a building site, you may need somewhere to store your furniture and belongings in the short term. If you realize you’ll have to pay for a storage unit anyway, as well as moving and transportation costs, it could be worth it to rent another home during your renovation.

And if you can live in your home throughout construction and don’t have to factor in these costs – that’s great! But you may still want to consider whether the project is going to potentially require that you temporarily pull back on funding other goals, like maxing out your retirement savings, or saving up for your kids’ college education. 

If that’s the case, you may want to think about how shifting funds toward a home renovation will impact these goals. If you're going to be scaling back on some of them, what will catching up look like?

4. Figure out a realistic home renovation timeline

The importance of a realistic home renovation timeline cannot be understated. While there’s no quick-and-easy answer for how long your renovation will take (and the complexity of the makeover will play a huge role in timing) there are some general estimates for remodeling timelines. 

Looking at homeadvisor.com again, a full bathroom remodel typically takes an average of 4.5 weeks, while a full kitchen renovation can take anywhere from three weeks if you’re only replacing cabinets and flooring, all the way up to four months if you’re moving walls or plumbing.

To save yourself headaches down the line, check in with your contractor or architect about what you can reasonably expect before the project begins, and then ask for updates once it’s underway. If you’re embarking on a DIY home renovation, consider consulting experts at your local home improvement store, who can give you a better sense of how long your remodeling project will really take.

5. Don’t rush home renovation decisions

While you might be eager to get your project underway and wrapped up quickly, a slower pace, if possible, can make the home renovation process less stressful in the long term. 

Let’s say you’re ready to switch up your walls. Don’t settle on that French gray paint color you loved in the store without even taking home samples to see how the color would actually look in your kitchen – morning, noon and night. Use all the samples you can get your hands on before making a final decision. 

Place paint, tile, and wood samples in the areas you’re considering and leave them there. Live with them over the next week and really pay attention to how they look with your home’s look and lighting.

On a similar note, if you’ve just moved into a new home that you’re set on renovating, you may want to spend some time just living in the space first. Getting a flow for the actual house could be critical. 

For one, you may realize that what you wanted to work on no longer needs to be fixed up (or maybe it can wait). Or, you may find quirks that you didn’t consider that you can fold into one project, instead of doing one renovation now and another one later.

Final thoughts

Home renovations can be a big undertaking, physically and financially. To set yourself up for a remodeling that’s more smooth sailing and less uphill climb, it’s a good idea to think about why you’re interested in a home renovation now, and do your homework regarding costs, timeline, and what projects make sense for home value, if that’s a top priority. 

Doing these things can help you create that dream space that you – or a future buyer – can enjoy for years to come.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.