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How to Start Updating Your Home

Posted by Jennifer Colwell on

Perhaps you recently moved into a house that you want to make your own. Maybe you've lived in your house for quite a while, and it's "just time." Maybe life happened, and you need to use your space differently and create another bedroom or an office. Whatever the case, updating your home can seem daunting, and while it is a lot of work, it doesn't have to be overwhelming. 

I got divorced, moved into a fixer-upper, and remodeled the house floor to ceiling with a total investment of $40,000 and 1,800 hours of my time. I added at least $100,000 in equity to my house, and more importantly, it's a place I love living in, can call my own, and enjoy working from! So how did I tackle this project, decide what to update, how to do it, and what to do first? In my experience, whether updating your entire house or single living space, the outcome's success boils down to how well you plan.

What do you want the space to function and feel like? 

At the very core, why are you doing this project? This is really important. Do you want your children in the same room with you after dinner? Great, you need to create a kid-friendly space in your beautiful new heart room. Did you just walk through the Street of Dreams, come home, and feel less than dreamy about your own house? I get it, but one room and a low budget probably aren't going to get you to where you want to be.

In other words, why do you want to update it in the first place? What are you trying to accomplish? For example, if your kitchen is "too small" and lacks storage space, you could rip out all the cabinets and spend $50,00+ updating it. You do this and then end up with no more storage space than you had before (believe me, this is more common than you think!) Then I hope you love your new granite and can put a baker's rack in the garage to store everything that now doesn't fit! 

What are the existing limitations you need to work within? 

For example, support walls that cannot be easily removed, moving water lines, and adding electrical, exponentially add to the project's cost. You will save a fortune if you can figure out a creative way to accomplish what you want for the space without moving beams, water, or wires to different walls. Sometimes this is not possible, but starting planning around the existing structure from the beginning will make everything easier.

If you get your heart set on a plan without taking these items into consideration, and then you get the bid back from the contractor and it's twice as much as your budget, you'll be sad and can have a "mind block" to their alternative ideas to reduce costs because you already had your mind made-up. Trust me, I know this feeling!  

Sourcing tools, budget and time.

Put together a plan for sourcing the required tools, budget, time, and what you are willing and able to do yourself versus needing to hire out. 

The more organized you are, the smoother the project will go, and the better the outcome will be. Set your expectations early, then add at least 20% for costs and double the time you think the project should take! Construction never goes as planned, especially given the current economic circumstances and supply chain problems.

Think about how much value you're adding versus expending. How long will you be in the home to enjoy these improvements? Housing values are stabilizing, and that's overall a good thing. Still, the point is, if you're planning on moving in 5 years and you're preparing to remodel your master bathroom for $30,000, will that increase the house's value by $30,000 five years down the road? If not, and you care, maybe rethink removing the giant jacuzzi. 

Who actually performs the work? 

Many people try to save money by doing it themselves. There are limits. And there are some terrible DIY jobs out there! I have done almost everything in a remodel, and I can tell you there are certain things I will NEVER do again. A tile shower is one of them! With that said, you can save a significant amount if you are willing to do the demo.

When a professional can come in and just get to work, the project will get done much faster and at a much lower cost. Plus, no one likes the demo phase, including them! Most homeowners underestimate how much time it takes and the mess it makes. Ugh. Seriously, awful. Not super hard work, and very few skills are required; it's time-consuming and a mess. In my experience, completing the demo often takes more time than the project. 

Do It Yourself!

Are you in for the full DIY? You can learn how to do anything on YouTube. When attempting to do something I had never done before, I usually watched several YouTube videos before I started and then decided which method I liked better based on what I thought would be easiest to get the best outcome. I made sure I had the right tools and supplies.

Tools are huge. Think about how much better a high-quality microfiber towel works to wipe off the fingerprints from the stainless fridge and multiply this times ten when it comes to construction. Don't go cheap on the tools and factor this into your budget. If you have to purchase a bunch of equipment to do the job, plus your time learning and executing, it might not be worth the DIY attempt!

Home improvement projects are rewarding and help you enjoy your space at a higher level of functionality and aesthetics. And not every project has to be costly to make a noticeable difference! For example, if your budget is low, just repaint and rearrange the furniture, and your room will look totally different! Can't afford to fix exposed wiring issues? No problem, purchase a plastic cord cover, paint it the same color as the wall, and watch your ugly cord issue disappear. 

Another consideration is to hire a virtual designer such as Nest with the Nelsons. Megan Nelson will help you plan your project. She can help you "see" opportunities for improvement that you may have gotten so used to you don't even think about. When those "little things" get fixed, you WILL notice and think, "how did I live with that for so long?!" 

At the end of the day, love your home! We spend a ton of time in our house, and something as simple as a new picture when you walk in the door and a fresh coat of paint can make you happy. Does it smell good? Is it clean? Minimal investments can go a really long way. 

Jennifer Lea Founder and CEO of Entry Envy

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