Thinking About Remodeling?

If you own a home, no matter what its age, sooner or later you will probably join the millions of people who decide to remodel their homes each year. Perhaps you have already decided to do so. It was the moment you realized that avocado green and harvest gold are no longer the “in” colors for today’s trendy kitchens. Or, you had an epiphany as you stood in line to use your own bathroom. Whatever the motivation, this thought has crossed your mind: Maybe it’s time to remodel.

The reasons for remodeling are as varied as the projects we undertake  Some of these include;

• Adding more space. Whether it is a bedroom, garage, kitchen, bathroom, living room, laundry or office, the need for more space is a major reason for choosing to remodel.

• Providing a facelift for your home. It could be through up grading cabinets, countertops, fixtures, trim, doors, flooring, or painting.

• Changing the floor plan of the house. Open it up, or close it up. You can create a floor plan that is customized to what you want and need.

• Improving energy efficiency. This could mean new windows, doors, insulation, appliances, and climate control systems.

• Increasing the resale value of your home through repairs or any of the items listed above.


The first step is to develop an idea of what you want to accomplish as you assemble your design / build team. You need to answer two questions before plans are drawn up: What does your house really need, and, equally important, what do you need? If you plan to sell soon, stick to small improvements that fix glaring flaws. If you hope to stay put for many years to come, you can indulge yourself with more projects that appeal to you regardless of whether they add to resale value. For many homeowners, remodeling is one part making an informed purchase and one part managing personal and family emotions--not an easy balance. The more you can clarify ahead of time what changes you want to make, the easier the process will be. Write a prioritized list of your needs and wants. Look at magazines and websites and collect pictures of what you like. Houzz, Pinterest, magazines and other resources are great for such ideas and your contractor should welcome these ideas as you use them to clarify what it is you want and need. Accurately communicating your goals will help your remodeling specialists to understand you better as they make professional recommendations. The more clearly you can envision the project, the better prepared you will be in making your decisions.

Think about traffic patterns, furniture size and placement, colors, lighting and how you expect to use the remodeled space. If your decision to remodel involves creating better access for someone with limited mobility, you may want to consider contacting a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist. Determine how much money you have to spend on the remodeling job, furnishings, landscaping and any other costs you might incur. For different financing options, check with your mortgage lender.


When it comes to remodeling, everybody has an opinion about where you should put your money and how much you can expect to get back on it. “Kitchen renovations always pay for themselves!” “No, its bathrooms!” “No, family rooms!” Unfortunately, most “rules of thumb” for fixing up your house aren’t necessarily true. The only person, who knows best what your house needs, is you. Perhaps with the advice of a well plugged in real estate agent, architect, or contractor you can make an informed decision. The ‘Cost vs. Value Report’, a remodeling study done nationwide since 1988 by Remodeling 

Magazine (, has compared construction costs with the value they add at resale for common remodeling projects. This year’s report listed the  amount you can expect to recoup for the following projects (between $25,000 and $100,000): Attic Bedrooms at 69.3%, Roofing Replacement at 60.4%, Major Kitchen Remodels at 60%, Basement Remodels at 59.1%, Family Room Additions at 55.4%, Garage Additions at 52.8%, Deck Additions (composite) at 52%, Bathroom Remodels at 51.3%, Garage Additions at 48.2%, Bathroom Additions at 47.7%, Sunroom Additions at 42.3%, and Home Office Remodels at 42.5%. The publication states, ‘Replacement jobs--such as door, window, and siding projects--generated a higher return than remodeling projects… Replacement projects showed an average return of 73.2% in this year’s report… while the cost-value ratio of remodeling projects sank to 60.8% in this year’s report from 65.1% last year.’ If something is wearing out, it will pay to replace it, but don’t spend an elaborate amount on renovations with the idea that you will make it back immediately.

Keep in mind the cost-value ratio expresses resale value as a percentage of construction cost. When cost and value are equal, the ratio is 100%; when cost is higher than value, the ratio is less than 100%; when value is higher than cost, the ratio exceeds 100%.

If resale value concerns you, before remodeling call in a trusted real estate agent or contractor who can tell you what buyers in your area are looking for and where your house might need improvement when compared to the competition. For example, adding a bedroom isn’t always a good choice, but it might be if your house has fewer bedrooms than the Jones’s next door. If you plan to move soon, most agents will advise you to focus on making your house bright, airy, and uncluttered while repairing anything that is broken or leaking. Stick with low budget projects that will have broad appeal, like fresh paint in light, neutral colors. It is said that putting light colors on the walls will make the rooms look bigger. Upgrade your trim and doors. Give the house a face-lift with new floor coverings, or if you have hardwoods under your carpet, tear out the carpet and, have your hardwoods finished. Remember as you plan your remodeling, that most house buyers are walking around with a mental checklist of “must haves”. If your house is missing even one item from the list, it risks being disqualified from consideration. So if you want to convert a fourth bedroom into a den or study, make sure the next owner can easily make it a bedroom again. Remember that anything you add that isn’t on the buyer’s checklist, even something attractive, won’t be highly valued. So if resale is a primary concern, stick to the basics. At best, a unique home will stay on the market longer until the rare family that shares your taste comes along. At worst, it will fetch a lower price than a more conventional home.

If you are staying longer, raise your sights. An architect, or contractor, may point you toward a solution you have not thought of. Too often people have a problem and they don’t quite know how to solve it, so they add space onto space that didn’t work to begin with. A better idea would be moving a wall to help traffic circulation, at little cost. Some fixes are even easier. If the living room is dark, maybe you just need to cut down a tree outside to let in more light in. 


At the other extreme, if a house’s flaws are obvious and serious, you might be better off selling it as is, or tearing it down and starting over. You’re not going to fool buyers. A lot of older homes are on beautiful sites where the value is really in the land. Owners sometimes work against themselves by trying to make a house into something it was never meant to be.

What if you’re planning on sticking around? How much should you spend on the big items, kitchens, and bathrooms? Enough to keep up with the Jones’s but not much more. In other words, if everyone else on the street has granite countertops, then you should too. But don’t go for the gigantic professional stove if you never cook and nobody else on your street has one. The same principle applies to bathrooms. Adding a bathroom boosts you in to a higher tier of properties in the minds of those homebuyers with checklists. But there is no need to do it fancy.

A good way to boost the return on your renovation is to avoid unnecessary costs. You can lower expenses by focusing work on just one section of the house. If you have a two-story house, try to make any additions two stories as well. You’ll need a foundation and a roof anyway, and the incremental cost of one more floor is comparatively small. Also,  think ahead about how you’ll use the space from day to day. Is there a place for the kids to drop their backpacks? If the little things matter to you, then they will probably matter to the next owner as well.

Remodeling for whatever reason can be just the ticket to enjoying your home to its fullest. So, start making your plans and “Let the changes begin! 

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