Are you staring at your house right now and thinking it could use a little work? Or maybe a LOT of work? Just the thought of home remodeling can be extremely daunting. Where do you even start? Do you need to hire a contractor to help with additions or can a simple act of repurposing a room give your home that quality look you’ve been looking for?
Regardless if your remodeling project is big or small, you need to get a plan in order. Having a plan in order will help you to stay on track with your vision as well as your budget. Take a look at our step-by-step guide to the perfect remodeling plan.
Start at the End: What’s the Outcome?
If you’re debating whether to move or improve, there are some important financial factors to consider. Remodeling can have a big price tag but can increase your home’s current value. Moving takes you somewhere new but can cost 10 to 15 percent over the value of your present home. Do the math, and make sure you’re making the right move. If you ultimately decide to stay and improve, be sure you’re not overdoing it for the price range of your neighborhood. If you’ve decided to make an expansion, think not only about which family members will use it and how, but also what will happen if you decide to move sometime down the road.
The ability to profit from the investment in a new space depends on a range of factors including the condition of the rest of the home, the value of neighboring homes and what’s going on with property values in the area overall. For best results, strive to have the improvements complement and coordinate with your existing structure and the neighborhood at large. Anything with an outer-limits, over-the-top look and feel will deter buyers, detract from a home’s value, and incite present and future neighbors to whisper behind your back.
Start your new-space planning by taking a good look around the neighborhood. Check in with local real estate agents and contractors regarding current remodeling trends and beneficial projects done in homes in your area. That way, you’ll be able to create a valuable, livable, comfortable result without falling into the trap of serial renovation and other new-space pitfalls that can end up haunting you later.
Assess Your Abilities
Additions are generally the provinces of the pros, not places to go boldly into if you haven’t been a skilled DIYer for a long time. To put it bluntly, your homeowner’s insurance won’t cover your incompetence. That being said, also make sure that the pros you hire are licensed and insured because if they cause a collapse, fire or flood, the same response from your insurance company will apply.
It’s also likely that you will want an architect or designer involved to assure the look and functionality of the finished space. Specialized professionals such as heating and air contractors will be able to advise on the best mechanical systems for a comfortable new space.
Set Your Budget
Once you get into structural changes, project price tags tend to shoot skyward. New spaces usually start in the five figures and it’s not uncommon to hit six figures. As stated above, we advise prioritizing the investment to make sure the exterior views are in line with the neighborhood, with a second priority being the comfort, efficiencies, and safety of the mechanical systems.
There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s easier to apologize than to ask permission.” This may apply in social circles, but when it comes to adding on to your home, failing to secure the right permissions from local, county or state authorities can cost you dearly. “I know of homes where entire second floors had to be removed,” says Gordon Gemma, a noted land use attorney based in New Jersey. “It’s always important to understand local requirements before you start your home remodeling.”
Gemma suggests that a good first step is to contact the local building department to ask about the “entitlement process” — a legal term that refers to the permissions your town requires. “Every jurisdiction is unique,” he says.
For example, in my home state of New Jersey, planning boards establish what can be built and where, but zoning boards grant permission for any projects that deviate from those planning laws. In other parts of the nation, county governments dictate what can and cannot be constructed. There are also situations where outside agencies could be needed for the A-okay, such as a project that impacts a protected wetland or other environmentally sensitive areas.
So before you get too deep into your home remodeling, make sure you do the research necessary to color between the lines. If the project is big enough, consider consulting an attorney specializing in land use. Hiring a pro to guide you through the process is money well spent and can save you loads of time, effort, and aggravation.
Look Out Below
Once you’ve gotten permission for your project and figured out how to pay for it, you need to determine what lies beneath. A lot of critical utilities run right through your property, and there may even be some old home systems that go way back hiding underground as well. Always check in with local utility companies before you dig (or even think of doing any work) to ensure that you don’t cause a dangerous disturbance to water or electrical lines that could make you a pariah in your home or entire neighborhood—especially if you knock out the cable right before the big game.
The easy to do this is by going to Call811.com, a nationwide utility marking service that’s free to use. Here’s how the system works:
- Call 811 from anywhere in the country a few days prior to digging and your call will automatically be routed to your local one call center.
- You’ll give the operator information about how to contact you, where you are planning to dig and what type of work you will be doing.
- Utility companies who have potential facilities in the area of your dig site will be notified about your intent to dig.
- Each affected utility company will send a locator to mark the approximate location of your underground utility lines. This typically occurs within 2-3 working days.
Live in a condominium, co-op or covenant community? Then one more major hurdle awaits. Your homeowners’ association will likely have its own set of rules and standards to ensure a uniform look across the units’ exteriors, as well as guidelines regarding interior renovations and home remodels. Also remember that if you share a wall, floor or ceiling, fixes on your side are impacting someone else’s property or a part of a structure owned by the association. So make sure you’re up-to-date on who owns what, where the project limits fall, and which items need to be approved by your association board to prevent an un-neighborly outcome.
Permission To Splurge
Three of the most expensive words used in home remodeling is, “Might as well.” What we mean by that is, while you’re already in the midst of home remodeling, it’s totally ok to splurge once in awhile.
Once you’ve determined the size and the scale of your new space think about what areas of usage you can create it to best suit your definition of luxury. Maybe separate closet spaces and dressing areas with custom furnishings appeal to you, or you’d like room for a cushy sitting area for reading and relaxing. Smooth, easy-access transitions to the master bath and other zones of the suite contribute to its flow and comfort, and maintaining a few flexible spaces for changing needs (such as a mini-nursery that can later become a dressing area) will help it to hold its value over time.
Ultra-custom amenities continue to be part of the master suite scene, and folks will go to great lengths to create an in-home retreat that they never have to leave. Minibars are expanding into mini kitchens with refrigerators, microwaves and gourmet coffee makers at the ready, although Leslie questions the wisdom of having the lingering smell of microwave popcorn in your bedroom. The warmth and romance of a cozy fire are almost instantly possible thanks to the efficient new vented gas-burning fireplaces. And you don’t even have to stop at having one master suite thanks to new designs that marry two adjoining, mirror-image suites for super-personalized getaways.