According to a recent survey, 85 percent of homeowners say that remodeling their house is stressful. If you’ve only just recovered from moving into your new home, more stress is the last thing you want! But, with careful planning (and these 21 home renovations tips), you can get the best out of your new home with the minimum of time, effort, and expense. Yes, home renovation will always be a lot of work, but it can be enjoyable and affordable as well.
If you’re looking for ways to remodel your house in a cost-effective method, these tips will be even more helpful. There’s no need to spend another fortune when you’ve only just bought your new home. Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to save money – including some surprising tips that you might never have heard before. So here they are: 21 home renovations tips for new buyers.
1) Budget first, then design
Let’s start at the very beginning with this first home renovation tip. It’s vitally important that you budget before you launch into all the fun and excitement of planning your home renovation. You need to know what you can afford before you set your heart on something. Home remodelling ideas can vary hugely, and you need to know what is and is not practical for you. Set a firm budget and don’t be tempted into breaking it.
Why do this before you start planning? Can’t you just figure out your budget as you go? Firstly, the professionals you hire may have a different idea of ‘affordable’. If you aren’t clear with your budget from the very beginning, non-refundable costs can appear very quickly. Furthermore, it’s a lot of effort (and sometimes expense) to change designs at a later stage. It wastes everyone’s time – yours and the people you’ve hired. You might also find that you invest too much money into one area, finding yourself short in another when you could have easily afforded both if only you had planned properly. You’ll notice through the rest of these tips that the importance of careful planning comes up again and again.
2) Be decisive and avoid over-analysis
Of course, having said that, there is such a thing as over-planning. While the budgeting and planning stages must come first, be careful not to let them drag on too long. You need to get started, or your home renovation will never be finished! You want a beautiful new home, not just the fantasy of one.
Don’t let yourself get bogged down in the tiny details. It might feel like these small elements of the design are vital, but they can slow down and even ruin your entire project. Analysis panic is a real problem, especially if you are the type of person who often has difficulties making decisions. Consider the pros and cons of each decision, yes, but aim to move on with the project as quickly as possible. Trust the people you’ve hired and trust their opinions when you find yourself unable to make a quick decision. Don’t rush blindly into major home renovations, of course, but don’t spend all your time worrying over doorframe finishes when you don’t even have the wall yet.
Remember that no plan or schedule will ever be perfect, and you will always have to make compromises. Focus your attention on the big decisions and try not to let the smaller details take over.
3) Test-run your materials
To make your decisions easier and more accurate, test your materials in the most representative way possible. Small swatches and samples don’t show the reality of how a material will look, and make it too easy to consider dozens (or even hundreds) of options. Get a better idea than simple swatches by obtaining larger samples and positioning them in the room you are remodelling. This is an especially important home renovation tip for new buyers, as you won’t yet be as familiar with the light and mood of the room.
For example, you could buy and paint entire canvases in the paint colors you are considering. This is a cheap but effective way of seeing what your color options will look like on a larger scale. Colors often look very different on swatches than on a whole wall. Prop the canvases up against the wall and take the time to look at them in different types of light.
For kitchen remodels, get full cabinet doors and lean them on your existing cabinets for a few days to see if you like them. Again, this is very different to seeing a wood sample that is only a few inches square. You might realise that the cabinet you were most interested in actually looks very different to how you imagined it. Consider usability as well as appearance – how easy would this cabinet door be to use and clean?
Another possibility is digital modelling. Many companies and contractors will have tools for you to preview different materials and options, although these are often better for seeing the overall picture rather than small details. For a more low-key approach, try the Dulux paint tool and app, available on their website. These tools give you the chance to test (for free) what different paint colors will look like on the wall. It’s a quick and easy method for testing out home remodeling ideas before you commit.
4) Don’t plan too rigidly
It’s a widely known fact that no building project goes exactly according to plan. Don’t assume that yours will be an exception, no matter how small it is. “Budget even more time than you think you need for every step,” advises Jamie Wiebe, an expert on home improvement and design. It’s wise advice, and one of the most valuable home renovations tips for new buyers, especially if you’ve never carried out a similar project.
Don’t assume that materials will always arrive on time, and don’t schedule precisely until materials have been obtained. Cancellations are expensive and can slow down the entire project even further. It’s better to proceed slowly and carefully than to plan for a rush and find yourself at a standstill. A tight plan can quickly spiral out of control, sending one thing wrong after another. You especially do not want to settle for second-best because you ran out of time for your first option. Be flexible and patient. Yes, it’s important to plan before you begin, but it’s also important to regularly modify those plans as you go along and appreciate that no plan is perfect.
5) Do your research
Learn as much as possible about your intended project before you begin. Speak to different contractors and get a variety of opinions before hiring someone to begin work. Look at plenty of inspiration, especially “real-life” projects rather than just glossy show home renovations. Talk to people in your neighborhood for recommendations of tradesmen and suppliers. You may find that your neighbors even have example projects to show you.
The more you know, the better prepared you will be. Make the best decisions you can, and learn about common problems so that you won’t be taken completely by surprise if things go wrong. The internet is your friend here, with so much information readily available, but try to mix in project-specific advice from a professional.
6) Consider starting from scratch
Depending on the scale of home renovations you have planned, don’t rule out a complete demolition and starting from scratch. Sometimes, surprisingly, it can actually be cheaper than a huge remodel, making it a better option if you want to renovate your home in a cost-effective way. This is especially true with older houses that need a lot of modernization.
There are a lot of advantages to building a house from the ground up. It can be easier than navigating around the complex permits that renovating an older house might require. It can also allow you to build a greener, more energy-efficient house that meets all of your requirements.
However, there are major downsides. You may find that demolition expenses wipe out savings, making it a long and expensive project. You will also lose the character of the house and may have trouble acquiring the necessary permits. In some cases, starting from scratch is only possible on fresh, greenfield sites, which probably isn’t much help if you’ve just bought a house!
7) Think about future costs
One of the most important home renovations tips for new buyers is to think about cost in the long term. If you plan to stay in your new home for decades to come, then future savings may be more significant than current savings. Consider high-quality insulation and adapting your home to be as green as possible. While this can be expensive up-front, it will save you a great deal of energy expense over time.
There are other examples of ways in which a little more expense now can save you substantial quantities of money in future. Use pre-painted clapboard, as it needs to be repainted far less often – the factory conditions of its initial painting preserve the paint for much longer. Similarly, high efficiency appliances will cost more to purchase but will save you money in the long run.
Think carefully about any ways in which you could prepare for the future. Ask about the pros and cons of different materials, appliances, and techniques – don’t just choose the cheapest option without researching why there are price differences. Balance your short-term budget with long-term savings.
8) Consider touching up minor defects
Before you launch into a massive home renovation project, consider your other options. Don’t automatically assume that you need a major remodel to achieve the effects that you want. In some cases, you may be surprised at how much difference can be made if you touch up minor defects and make some cosmetic changes. This is especially true when it comes to home renovations for new buyers, as you may not yet have learned how to get the most out of your new home.
Consider painting rooms to make them look fresher, lighter, and even more spacious. New furniture and minor repairs can greatly improve the appearance of a room without incurring major expense. Even just rearranging furniture and clearing things out can gain you additional space and an unexpected new lease of life for the room. Try a few small changes first – you might be surprised! For example, property sales website For Sale By Owner suggests that “instead of installing a Jacuzzi tub, why not start out by changing the toilet—an improvement that can cost as little as $200 and make a drastic difference.” You might find that, after a few minor changes, a major home renovation no longer feels quite so necessary.
9) Increase storage efficiency
This is another way to make smaller changes before committing to a major home renovation project. Extending rooms can be hugely expensive, disruptive, and time-consuming, so be sure that you really need an extension. The most cost-effective way to remodel your home is not to do it at all! Or, at the very least, to keep your projects as small as possible.
Try ways to make your space work more effectively, perhaps by rearranging or disposing of furniture. If you brought your furniture from your previous home, think very hard about whether it is ideal for your new home. It might be too big, making the room feel cramped, or it might be wrong for the shape of the room. Possibly, it just isn’t up to the standard that you want your new home to meet.
Rearranging and reorganising can also make major renovations feel less necessary. Try installing fitted storage, and look for unused space that could be re-appropriated as storage. For example, an island rather than a kitchen table will give you substantially more storage space, making the room feel larger.
Consider how often rooms and areas are used by keeping a record of where you spend your time. Are certain rooms almost entirely unused? For example, if you never actually use your study, could you turn it into that fourth bedroom you were willing to build? Get creative and brainstorm different ways to use rooms and areas in your house. You don’t have to carry out any of these ideas, but it can’t hurt to consider some alternative possibilities.
10) Learn to DIY (but start simple!)
Doing the work yourself is one of the top tips for cost-effective home renovation. It can save you substantial quantities of money, as well as being enjoyable and satisfying. However, home DIY is neither easy nor simple, especially if you have big dreams. Start with minor projects to develop your skills and confidence before even considering a big home renovation. As DIY and real estate expert Elizabeth Weintraub says, “It’s astonishing what you can accomplish with your own two hands if only you would try and not be afraid of messing up. The worst that generally would happen is you would do it over”
Not sure where to get started? Try this list of easy projects for beginner DIY inspiration. Your local hardware shop may be able to give you advice, and some contractors even offer training. Friends, neighbors, and family may also be able to share their experience with you.
11) Try light tubes instead of windows
This is only a minor tip, but it can save you a great deal of money and effort on home renovations. Something a lot of people don’t realise is that light tubes are available as an alternative to windows. These ultra-reflective tubes bounce sunlight from outside into hard-to-reach areas. They allow you to enjoy natural light, but are cheaper, and easier than fitting windows. Plus, they change the appearance of the room far less.
Light tubes are a clever way to transfer light into areas where it might seem impossible, which can save you from undergoing unnecessary major projects. It’s amazing how much of an effect a little sunlight can have.
12) Have work done at quiet times of year
This is a home renovation tip that many people don’t consider, but when you choose to remodel your home can make a difference. It’s possible to make big savings at times when contractors have less custom. For example, some home-owners have found that their renovations were 5% cheaper in January than December. For a big project, this could be a substantial saving.
Investigate what the situation is like in your area before setting firm dates for your home renovations. Speak to a few contractors about the possibility of discounts at certain times. With luck, your home renovations may be more cost-effective than expected. The key, as with so many aspects of home renovations, is to be as flexible as possible.
13) Avoid moving the toilet
This is a small detail, but worth paying attention to for saving money on your home renovations. Moving a toilet can be a major bathroom expense, often for relatively small improvements. Leave your toilet where it is and plan around it to substantially cut the budget of your bathroom remodel.
You can still replace your toilet pipes if necessary – this will still be cheaper than moving the entire toilet. It might not be the most important thing to consider, but it is a little-known home renovations tip that will make your bathroom remodel more cost-effective.
14) Pay attention to permits
It’s incredible how many people jump into home renovations without considering all the necessary permissions and possible legal issues. Don’t assume that small jobs don’t need a permit – building regulations are complex and often more detailed than people realize. If the structure or external appearance of your house will be affected, you may well need a permit. Even seemingly small changes like putting up a fence might be against local code.
New homeowners, don’t assume regulations are the same as where you used to live! Building codes can vary hugely from district to district. What your old neighbour got away with might require dozens of permits in your new location. Even if you think your plans are fine, check it out before you begin. It’s worth the extra time to avoid large fines in futures. The best route is to consult a local expert who knows the codes well. Your contactors should have a good basic knowledge, but they may be misinformed, from outside the area, or simply not interested in getting involved with the legal aspect of the business. Your local council may have resources and advisors to help you out – take advantage of these if they are available.
15) Don’t live in the mess if you can help it
If you don’t want to spend money on rent, or have bought a house in the perfect location, it’s tempting to live in it while you renovate. But if you possibly can, don’t live in the middle of your home renovation mess!
A house in the middle of a big renovation is a stressful and upsetting place to live, so don’t put yourself through it unless you must.
Living in the middle of your renovations can also slow work down and be disruptive. You and your contractors have to fit around your living space and schedules. You may even unwittingly disrupt things as you attempt to get on with life in a building site. As home renovation expert Jamie Wiebe says, “too much disorganization will hog your time because you can’t find anything. Next thing you know, you’re a day behind because you couldn’t find the installation guide for the dishwasher.” Don’t make your home renovation any more complicated than necessary. If possible, get the major work out of the way before you move into your new home.
16) Look for salvaged material
For more cost-effective home renovations, try using salvaged materials. Pieces from demolished or refitted houses, whether bought directly or at auction, are often much cheaper than buying new. You might also be able to obtain more high quality than are otherwise easily available in your area. Overall, it’s an excellent strategy if you are on a tight budget but want to avoid low-quality materials. Sometimes, you can even find salvaged material completely free at junkyards or on websites like Craigslist. This can cut your renovation budget dramatically.
However, some contractors will refuse to work with salvaged materials because of its unpredictability. Unlike materials your contractors choose themselves, salvage comes with no quality guarantee and can be more complicated to work with. Because of this, it’s best for DIY projects, unless you’re able to find a contractor willing to work with salvaged material.
Salvaged material is also less predictable, which can slow down your project and disrupt your plans. Start collecting your parts well in advance if you plan to salvage some or all of your building materials, and be prepared to compromise if you can’t find exactly what you want.
17) Pick up goods yourself
This is another quick and easy way to save a little money on your home renovations. Whatever type of materials you choose, save a little money by collecting things yourself rather than paying for delivery. This obviously depends on your available vehicle. Don’t try to pick up goods that are too large for your car or might be dangerous to transport! If you opt for the salvage route, picking up goods yourself might become a necessity rather than an option.
18) Plan according to available sizes
This is one of those home renovations tips that’s easily overlooked but makes so much sense once you realise it. For a more cost-effective approach to home renovation, work out sizes before you design your perfect home. Using ready-made items is much cheaper than having them custom-made to suit your design, so make sure you know the sizes of these ready-made items in advance. Doors, for example, are generally only available off-the-shelf in certain sizes, which is far cheaper than having doors made specifically to fit your design.
This is an excellent example of the advantage of planning and budgeting before you design. It’s amazing how much difference all these small home renovation details can make. Don’t let poor preparation make your expenses any larger than they should be.
19) Choose multi-function furniture
Once again, this is a small detail that can be surprisingly effective. When buying furniture for your new and improved room, look for pieces that can function in multiple ways. This might mean something like a sofa bed, so a room can be used as a spare room when necessary. Or, in an example from Steve Williams Kitchens, “if you decorate the space with a small dining table, it can also be used as a study table when not in use.” Using multi-purpose furniture allows you to rearrange the room (or even your entire home) in the future at much lower cost. This helps you to keep your options more open, which may save you money in the long run.
Certain types of multi-function furniture also provide you with additional storage space or make extra furniture unnecessary. This increases your space and might therefore make major refits seem less necessary, as we’ve already discussed above.
20) Don’t go too far
While you should do everything possible to create the home of your dreams, it is possible to go too far in your home renovations. Don’t do anything utterly ridiculous to your house that you might come to regret in the future. Consider your neighbourhood – try not to build anything out of character with the surrounding area. Don’t forget permits, either, and remember that you must stick to what is permitted, even if exciting new ideas arise during the project.
Try not to upset your neighbors by building for too long or creating too much noise and mess. Major basement extensions, for example, have caused a lot of controversy in some areas, with angry home-owners taking their neighbors to court for excessive building noise. Your home renovations won’t be very cost-effective if you have to pay a fortune in fines!
You should also consider costs for future owners when planning a renovation project. A pool, for example, can be a negative point for buyers, due to the expense of maintaining one. Your house could potentially lose value as a result. If you intend to use a pool regularly, then that may not trouble you. But it is certainly worth considering before you jump into an expensive and disruptive project that may not pay off financially.
Remember that you will probably recoup less than 80% of any given project in house value increase. Especially as a new buyer, be sure that your home renovations will make your house better, not just more valuable.
21) Balance utility and value
For projects that will increase the value of your house, focus on kitchens and bathrooms. In the words For Sale By Owner, “When looking at houses, buyers consider the kitchen one of the most important selling points in the house, with bathrooms—especially master baths—coming in a close second.” If you’re torn over where to spend your money, these two areas will see the best financial return in the long run.
At the same time, home renovations shouldn’t be all about selling. It’s your new house, so consider what will work for you. What sort of projects will improve your enjoyment of the house and make it feel more like a home? A kitchen might be a great place to start improving – but not if you have other renovation ideas that will drastically improve your life right now.
Were these home renovations tips useful for you?
These 21 home renovations tips are, of course, only a starting point, but they cover a lot of the issues which you may come up against when renovating as a new buyer. It can be tempting to jump straight in and start turning your new house into the home of your dreams, but be cautious and take the time to plan. With a solid idea and careful preparation, your home renovation plans will be as cost-effective and efficient as possible.
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