If there was an important lesson to gain from our main house tour, it’s this – remodeling is a tricky gamble where you can either win big…or lose everything you’ve worked hard for. Today, we will discuss basic remodel tips and tricks, as well as a common mistake to avoid while remodeling your house. These remodel tips are based on what we’ve personally learned along the way, as well as observed of others. If you are considering remodeling your home, read through the following tips plus the mistake that can easily be avoided. Let’s dive in.
First, we’ve come to realize that the remodel of a home must be approached differently based on the type of owner. Things can change overnight, I understand, but the overall tone of the remodel needs to be set based on whether the homeowner plans to stay and for how long.
Owners remodeling their forever home have the freedom to do whatever their heart desires and budget allows! On the other hand, someone flipping a house needs to focus on local trends and inexpensive updates. The rest of us must tread lightly, with future buyer in mind:)
TIP #1 – IDENTIFY WHICH TYPE OF HOMEOWNER YOU ARE
Do you see what I mean? Homeowners who want to personalize the house they plan to retire in are very different from homeowners who want to sell within a few years for profit. So from the very beginning, you need to be honest with yourself about which category you fall into.
Personally, we try to fall right in between. How’s that? Well, for us it means we cater to our family’s needs and wants, while being acutely aware of what is happening with the real estate market around us and overall interior design trends. The bottom line is that we want to love the house we live in but, should the need arise, also be able to sell quickly without our design choices putting off perspective buyers. It’s a fine line to walk. For normal (non design-and-real-estate obsessed) homeowners, this can only be accomplished by consulting an architect or an interior designer, which adds significant cost to a remodel.
TIP #2 – CONSULT PROFESSIONALS ACCORDING TO PROJECT
Obviously, the importance of a professional consult depends on the type of property being remodeled. If you are updating a small inexpensive home, you have less to worry about getting it “right” for resale. The stakes are higher though, when you are working on a larger investment, and that’s when the professional designers are worth every penny.
For example, when we bought a small townhouse a couple years ago, we fearlessly added charcoal bathroom floors without overthinking the color. Perhaps it was too dark? Nah, it was only 2.5 tiny baths and could easily be covered with bathroom rugs. However, when we bought our Mt. Scott home and decided to update the very-cherry kitchen, we spent a couple months researching, planning the crown molding, and customizing our own paint colors. That project was consult-worthy, and the only reason we didn’t hire a designer is because we had the ability to design ourselves.
TIP #3 – CONSULT PROFESSIONALS PRIOR TO ANY WORK
It is CRUCIAL that you consult professionals before hiring out for the work, because making design decisions is not just fun and games. When we bought our first house, the owner had invested over 400k in a complete remodel, and while space planning was right on, the finishes were not, so the house still looked outdated and sat on the market for years until they dropped the price and lost half of their investment. Ouch. A designer would have ensured better results at that cost. Similar thing with our current property – the owner burned through a load of money with interior and landscape work, and in the end sold for less than what he paid PRIOR to the improvements.
Over the years, we’ve seen some really questionable remodels while house hunting. From log cabin style built-ins throughout, to 100k kitchen with peachy glaze finish and curlicues, to cheesy backsplash tile that apparently cost an arm and a leg because “hand-glazed.” Dear homeowner, you could have kept that money, because sadly this stuff is not the selling point you intended it to be. Might even get torn out. #sorrynotsorry
The thing is, when you talk to these homeowners, most will tell you they hired the best contractors in town for their remodel. Aha! Key phrase: contractors.
MISTAKE #1 – CONSULTING WITH CONTRACTORS INSTEAD OF DESIGNERS
I think this is where it all breaks down – relying on contractors to guide the design direction of your remodel toward return on your investment. Contractors are skilled craftsmen. Period. Some are also great space planners, while others have in-house designers to help their clients. But if you rely on your cabinet installer for kitchen design advice, at best you will be left with what’s common in your area. At worst, you will get sold the most expensive version of that project. The truth is, most of us need that independent third party to point us toward the freshest most positive changes in our homes during remodel.
When we began planning the re-design of our current property, I met with dozens of contractors for projects ranging from tile, wallpaper, countertops, to rails (yeah, we’re changing those, are you shocked?) and skim coating. Some wanted to alter my design to make their work easier, some scratched their heads because they’ve never built what I requested, while others suggested very logical and practical solutions which were also unremarkable, and downright bizarre from the design perspective. If I didn’t have a game plan during those meetings, it would have been easy to get sidetracked and end up with disjointed rooms and nooks, without a common thread to pull the design together.
TIP #4 – TRY ONLINE DESIGN SERVICES
So you’re thinking, “There’s no way I can afford a designer!” Have you searched online? There’s TONS of great designers who offer their consultation services, or e-design services, online. Plus, social media makes it easy for you to view their previous projects. All you have to do is submit photos, dimensions, your likes and budget. These services come at various price points and (as always) you get what you pay for, but whether you are in a minor design rut or consider yourself design challenged, a fresh set of eyes on your house or room will do you wonders. Did you know that even designers often hire other designers to help re-design their homes?
Anyway, the point is that we have EVERYTHING we possibly need, whether locally or online, to make smart choices during remodel. In another post, I will go into greater detail on which of our choices were most effective, but for now I wanted to share the link my realtor friend Tanya Gavrilyuk provided during one of our discussions. It’s a national data report on cost versus value for 29 popular remodeling projects. Food for thought!
CLARIFICATION: By the way, if you think I am promoting my services, let me dispel your suspicions – I do not offer consultation nor is it my passion, and as of right now I do not plan to do anything except for design for myself with wild abandon, LOL, okay? I have a toddler to potty-train, a house to remodel, and landscape to fine-tune, which will probably take a couple of years…Hopefully not the potty-training part!
NOW I’M CURIOUS ABOUT YOU…
Have you ever remodeled a house, or a room? Did you come up with the design plan yourself? Or did you consult a designer? Let me know in the comments below – I love to read them!