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Set Up a Smooth Home Renovation Experience

Holly Lichtenfeld | February 1, 2017 4 MIN READ

Are you eyeing that dated tile in your bathroom and thinking about finally giving it a fresh look? Has your favorite HGTV show convinced you that you’re the only person on the planet who hasn’t grabbed a sledgehammer and knocked down some walls? Well, you’re not alone.

A report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates that spending on remodeling and repairs is on the rise. In the Center’s January 19, 2017 news release, they project a 6.7 percent rise in 2017 home improvement and repair expenditures over the previous year to $317 billion.

The allure of renovating is that it can help you both enjoy your space more as well as preserve or increase your home’s value. Exciting for some, yet daunting for others, renovating is probably more of the latter for many. But there are a few simple things that can help you get the most out of your money once you decide to let the hammers swing.

How much is the right amount?

Your renovation could have a lot to do with enjoying living and entertaining in your home, but you want to avoid over investing. When spending incremental amounts of money on your home, use the median home price levels in your neighborhood as a guide. This easy-to-obtain information will provide you with a good idea of what similar homes are selling for and help you determine how much money should be invested to help ensure a positive return on investment.

It’s all about your team

Perhaps the most important thing is to have great people on your home update team. If you’re a first time renovator, you probably don’t have a go-to list of home improvement experts and contractors. But real estate agents and interior designers typically have a number of people they work with regularly. I frequently get my referrals from my real estate agent and I make sure her referrals are the same people she uses on her own home. These vendors care about doing each job well, knowing a poor performance could lead to less referrals. I also like getting referrals from my handyman, since he’s knowledgeable about home repairs and hires people for things he doesn’t do.

Three can be the magic number

You probably are going to want to get three or four quotes. That way you’re not overwhelmed, but you can also see where the average bid falls and identify if any one supplier or contractor is far afield from the others. Plus you’ll hear variations in how the vendor will approach the job.

I recently got three bids to put frameless glass in a bathroom. The quotes from vendors referred by my handyman and interior designer were very similar, while the quote from a friend’s referral was in outer space, a full 60% higher than the other two.

Patience from beginning to end

With so many people renovating, good contractors are very busy, meaning it might take a contractor a few days to get back to you initially. I used to think a slow call back was a sign of a problem. But some experts explain that many of these folks are in the field every day working. So if they’re fully booked, it can be difficult for them to return calls quickly.

Setting appropriate timing expectations for the entire process will help you from getting disappointed or frustrated when things take a long time. This includes time to select and receive materials (which can take weeks) as well as the time to have the work done. Then pad that with additional time to bring your expectations to a reasonable place.

Interior designer, yes or no?

A good designer saves you hassle and they can even save you money. An active designer will have great contacts and will be able to leverage their experience to help you avoid potentially costly decisions.

If you decide to work with a designer, be clear about what you want to get out of the relationship and then interview a few. As part of my interview, I asked them to show me how they’d pick a paint color for one of my bathrooms. One designer took out her paint color chips and said, “For this bathroom, I’d suggest this one.” I responded that it was nice, but perhaps a little dark. She said, “I just used this in another home, you will love it.” I made the same request of the other designer. For consistency, when she showed me the color she selected, I said that it seemed a little dark. Her response was to show me two other lighter colors that would work as well. She then said, “Get samples of all three, put them up on the wall, and pick the one you want, any of them will work.” I hired the second decorator because I knew I wanted someone who had a clear point of view but would be able to work with my personal style and feedback.

It can be unsettling to have your home turned upside down during a renovation, so using these tips to manage the process and set appropriate expectations is key. Plus, you can always use your renovation as an excuse to check out that meditation class—because if you have watched any HGTV shows, you know that unexpected things can always happen.

Holly Lichtenfeld
Holly Lichtenfeld
Holly Lichtenfeld
Holly Lichtenfeld
Holly is a regular contributing author to EverBank Insights, sharing practical tips and insights on a range of personal finance and money management topics. She is an entrepreneur and private business owner ( and has previously held positions at such companies as Morgan Stanley and Dun & Bradstreet.

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