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Ready, Set, Remodel: 8 Tips for Planning Your Perfect Home Renovation

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

Maybe you want a spanking new kitchen, complete with an island and a walk-in pantry. Or perhaps you’re dreaming of retreating to a spa-like bathroom every night.

If you’re planning your perfect home renovation, you’re not alone. According to a LightStream survey, 77% of homeowners plan to renovate their homes in 2020. And their budgets are at a record high: On average, homeowners spent $11,473 on renovations, up 27% from 2019.

With top contractors and materials in high demand, you’ll need to plan your home renovation well in advance to finish your project on time and within budget. We’ll help you stay organized with these nine key steps for planning the perfect remodel.

For added expertise, our list includes expert tips from top real estate agent Martin Bouma, who sells properties 69% faster than the average agent in Ann Arbor, MI. Bouma shares advice from his 36 years of helping sellers prepare their homes for the market. He filled us in on how to plan your renovation, so it adds value and marketability to your home at resale. Ready, set, renovate!

A clock used to represent the timing of a perfect home renovation.
Source: (Jeanne Rouillard / Unsplash)

1. Time your renovation wisely to save money

Timing your renovation is everything — at least when it comes to getting the best deal. In HomeLight’s recent Top Agent Insights Report, 91% of top real estate agents agree that contractors’ peak seasons are the spring and summer. With this in mind, two-thirds of agents say that materials and labor for home renovation projects are the least expensive from October through March. If you can hold off planning your renovation for these months, you could save hundreds to thousands of dollars.

2. Research average project costs and create a budget

Before you get carried away planning fixtures and finishes, you need to know the going rate for your renovation project so you can budget accordingly. Hint: It’s almost always more than you think.

“A lot of people think carpeting is only going to be $1,000 or $2,000, but it ends up being $7,000 to $9,000, depending on the size of the house,” Bouma comments.

Research average project costs on websites like HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and Thumbtack. Once you have a rough idea of how far your budget will stretch, reach out to local contractors for a more realistic estimate. Take note of the project area’s dimensions before calling to get the most accurate estimate possible.

Here’s the average cost of common home renovations:

3. Assemble a top-rated home renovation team

Now that you know what’s possible for your budget, it’s time to book contractors. Assemble a dream team of reliable professionals who can help you plan the perfect home renovation following these tips:

Browse portfolios online

Discover local contractors, designers, and architects on websites like Houzz and Thumbtack. Filter by project type and location to narrow your results. Bookmark professionals who have completed projects similar to yours in terms of scale, budget, and style.

Carefully read customer reviews

Once you’ve narrowed down your candidates, read all of the reviews you can find on websites like Yelp, Google Business, and Angie’s List. Bouma advises sellers to spend time reading the reviews rather than taking the average ratings for face value.

“Pay attention to whether the contractor was on time, whether he did the project in the allotted time frame at the right price, and whether he followed up,” he adds.

When friends and family may also suggest professionals, Bouma cautions sellers to read online reviews anyway. Often, people recommend friends and acquaintances without a clue of their referral’s work ethic.

Interview candidates over the phone

Before you commit to a contract, screen your candidates over the phone with these questions:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Could you share examples of projects you’ve completed similar to mine?
  • How long will this renovation project take? (Pro tip: If time is of the essence, add it to the contract as an incentive. “If your contract says that every day they’re late, you’ll reduce the bill by such and such amount, they’ll give your job priority,” Bouma says.)
  • What materials are needed? Can I save money by purchasing them myself?
  • Can I see your license and proof of insurance?

4. Get the appropriate permits

Cosmetic upgrades, such as replacing flooring or adding a fresh coat of paint on the walls, don’t require permits. Renovations altering your home’s structure, on the other hand, likely will. Since every city and county has different regulations, contact your local permitting office to determine what permits your project requires.

“In our market, you need permits if you are doing any structural, plumbing, or electrical work,” Bouma comments.

For most projects, your contractor will manage the permit applications and tack the costs onto your bill.

Source: (DocuSign / Unsplash)

5. Stay organized: Store all of your quotes, invoices, and receipts together

When you’re in the middle of planning your renovation, you’ll want to keep track of invoices, total spend, contracts, and warranties. These documents will also come in handy when it’s time to sell. You can share the warranties with your buyer to give them some peace of mind, and your agent can use the renovation documents to support their case for the home’s value during the appraisal.

Keep all of your documents in one place with one of these organization systems:

  • Google Drive: Between emailed quotes and receipts from online shopping, you’re likely to collect more digital than physical documents. With Google Drive, you can easily save documents from your email and phone into the cloud without printing them out. As a best practice, name the files with the company, project, and date, so they’re easy to search for down the line (e.g., ABC Landscaping_Invoice_June_2021).
  • Physical Folder: If you’re the type that still likes a hard copy, an old-fashioned manila folder will do the trick. Try alphabetizing your papers or opting for a folder with dividers to keep documents organized.
  • Thumbtack: There are more than 2.2 million home improvement apps in the Apple App Store, but Thumbtack consistently ranks as one of the best for planning the perfect home renovation. You can search for contractors, estimate project costs, and save renovation documents in the app — for free!

6. Create a Pinterest board to save your inspo photos

Tried and true, Pinterest is the ultimate social media for home design inspiration. Search for ideas and save your favorite pins on organized boards. You can share your boards with family and friends to give them a preview of your renovation and ask for ideas.

Here are some elements and trends you’ll want to pin down (pun intended) when planning your perfect remodel:

Choose a paint color

There are thousands of paints to choose from when planning a remodel. When in doubt, Bouma advises homeowners to stick with neutral colors. You’re less likely to burn out on a neutral shade than a more dramatic choice, and you won’t need to repaint when it’s time to sell.

In HomeLight’s recent Top Agent Insights Report, surveyed agents ranked Agreeable Gray by Sherwin-Williams as the paint color with the widest appeal. Bouma says white is also a favorite option. Research shows white is one of the least distracting hues — perfect for keeping buyers’ attention on your home’s best features.

If you’re looking to make a statement, experiment with a dark paint shade like black and dark green. The hashtag #darkinteriors has 186K tags, with more and more designers embracing the dark side. Wrought Iron and Jet Black are two of Benjamin Moore’s best-selling black paints.

Find your perfect hardware finish (or finishes)

Sometimes, the perfect home design is all in the finishing touches. The types of knobs and handles on your doors and cabinets can make or break a look.

“Right now, pewter is really popular,” Bouma notes. Pewter finishes, like these drawer pulls from Home Depot pair perfectly with whitewashed furniture.

Mixed metal finishes are also trending, but be careful: There’s a fine line between eclectic and tacky. Choose two or three finishes max. We recommend incorporating matte black since, like a little black dress, black matte hardware goes with everything and never goes out of style.

And by the way, don’t worry if the fixtures don’t match the appliances. It’s OK to have a stainless steel fridge and copper and gold cabinet pulls.

Pro tip: If you only update the hardware in one place, choose the front door. First impressions are everything when selling a home. In a survey by the Real Estate Staging Association, 79% of pro home stagers agree that the look of your front door could increase your home’s perceived value. Satin nickel and satin brass look best with blue doors, while matte black pairs perfectly with red doors.

7. Incorporate green materials where possible

We’re not talking about color here — we’re talking about sustainable building materials. Choose sustainable flooring materials like Millennial-loved bamboo, cork, or carpet made with natural fibers like wool.

You’ll enjoy your home renovation even more knowing it’s as easy on the environment as it is on the eyes. Plus, green home features can help attract buyers when it’s time to sell. A Nielsen study showed that two-thirds of Millennials are willing to pay more for eco-friendly goods, and one study found that green homes can sell for 7% more.

8. Take home material samples for comparison

For the perfect home renovation, test drive materials in your home before you place an order. Ask your retailer or contractor for samples of flooring, countertop, and backsplash materials so you can see how the elements look together. You can better envision your renovation if you see the materials in the project space. Plus, you’ll see how the materials look in realistic lighting instead of under showroom spotlights.

A bathroom that has been renovated perfectly.
Source: (Daniela Gisin-Krumsick / Unsplash)

9. Research projects proven to recoup costs at resale

If you’re plotting a move, focus on projects that will boost your home’s value when planning your renovation. Here’s an overview of common remodeling projects’ average return on investment:

While online ROI data is a useful tool, Bouma recommends reaching out to your real estate agent for the most accurate insight. They’ll know what renovations add value and marketability to homes in your price range in your particular neighborhood. Top agents can also help you choose finishes and materials that attract buyers when it’s time to sell.

Header Image Source: (Joe Ciciarelli / Unsplash)