5 Tips for Remodeling Your Home the Smart Way

by Miranda Marquit · 32 comments

If you have been in your home for a while, you might be thinking that perhaps it’s time to add a couple of upgrades. This might be especially true if you think you might like to sell in a couple of years (after the housing market has recovered a little bit). Or, perhaps you are planning on buying a fixer-upper for a great deal. No matter your reason for a remodel, you should realize that the chances of actually getting back what you paid, dollar for dollar, is slim. Therefore, it helps to remodel your home the smart way. Here are 5 tips that can help you maximize your return for your remodeling dollar:

1. Don’t turn your home into the neighborhood castle

It can be tempting to add a bunch of upgrades in the hope of making your home more attractive. However, this can backfire if you live in a modest neighborhood. Many people live by this bit of old real estate wisdom: “Buy the least expensive home in the best neighborhood you can afford.” Having the fanciest, biggest or “nicest” home in a neighborhood can make it harder to unload later at a price you feel reflects all your hard work — especially in a buyer’s market. While you want your home to attractive and comfortable, going over the top when you remodel could limit your ability to sell within the next four years.

2. Tackle structural flaws first

If your home has structural or mechanical problems, fix those first. Whether you plan to stick around for a few years, or whether you plan to sell, it is vital that you take care of these problems that can turn into safety issues. Unchecked, a leaky roof or an electrical issue can cause larger (and more expensive) problems down the road. Plus, if you try to sell, you will have a hard time. Tackle the essentials before you start on other home improvement projects.

3. Focus on things your family needs

Remodeling should be practical. Figure out what bothers you the most about your home, and fix those things. Also, consider items that can lower your overall costs. Some green home improvements, such as adding insulation, better windows and upgrading your furnace, can provide you with monthly savings — and you can get a tax credit too. Think about practical things that will make your home more comfortable for your family first, and then add bling later if you think it will enhance your quality of life.

4. Enhance your home’s curb appeal

Look at your exterior, and see if you can make improvements to how your home looks from the outside. In many cases, you can do some of these things with little cost or effort. Keeping things tidy, cleaning the siding (or adding a fresh coat of paint), or planting some perennials can help. While having a tidy house on the outside can improve your own feelings of comfort in your home, enhancing the curb appeal of your home is especially important if you are trying to sell. First impressions do matter.

5. If you plan to sell, make inexpensive home improvements

For the most part, if you plan to sell, you will get the most bang for your buck with small, low cost improvements to your home. Have the carpets shampooed, de-clutter and clean. Add fresh paint or wall paper. In fact, even if you don’t plan to sell, you might find that your home feels almost new if you just make some improvements to the overall cleanliness. The only exception to this low-cost remodeling rule is if you only have one bathroom. Your family will probably be more comfortable — and you’ll be more likely to sell — if you put in at least one more bathroom.

Bottom Line: You don’t have to go crazy with expensive remodeling in order to improve your home. Some careful thought will help you identify which changes are likely to be most beneficial, and you can direct your efforts to those areas first.

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  • Sage says:

    Thank you for sharing such practical advice. I recently had my kitchen cabinets refaced and it made a huge difference. I definitely want to make more improvements to my home and this post was super helpful!

  • Olivia Smart says:

    Thank you for your advice to focus on the things about the home that don’t work with your lifestyle or for your family and fix those things. My daughter has been wondering what she should do to make her home the perfect place for her and her family. I’ll be sure to pass on your advice and see if it helps her to choose some of the different projects that she should focus on first.

  • Eve Mitchell says:

    Thanks for the tip about choosing projects that can lower some bills or overall costs. My husband and I want to put new insulated windows on our main floor since our current ones are really bad. We’d definitely need to work with a professional to choose the right style and install them.

  • Greta James says:

    Thanks for the tip that renovations can add to your curb appeal. I want to sell my home and this will be something to consider. I should consult a contractor about my options.

  • Claire Masters says:

    Thanks for your tip on focusing on things that my family needs when renovating a house. My husband and I are planning on renovating our house soon and we are thinking of consulting a professional engineer to help us plan everything out. I’ll be sure to share this article with my husband and suggest we start looking for an engineer in the next coming days.

  • Sophie Taylor says:

    Thank you for stating this line “You don’t have to go crazy with expensive remodeling in order to improve your home”. You are right that we don’t have to spend too much money when renovating our home we must be thoughtful and resourceful the things we have in our home.

  • Eve Mitchell says:

    I appreciate that you mentioned that when renovating your home it’s important to fix structural flaws. My husband and I are remodeling our kitchen to celebrate our 20th anniversary in our house, and we want to remove a load-bearing wall. I would love to find a company that can reposition our wall and keep our kitchen safe, and looking great.

  • Anna Davis says:

    I like how you mentioned that you shouldn’t go too extravagant. My house was built in the 1980s and has pretty outdated finishes. I would love to have the kitchen and bathrooms redone and paint the other rooms.

  • Charlotte Fleet says:

    Miranda, thank you very much for all of your tips on remodeling your home in a smart way. I like how you said that it is important to focus on the structural issues with the home first before moving one. I would imagine that it would make your home improvement project much easier if you were to invest in an architectural design service to help create the blueprints to help the project go over smoothly.

  • Mike says:

    Remodelling your house around proper and functioning waste management also makes sense. In fact, such modelling when built from the ground up is better from the start.

  • Emma White says:

    Thanks for sharing tips on remodeling home the smart way. I want to remodel my home. so, I am looking for this type of suggestion that helps me. I appreciate you.

  • Annika Larson says:

    My husband and I have been planning on remodeling our home for a while now. We definitely want to make all the changes we want while staying within our budget. As you said, we’ll need to focus on things our family needs. I also want the work we do to be quality work, so we’ll make sure to get the right professional team to help us for the right price. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lindsay White says:

    Before jumping in home renovation, focus first on minor flaws around the house, which i think a major saving opportunity. I like the idea of just painting a new color on your wall makes you feel like its a new home!

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  • Rony Jahid says:

    Your home remodeling tips really logical. If I want to sell my home than why I invest for home. Its a good idea. I really appreciate your thought.

  • Disposabins Los Angeles says:

    Thanks Miranda for your helpful article. Another great tip that helped me sell my home fast was to maximize the light in the house. Buyers want to see a bright and cheery home when they first walk in with lots of natural light. Cut down any outside bushes that obstruct the sunshine. Take down dark drapes. Replace low wattage light bulbs with higher wattage ones. Scrub the windows clean. Maybe also replace any old lampshades with newer translucent ones.

  • dumpstersonline.com says:

    I like sweez. Adding a modern paint color to your home really is a great way to add a great look for a great price. I also a fan of adding Steam Showers as well. They are awesome to have and they can be had for a cheaper price then a normal shower.

  • sweez says:

    As a Realtor I would suggest adding a fresh paint job to existing cabinets before painting. As of point number #1 you can go overboard on your home as long as you don’t go over budget on your wallet. It will pay off if you are remodeling your kitchen and get cabinets that have a good look. You can get by with with cabinets that look good when closed but might not have the bells and whistles like dove tails or soft close sliders. It pays off to do a back splash up the wall and going with a granite counter top. Prices have really gone down in the last few years.

  • Joaquin Erazo, Jr. says:

    Thanks for the practical tips on home remodeling. When you read studies on your ROI at resale for remodeling you have completed, your head can spin at some of the costs. A recent issue of “Remodeling Magazine” claims a “minor” kitchen remodel costs more than $21K, while a “major” one can cost nearly $60 K. Homeowners planning to sell must remain mindful of not pricing their home out of the neighborhood. Reviewing neighborhood comps can help you determine a sensible budget for your remodeling project.

  • Witty Artist says:

    I think no. 2 is the most important. Taking care of the structural flaws is like learning the ABC. Not only I’dfeel more secure, but also more relaxed to think about the other stuff, once I know the basics are Ok.

  • Carrie says:

    Thank you for these remodeling tips. I have just one more to add: Make sure to rent a dumpster from a reliable dumpster service. Some will help you clear your renovation waste very inexpensively.

  • DavidLeeman says:

    Great Tips. Yes; the given 5 tips are quite helpful to remodel a house. People are often seen selling their house at a much cheaper price in order to get rid of the cleaning/painting. If you have decided to sell out your home make some effort to present it perfectly to the buyer. And you never know this may land you in a higer profitable deal. Last summer I sold out my house for pretty good offer.

  • Laura says:

    Yes, basicmoneytips, you use the term “facelift” like I use the term “makeover,” both of which imply aesthetic improvements rather than major remodeling or rebuilds. I have had a lot of success with this, and it can make a lot of impact for minimal cost when trying to sell in this highly competitive housing market. Take a look at my free special report on “Home Remodeling Success Secrets.”

  • garrett says:

    I just bought a house recently and you would be surprised how much better a place can look with new carpet and paint. Its pretty cheap to do, but can increase the value of your home by quite a bit. People can get carried away with fixing up a house to resell, then think its worth a multiple of what they invested into it.
    Then they get left with a high asking price and a vacant property

  • basicmoneytips.com says:

    I tend to use the term facelift rather than remodeling. If done wisely you can add value and appeal to your home without breaking the bank. You would be surprised what a new coat of paint, new light fixtures, and new bathroom fixtures can do for a home. All these can be done yourself as well.

    If you have been in your home awhile, I would recommend start tackling one big project per year. That way if you eventually move, you will not have so much on your list that needs to be done to make your home more easy to sell

  • Brandon says:

    #2 tip is extremely important. Taking care of structural flaws first should alway be the main priority of every homeowner. You don’t wanna learn about it the hard way. Trust me.

  • Cd Phi says:

    This post came at the perfect time because I am considering remodeling my home. Also, in terms of buying new things, one can also check out thrift stores that may have cool vintage items that can definitely enhance the overall appearance of a room. I’m definitely going to be re-painting our walls and maybe even throwing in wallpaper.

  • Laura says:

    Really good advice. Let me add that there is much that can modernize and enhance the look & feel of a home without having to spend a lot of money on major remodeling or adding square footage. As you suggest, decluttering, cleaning, and enhancing curb appeal goes a long way. An impressive front door helps a lot. Then move to floors and paint, followed by kitchens and baths. New faucets, fixtures, and appliances can do wonders, too. Above all, homeowners must focus on cost-effective, high-value-added projects. Seek simplicity, comfort and value.

  • marci357 says:

    #1 – Pay Cash .
    If you can’t afford it, you probably don’t need to do more than the elbow grease stuff .

  • MoneyNing says:

    Having just gone through a house hunting process, I can assure all potential house sellers that simple cleanliness makes a huge difference. I would not want to buy a home that’s messy/dirty, but even if I did, I would put in a much lower offer than if the place looked amazingly clean.

    Presentation is huge when you are selling ANYTHING. It’s especially important for a home because of its high price nature. Don’t be lazy and it will pay off for you.

    • marci357 says:

      If you are house hunting, the messy/dirty homes are the ones to really take a good look at…. Sometimes people just will take a LOT lower offer just to get out of the cleaning/painting etc….

      It took me 4 dumpster loads and a couple trailers’ full to clear just the clutter out of my present house – and EVERYTHING had to be scrubbed, spackled, and painted… And despite ALL the work and living in a construction zone, I would do it over again in a minute – it was a wonderful BARGAIN…..

      ok – so I guess that just proves what you were saying 🙂

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