8 questions you should ask yourself before renovating your home

Damian Gillie/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty ImagesAsk yourself these questions before you renovate.
  • Before you start work on your home, you should ask yourself if it is worth renovating.
  • Determining your budget is also important, as well as including room in it for unexpected expenses.
  • Always ask architects, contractors, designers, and other professionals for referrals, and do your research.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Home improvement stores are seeing major sales increases during the coronavirus pandemic. With more people working from home and some stay-at-home orders still in place, many people are looking to improve their living spaces.

Renovations can increase the value of your home, but they can also be disastrous when they go wrong. Here are eight things you should ask yourself before renovating, according to experts.


Is this house worth renovating?

Inga Kjer/Photothek via Getty ImagesMake sure the house has value.

Make sure the house has value in and of itself before making any changes.

“If somebody buys a house that’s just not a great constructed house, and maybe it’s not in a great neighbourhood, but they love it for whatever reason, and then they pour a whole bunch of money into it to customise it to what they want, now you’re stuck with something that is pretty unsaleable,” Robin Kencel, a real estate broker in Greenwich, Connecticut, with 20 years of experience, told Insider.


What is my budget?

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderBudgeting is crucial.

Know what numbers you’re working with before you knock down any walls.

“I think the two biggest mistakes are, number one, not knowing your budget, and not having contractors who adhere to a budgeting process,” Kencel said. “You’re going through, you’re bleeding money, you’re not quite sure where it’s all ending, and before you know it you’ve overspent.”


What is on my “wish list” and what is on my “must-have” list?

Getty Images/Tim MartinA wine cellar probably isn’t a must-have.

When budgeting a renovation, distinguish between necessities, like a generator, and extras, like a wine cellar, Kencel says. It’s important to make sure there’s enough room in the budget for must-haves before adding items from your wish list.


Do I have extra money set aside for unforeseen expenses?

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderThings can and will go wrong.

“Once you start renovations, you never know what’s going to come up and before you know it, you could be spending thousands extra to take care of the unknowns,” David Tortolini, a realtor at Keller Williams in Virginia, told Insider via email. “In my personal life, we updated our kitchen recently, and when the dishwasher was reinstalled it wouldn’t start. A new dishwasher was absolutely not in the initial budget, but I found myself at Lowe’s buying a new dishwasher the very next day. Fortunately, I had set aside some extra money for the eventuality of an unforeseen problem.”


Am I using reputable professionals?

Scott Olson/Getty ImagesDo your homework.

Ask architects, contractors, interior designers, and other professionals for referrals before hiring them, but your research shouldn’t stop there.

“You always have to check referrals, understanding that they have given you good referrals,” said Kencel. “Asking around, you’ll know reputations. Nobody’s ever heard of this builder, nobody’s ever heard of this interior designer, you can’t find anything on the internet about them, and they just aren’t operating in a professional way right from the get-go are a whole bunch of red flags.”


What does my realtor think about the renovation?

Damian Gillie/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty ImagesShare your plans.

“I think it’s a good idea to keep your realtor involved and run by your realtor what you’re planning to do, and have them give you input,” Kencel said.

It doesn’t just have to be your realtor – Tortolini says that a local real estate agent can run a simple market analysis to determine if a renovation is a worthwhile investment.

“Granted, market values are constantly shifting and there’s never a guarantee that a renovation now will create returns in the future, but generally speaking, making an improvement to an outdated room in your home (particularly kitchen and baths), or adding square footage is rarely a bad idea,” he said.


If you’re doing the renovation yourself — are you up to the task?

Justin Lambert/Getty ImagesKnow your limits.

Whether it’s painting walls or gutting a fixer-upper, Kencel recommends an honest assessment of your skill level before you start.

“You’ve got to look at your own handyman ability,” she said. “Are you somebody who’s good at whatever you’re trying to undertake? If you’ve never renovated a bathroom before, you’re playing with a real asset, and I’m not sure I would advise that without somebody who’s been around the block once.”


Who is this renovation for?

ppa/ShutterstockDo what makes you happy — to a point.

“Are you renovating for yourself, and the long term enjoyment of the home, or are you planning to sell in the near future and renovating with the idea of generating maximum return on your investment?” said Tortolini. “If the former is true, then do what makes you happy. One day, when you do sell, it may not be what everyone is looking for, but the enjoyment of your home should come first. In the latter case, make sure you stick to a budget that’s appropriate for your neighbourhood. You may have to sacrifice a little on your own personal taste in order to provide a product that pleases the masses upon resale.”

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