It’s been said that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. And that’s certainly true of home improvement projects, which often turn out to require more prep, labor, expense, and time than you anticipate.
The results of a recent study by Chase and HGTV underscore this hard truth in a roundabout way. The study found that:
Eight in 10 homeowners anticipate their home will need work.
Six in 10 have finished a home renovation in the past six months.
Budgets range wide, from $1,000 to $10,000.
More than six in 10 are confident they’ll finish their renovation.
Around 50 percent of homeowners plan to do the job themselves vs. 30 percent who expect to enlist a contractor and 20 percent who expect a DIY/contractor combo.
Half anticipate their home improvements to be physically challenging work.
Ask Steve Wright, a general contractor in Seattle and owner of PlumbandLined.com, and he’ll tell you that a lot of these homeowners polled are in for a rude awakening.
“It’s surprising that over 60 percent think they’ll reach the renovation finish line. That’s probably a case of wishful thinking, as the reality for most do-it-yourselfers is they never seem to have enough time or money to complete every home project they have in mind,” says Wright.
Aaron Bowman, a realtor with eXp Realty in Tolland, Connecticut, agrees.
“I find it interesting that only 50 percent expect home improvements to be challenging work. Any kind of home improvement work is at least somewhat challenging unless you have a construction background,” says Bowman.
To avoid sticker shock, timeline setbacks, and remodeler’s remorse, it’s important to have realistic expectations about your home upgrades and repairs, insists John Bodrozic, co-founder of El Dorado Hills, California-located HomeZada. That starts with proper financial forecasting.
“You’ve got to have a plan that includes a budget and how you intend on paying for the project before you start, or you’ll end up with one of two problems,” Bodrozic says. “First, you spend way more than your initial estimate to finish the remodel, which causes financial stress. Second, you realize you don’t have enough money to finish the job, so you end up choosing very cheap products and brands—resulting in an end product that doesn’t look good or live up to your hopes.”
Additionally, it’s crucial to create credible expectations of your abilities if you plan to tackle the work yourself.
“Doing it yourself will likely take significantly longer than if you hired a pro. Ask yourself if the cost savings are worth your added time,” Wright notes. “And remember that it always costs more to pay a professional to tear out your botched work and then do it again the right way.”
For better outcomes and a higher likelihood of realizing your vision, follow Mark Clement’s trusted method: Make lots of lists.
“Creating at least two lists will help,” says Clement, the Ambler, Pennsylvania-based principal of MyFixitUpLife.com. “A materials list, with itemized costs, helps you prepare properly and think about what you’ll need. And a timeline broken down into generalized steps—demo, cleanup, trash removal, framing, etcetera—is also valuable. Keep this timeline reasonably general and assign values in days and half days while also budgeting extra time for unknowns.”
Additionally, conduct product and brand research on every item on your project list.
“This will help you determine what you like and the price point for each option. Find the balance between the products you prefer and the ones you can afford,” Bodrozic recommends.
Realize, too, that your project will be nothing like the tidy jobs you see completed in home improvement TV programs.
“You’re human and you’re going to make mistakes, especially if this is a DIY job. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, watch YouTube videos for tips, and keep an open mind when working on the project,” suggests Bowman.
If you’ve opted for a pro, shop around carefully.
“Be sure the contractor has a valid and current contractor’s license and insurance policy. Ask for client references and contact them. Negotiate your contract so that you withhold at least 10 percent of the final project cost as final payment,” advises Bodrozic. “Lastly, keep very detailed documents during the process, including before, during and after photos, invoices and receipts, and product warranties.”