Whether you’re envisioning different paint colors, new flooring, an expanded patio, or additional bath, like almost every new homeowner you’re no doubt thrilled at the prospect of reveling in a space you are free to make truly your own.
After pulling together the requisite down-payment and committing to a mortgage, however, it might take a bit of thoughtful strategizing and budgeting to accomplish the updates and renovations that will bring your new abode ever-closer to that “dream home” goal.
Here’s how to get the ball rolling.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Compile a list of all the projects you’d like to undertake in your new home. Next, highlight those that must be completed before you can move into the home—if the house has termites, a foundation issue, plumbing problems, or other structural issues, those items should be the top priorities.
If your list consists mainly of aesthetic improvements, consider completing the items that will cause the most inconvenience before you move in. If, for example, you plan to install hardwood floors or repaint the walls, you may want to do that before you’ve carried in and arranged all the furniture or hung the family pictures.
For the items on your wish list that aren’t urgent, let your budget and interest-level be your guide—plan to undertake one home improvement project in your top five per year, say, and save accordingly.
Keep in mind that most home improvement projects take longer than planned. If you’re planning to complete some projects before moving in, make sure you’ll have a place to stay until they’re finished or plot out ways you could occupy a portion of the home with minimum disruption to you and your family’s lives while work is being completed in another area.
If you’re undertaking large projects requiring the services of a contractor, solicit several bids, ask for references, and add a few weeks to the scheduling estimates. Remember, home remodeling is messy work that rarely unfolds as smoothly or quickly as the home improvement shows you see on television. But if you’re willing to deal with the mess and noise for awhile, availing yourself of a seasoned, reputable professional craftsmen and builders can not only spare you DIY headaches and missteps, but also may help you to hone and better realize the vision you have for your home.
Figure out Financing
Before moving forward with any remodeling projects, be sure you have the money to complete the job. Expect to pay approximately 20 percent more than you or your contractor has estimated and expect the unexpected: When you pull up the old flooring, for example, you may find rotten subfloors underneath that need to be replaced. Or while replacing old lighting fixtures, you may discover wiring that needs to be updated.
If your estimate turns out to be spot on, great, you’ve got extra funds to channel to the next project. If not, no need to panic—you’re covered.
Once you have a basic figure in mind, consider how to pay for the work. Paying cash for the materials and labor is ideal, of course, but there are other options as well: If you’re getting a good deal on your home purchase and the home appraises for more than the contract amount, your mortgage lender may be able to loan you a little more than the purchase price to cover some of the updates—especially if the changes are deemed to further increase the value. For instance, the Federal Housing Authority's 203K Loan Program is tailored to help finance the purchase and rehabilitation of fixer-upper properties, and may be available in your area. Reach out to a mortgage loan specialist to learn your options.
Alternatively, if you’re making a hefty down payment on your home, you may qualify for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit to pay for the improvements. For instance, a Fifth Third Equity Flexline offers a low rate and allows you to access the money via check, card or online.
Stick to the updates that you can afford right now—and be willing to wait for the others on your list. You’ll enjoy that new master suite, landscaping or back deck a lot more when you don’t feel strapped paying for it.