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    Real Estate
    Saturday, April 20, 2024

    Prioritizing your home projects

    Few homeowners can say they're truly "done" with work on their home. Aside from regular maintenance, it's likely that you'll always be contemplating some way to upgrade the property.

    You may also feel overwhelmed with the sheer number of things you think need to be done. A look around the residence may reveal a water heater on its last legs, peeling paint in the bathroom, a kitchen you'd like to overhaul completely, and several other small repairs or upgrades.

    Naturally, you'll be interested in completing all of this work to improve the value and comfort of your property. However, prioritizing your home improvements can make for a more manageable budget and a less stressful schedule.

    Assessing your home

    Start by going through your home to compile a full list of things you'd like to get done. Go through each room and jot down anything that needs to be repaired or renovated. Don't forget to include your basement, attic, garage, and exterior features such as decks and landscaping.

    Determine what you'll need to do to complete each project. Alison Hodgson, writing for the home design site Houzz, says you should realistically consider your own skill set and make a note of the work you can complete on your own.

    Having a written list will give you a sense of the extent of work that needs to be done on your home. Smith Brothers, a home design and project planning company in Solana Beach, Calif., says you can also create an electronic spreadsheet to organize projects by priority, cost, and other factors.

    Cleaning up the home before you make this list can be a useful step. Amanda Curry, writing for the home improvement resource ImproveNet, says this decluttering process can uncover hidden defects and help clarify which projects should be addressed first.


    The budget is often a limiting factor in home improvement projects. As much as you might wish to check everything off your list all at once, you don't want to completely deplete your savings or go into massive debt in order to do so.

    Research how much it will cost to complete each project, and be realistic about how much you'll need to spend and how much you'll be able to put toward renovations each month or year. Smith Brothers says the budget for larger projects should always be larger than what you anticipate, since these renovations often include unforeseen expenses that increase the total bill.

    You may choose to focus on smaller projects, which can often have a considerable effect on making the property look more attractive without putting too much of a crunch on your bank account. For more expensive work, you might consider creating a dedicated bank account for the project and start saving a certain amount of money for this purpose each month.

    Saving up for a major project can take a long time, so if you wish to complete the work sooner you can consider financing options. One option is to tap into your home's equity in order to reinvest this value back into the property.

    Making a plan

    Your list of desired improvements should note which projects are essential and which ones you'd like to complete but won't necessarily have to. Before committing to a luxury bathroom upgrade or finished basement, you'll want to address any structural defects.

    Immediately fix anything that could be causing water damage. The roof should be in good repair, and you'll want to fix any damage or replace the roof entirely if it is too old or degraded to be repaired. Marcie Geffner, writing for the financial site Bankrate, says other improvements that prevent water intrusion include repairing window leaks, re-caulking bathtubs and showers, cleaning and repairing gutters and downspouts, and making sure the grading around the home allows water to drain properly.

    Fix any safety issues as well. These may include faulty electrical outlets, broken stair railings, uneven walkway pavers, or a lack of smoke detectors.

    The basic structural components of your home should be in good condition. Angie's List recommends addressing the roof, doors, exterior siding, or windows if any are in bad shape. If any appliances or home systems such as the HVAC are at the end of their lifespan or unreliable, replacing them will be another top priority.

    Repairs should still take priority, but you can focus on less expensive or crucial ones after you've address the most critical projects. Curry says you might next want to focus on upgrades that will save you money on your energy and water bills, such as improved windows or faucets.

    With any project, consider its return on investment and how it might help improve the value of your home. Low-cost work such as repainting or updating fixtures can help make a room look much more attractive, and you can also focus on projects that improve curb appeal as well. More expensive projects such as an addition or kitchen renovation can also boost a home value, but it's often best to focus on more minor projects first.

    Your renovation schedule should also consider the time of year. Smith Brothers says you won't want any work to interfere with things such as a planned visit from family members. In colder climates, it will also be more difficult if not impossible to complete certain projects during the winter.

    Being proactive

    Don't rush into any home improvements. While renovations to improve safety or address damage should be completed as soon as possible, Hodgson recommends living in the home for awhile before deciding whether to commit to a project. You may discover that you don't really need to make the planned renovation, or that there's a more critical project that should be addressed first.

    Consider your own skill set and whether you'll be able to do a project on your own. This can save you a good deal of money, but you'll also want to consider whether you'll have the time or energy to actually complete the work. You may decide that hiring a professional is a preferable option to dedicating several hours of your time to a project.

    Look into possible alternatives to certain projects. Amber Byfield, writing for the home design site Apartment Therapy, says one example is investing in better window coverings instead of energy-efficient windows. The window coverings are less expensive, but can have the same effect of minimizing the amount of heat the windows let in.

    Your budget shouldn't ignore periodic home maintenance. Keeping tabs on your home and addressing any concerns can prevent more expensive repairs down the road. For example, checking your roof after severe weather and a few times each year can alert you to any damage, which you can then fix to prevent water leaks during rainy weather.

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