Congratulations, you used your VA Home Loan benefit and bought yourself a new house. Well, new to you and your family, at least. Of course, if you bought a turn-key home, you won’t have much to do except move your belongings in and relax.
But most folks don’t buy a move-in ready house because, let’s face it, we like to personalize our surroundings, and some of us like the challenge of a fixer, and an “as is” house can be a bargain. However, when it comes to home renovations, deciding what to tackle first can be confusing and overwhelming, especially for first-time homeowners.
There’s no one-size-fits-all for home renovations. For instance, fixing the spare bedrooms and the second bathroom right away isn’t crucial if you don’t have children. But if you have young kids and pets, fencing the backyard might take precedence over new kitchen flooring.
So, where do you start?
Begin with a budget and prioritize according to your living situation. Know how much you can spend on home improvements and keep your spending on track. If you can, look at some of your neighbors’ homes, and don’t over-improve for the neighborhood. Keep your upgrades comparable with the area.
Typically, kitchens and bathrooms are the most popular rooms to renovate. And because of the pandemic, construction prices have soared. You could expect to spend anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000 or more for a kitchen renovation, depending on several factors, including location, the size of the kitchen, how extensive the remodel, and the finishes you select. Bathroom remodels are slightly less, but you can easily start at $10,000 and still not end up with a lavish bath.
Depending on the state of the house, you might be able to do some less invasive projects and still have a home that matches your vision. Take a look at these projects and see which ones you’ll need to take on to make your new house your perfect home:
When it comes to home renovations, paint is your best friend. Just about anyone can paint, and new wall colors can make a room look fresh without breaking the bank. If you do it yourself, count on taking the extra time to prep the walls and gather the necessary materials. Consider that a gallon of interior paint can cover up to 400 square feet of wall space, and good quality paint can cost up to $50 per gallon. The average bedroom is about 132 square feet, so you can see that paint is a cost-effective way to spruce up a house. Invest in high-quality paint, and you won’t have to apply more than one coat.
And remember, there’s more to selecting paint than color. Don’t ignore paint finishes. Different rooms need different finishes. Your choices range from flat (no shine, chalky feeling) to high-gloss (glassy shine and feel). For example, matte or flat paint for ceilings offers a non-reflective finish that reduces glare from lights. A clean white color helps reflect natural light, making the room feel brighter and more open. Satin or eggshell finishes are ideal for most rooms, like dens and bedrooms. Because bathrooms are steamy, use a semi-gloss that’s easy to wipe down. For wood trim and doors needing constant cleaning, go with a semi or high-gloss finish. These finishes are durable and easy to wipe clean.
Turn up the lights
Another inexpensive way to brighten up any room is with new lighting. Get bright white bulbs in a room where you’ll need a lot of light to work, like the kitchen. Use more subtle tones in rooms where you want to relax. And place floor lamps to brighten dark corners. For added brightness, place mirrors near lamps to reflect the light. You can also hang a mirror opposite a window for the same effect. Because you don’t need a brightly-lit room all the time, replace conventional light switches with dimmers. They’re easy to do yourself. These are especially useful in dining rooms and dens. And if you’re tech-savvy, you can get light bulbs that dim and switch colors with the tap of an app.
Ditch the old flooring
Nothing dates a house like worn carpet or tired tile flooring. Today, hardwood wins over most tile, but high-end vinyl planks are gaining in popularity due to their water resistance. Some are completely waterproof, making them ideal even for bathrooms. In addition, these planks snap together so the DIYer can install them. Pricing depends on location, materials, and labor if you’re not doing it yourself, but hardwood flooring costs about $5 to $10 per square foot to install. New flooring can be costly, but it’s a long-term investment that instantly updates your house. If your budget allows, lay the same flooring throughout the home or at least in all of the open areas so that the wood floor doesn’t butt up against tile or carpeting. You want your flooring to flow without jarring interruptions.
There are typically two types of bathroom renovations — with vast price differences. The first is a cosmetic makeover that doesn’t involve moving plumbing and electric. For example, a coat of paint, a new sink, fixtures, and an updated toilet, could transform a bathroom. Or if the bathroom looks fine but it could use a fresher tub, you could opt for an insert that fits over the original tub, and you have a new bathroom in a day. The price for tub inserts depends on the size and if you want custom wall shelves, but you can expect to pay from about $1,000 up to around $7,000. The second and more expensive remodel is when you gut the room by tearing out all of the fixtures, removing the tile and flooring, and maybe ripping out the tub and replacing it with a shower. Since this drastic renovation involves replumbing and moving the electric, do not attempt any part of this project if you don’t know what you’re doing.
A kitchen remodel is easily the most expensive renovation project in any home – and it’s the most coveted. For many families, the kitchen is the focal point of the house and the gathering place, so it’s often the first room to get updated. That doesn’t mean every kitchen needs a gut job. Maybe the cabinets need refacing rather than replacing, or you need to change the flooring. Even getting new and updated appliances can dramatically change the look of a kitchen while eating up only a moderate amount of your budget. Putting in a new backsplash is a quick and inexpensive way to update the kitchen without putting much of a dent in your wallet.
However, you’re talking about a significant project if the renovation requires new cabinets, flooring, countertops, and appliances. And you can up the ante even more if you knock down a wall to enlarge the space. But rest assured that your kitchen renovations will definitely add value to your home if they are well done.
But wait. Before you go HGTV to the max, keep in mind that the remodel should reflect your home’s price point, not your fantasy. For example, if your house is worth $300,000, don’t stick a tomato-red eight-burner Viking range that costs nearly $20,000 in your new kitchen. You won’t recoup your cost.
Finally, and most importantly
Do not work without permits. If you’re using a contractor, check that they pull any necessary building permits. Double-check with your county or local municipal building department to determine whether a permit is needed for your specific project. It doesn’t happen often, but unpermitted projects are torn down. When you sell your home, the resale value, or the actual sale itself may be affected if an inspector flags uninspected work.