Renovation projects put your personal stamp on a house

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CURT HAGEDORN
We all appear to be caught up in do-it-yourself fever, from the spectacular home and design stores appearing on every corner to the sheer number of television shows that feature groups of professionals and average homeowners building, demolishing, reshaping, redesigning and otherwise upgrading their homes.

The American Dream seems to have become not only owning your own home, but also putting your personal stamp on it with paint, hammer, nails and the thousands of other products you can buy to bring it up to date.

Thus, when you walk into an older home, you may have visions of knocking out this wall and lifting up this roof and extending this or that space, but remember before you buy to do some research and an honest assessment of how much effort or “sweat equity” you can actually bring to the budget you create for renovating an older property.

These days, there are a variety of people to help you – from architects and designers who specialize in particular types of renovation or even renovating certain types of rooms like kitchens or bathrooms, to books, videos, classes and other services available through those home stores around the corner. These resources can not only help you do-it-yourself, but find someone to do it for you as well.

If you’re already a homeowner, you may just find that renovation is an excellent and cost-saving alternative to buying a new home, whether it’s just some cosmetic or convenience upgrades you’re looking for, or even a great deal of extra space.

First, your home may be in an already established, stable and attractive neighborhood, where you can be reasonably certain the value of your home will be maintained and increase moderately over time.

Second, if you exercise some restraint in terms of personal idiosyncrasies – will anyone else really want a hot tub in the kitchen or zebra patterned floor tile? – you will be creating a unique property that will stand out in a positive way to potential homebuyers. Here again is where doing your research and hiring professional help can pay off in the long run – professional designers often see things in ways you do not, and combining your dreams and creativity with their experience is often the best way to come to a solution which doesn’t compromise on your needs but also doesn’t compromise the value of your property.

When you first begin thinking about renovating your older home, a great idea is to turn yourself into a new home buyer for a few weekends and hit some new home “open houses.” You’re going to find not only a wealth of ideas but see first hand what people are looking for in a new home. This is going to include things like more “open” floor plans, home offices, more private or separate areas for children (often called Jack and Jill suites) with bedrooms, playrooms and bathrooms in various combination, as well as professional kitchens and a great deal of integrated technology like home computer networks and security, media and communications systems.

Also, take a look at materials. These go through trends just like fashion. But, if you have resale in mind, it’s best to (a) keep it neutral in color and style and (b) use the best quality you can afford, particularly where it “shows,” like cabinet fronts and countertops and flooring.

Also, invest in some design books and magazines from your local bookstore. Not only do they provide ideas, but you can create a notebook of pictures of rooms, fabrics and products that appeal to you and that can help save your designer or architect time in figuring out your personal style and requirements.

Once you’ve done your homework, and have at least a ballpark budget, you can begin to put together your renovation plans. And don’t be fooled by the speed at which you see projects accomplished on television. Imagine “objects in mirror are closer than they appear,” printed right on the bottom of the screen.

Even if you’re confident of your do-it-yourself abilities, put together a realistic schedule and have contingency plans and funds. Figure anywhere from 10 to 20 percent overage in both time and money for anything that’s more than a weekend project.

Copyright (c) 2004 Publishers-Edge

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