Don’t Let Your Dream Home Improvement Project Turn Into A Money Pit

Summer is primetime for home improvements. For every homeowner’s best intention of improving the livability, quality and value of their home comes a hard truth: Most American homeowners can’t afford to swing and miss on a major home improvement project.

While two-time NBA world champion Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors can afford to miss on 50 percent of his shots and still find a way to guide his team to wins and championships, the vast majority of home owners don’t have that luxury.

Unknowing home improvement mistakes are lying in wait everywhere. Here’s the Top 5 home improvement mistakes American homeowners make, and how to avoid them:

  1. You Get What You Pay For. Naturally, home owners think with their wallet first when making major home improvement upgrades. But going for the cheapest contractor as a hard rule can produce disastrous and shoddy results.  “The lowest bid never equals the best job,” said Jonathan Scott of HGTV’s hit home improvement show “Property Brothers.” “Some give cheap quotes just to get the job, then tack things on or cut corners and install low-quality products. The best way to avoid the going cheap blues: Bring in three contractors and get written estimates from each that include project details like exact cabinets, hardware, flooring and installation costs.”
  2. Mismeasured Cabinets. Being off even a quarter inch can mean being off in price by hundreds of dollars. The golden rule of cabinets: Never buy and install cabinets before knowing for exact certain they will fit. As Scott notes, “Measure 10 times and cut once.”
  3. Budget Lowballing. If only all home improvement projects could be completed on a fixed budget. Alas, not even Bob Vila or Tim Taylor can perform any and every home upgrade on a set cost. The more research and work you put into your project, the more knowledge you will know about exactly how much money you’ll need to fully and best complete the project. If you’re installing new drywall without inspecting the health of your home’s electrical systems beforehand, you may walk right into another immediate needed home upgrade.  The sound solution: Set aside 15 percent of your total project budget for unforeseen expenses and needed upgrades.
  4. Going DIY When a Project Demands a Professional. Just because you may have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last weekend or watched a three-minute YouTube Tutorial doesn’t mean you’re ready to tackle replacing your home’s broken water heater. As Forbes.com notes, homes are devalued every day coast to coast by poor workmanship and DIY projects gone wrong.  The best way to avoid DIY financial migraines: Leave projects that involve the structure or infrastructure of the home to the professionals.
  5. Being All About the Kitchen & Bathroom. The two most popular American home improvement upgrades can lead homeowners to develop costly tunnel vision and ignore more pressing needs, especially for aging homes. For example, Forbes estimates attic insulation on average delivers a 108-116 percent return on investment. Forbes reports a new garage door brings a 92 percent ROI.

Here are other common and often costly home improvement mistakes Property Brothers and Forbes advise avoiding:

  • Insisting on Granite Countertops
  • Being Afraid to Change the Layout of a Bathroom
  • Assuming You Want Hardwood Floors Before Knowing If They Are The Best Fit For Your Home
  • Ignoring A Floor Drain in the Laundry Room
  • Not Ordering Extra Flooring
  • Adding A Swimming Pool
  • Not Knowing When to Stop Upgrading
  • Investing in Renovations With No Real Resale Value
  • Overspending on Expensive Add-On Enhancements
  • Failing To Complete Work Before Refinancing

Home Improvement Projects can be a slippery, costly slope if they are not fully researched, vetted and completed. But knowing what upgrades your home does and doesn’t need before committing to them can deliver thousands of dollars of long-run savings and priceless peace of mind.

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