Thinking about remodeling your home? Maybe you should think otherwise.
From HGTV to Houzz to Pinterest, everyone is persuading you to remodel your home.
But home remodeling isn't for everyone, and do-it-yourself remodeling is an even dicier prospect.
Here are things to seriously consider before you pull up that corner of carpet and dream about refurbishing the solid hardwood underneath...
You Will Not Even Begin to Recoup the Costs of Remodeling
You bought your house for $350,000, put in $50,000 worth of work, and sold it for $400,000 or more.
Money spent, money regained! Right?
Not really. In a house sale, so many factors are at play that it's impossible to identify how each one contributes to the sales price. Factors unrelated to remodeling may have a bigger impact on a house's sales price--economic climate, comparables, mortgage rates, etc. If we're talking about a major increase in space, such as an addition, a higher sales price is likely (though still not guaranteed).
Some remodels (e.g., major kitchen remodels) retain high value. Other remodels have laughably little value (e.g., office remodels). But no remodel will, by itself, return 100% of the cost you put into it.
Takeaway: Investigate the resale value of home remodel projects and accept reality. Maybe that pirate-themed office you built for yourself is just for that--yourself, not for subsequent buyers.
You Might Get Scammed Bigtime
It's one thing to get ripped off over a magazine subscription; it's another thing to get scammed over a $16,000 roofing job.
The lure of big loot is exactly why unscrupulous contractors prey on unsuspecting homeowners.
Scam artists especially like to target big-ticket exterior projects, such as driveways and roofs. Water pipe insurance is another popular racket. And while mold remediation is a legitimate business, many scammers insinuate themselves into this industry as a way to separate homeowners from their money.
Takeaway: Thoroughly research contractors to mitigate the possibility of getting scammed. And make sure that you seek out the contractor, not vice-versa.
It's Tough to Be Green
Recent advances mean that homes are more eco-friendly than ever. But the process of remodeling is an inherently wasteful process. Just look at the contents of your Dumpster on your next kitchen remodel and you will see 40 cubic yards of drywall, MDF, vinyl flooring, wire, and glass, all destined for the landfill.
Not only that, consider the energy wasted in manufacturing and transporting the building materials.
Takeaway: Make your next remodeling project as green as possible. If you're not sure how to go about this, LEED consultants exist for this very reason.
It Can Damage Your Psyche and Your Relationships
The home remodeling horror story genre ("Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House"; "The Money Pit"; etc.) has a basis in reality. Home remodeling can have a corrosive effect on marriages and other close, personal relationships.
Takeaway: You can't always be hanging drywall and installing flooring. Reclaim your life by maintaining a good balance of remodeling and living. Investigate all the ways to keep your relationship healthy. Budget a long-term hotel stay for any remodeling project that takes a major room out of commission.
It's Always More Difficult and Expensive Than You Imagine
Find a contractor who can deliver a bathroom remodel on time and on budget, and he'll have guaranteed business for the rest of his life. More realistically, large-scale remodeling projects are riddled with change orders that increase the cost and extend the finish date. Even small remodels have a unique way of inching upward in cost.
Takeaway: Get an accurate, third-party view of remodeling costs. After that, mentally add 25% to both the cost and the schedule.
You Often Can't Do It Yourself (Even Though You Think You Can)
The clarion call of home remodeling TV shows is that you can do it yourself! But some projects are patently DIY-unfriendly: installing air conditioners or furnaces; building additions; roofing your house. Other projects call out for your personal touch.
Interior wall painting? Sure. Installing a sink. Bring it on.
It's no big deal to take on clearly defined DIY projects. But things get costly when you begin a project by yourself, find yourself out of your element, and then shift the project to a contractor.
Takeaway: Categorize projects as DIY, hire-a-pro, or either way. If you're unsure, automatically shift it to the hire-a-pro side.
Why Exactly Are You Remodeling Your Home Anyway?
If you believe this five-figure kitchen remodel is necessary, can you answer why? In most cases, an ugly kitchen boils an egg as well as a pristine kitchen. Many homeowners add space to their house or recondition a bathroom for no discernible reason. Outside influences might be fueling your remodel: low home equity rates, boosterism from home remodeling shows, and keeping up with the Joneses. None are good reasons to remodel.
Takeaway: Carefully consider your next home remodeling project. If you need a long, dark night of the soul before committing to a remodel project, take that night. Realize there is no shame in deciding not to proceed with the remodel at all.