Renovating with a Purpose: Setting Strategy Before Style

Blueprints.jpg

When your space doesn't suit your needs as well as it used to, you may choose to make updates or move on to a home that's a better fit (which may also require updates, whether you are renting or selling). So, how do you decide what to spend your hard-earned money on?

With the proliferation of befores and afters on TV, Pinterest, Instagram and beyond, it's tempting to tear down walls and embrace the latest trend but, before making any changes, you should do so with intention. If you are choosing to sell, a top-notch real estate agent will advise you on what updates you should take on to maximize your potential profit and minimize time on market. If you're not there yet or haven't gotten advice, here are a few questions you should ask before you start shopping for contractors and finishes:

  1. Do I anticipate moving in five years or less? If you are planning to sell or rent your home immediately or in the next few years, you'll want to put the tightest filter on the renovations that you make. As you most likely have heard, kitchens and bathrooms often sell houses; however, that doesn't mean you need to re-do them. Sometimes simple updates like new appliances or countertops or painting vanities and staining grout are the smartest choice. If you are planning to keep the property but find tenants, your criteria should be even more selective and, in both cases for renovations that you do take on, remember that your goal is to not match your tastes perfectly but to appeal to the widest audience (while minimizing your investment within reason).
     
  2. How will my house stack up to its competition? If you are selling or renting, the biggest misstep is often not understanding the local market (and I mean hyper-local) and your competition. While sand-in-place hardwood floors and marble countertops and a decorative backsplash may be the best of the best, is that the norm for your neighborhood? Will prospective buyers or tenants pay a premium for that? This doesn't mean you have to throw style and aesthetics out the window, but you should run the numbers and choose the best option for your budget and your target audience, most importantly.
     
  3. Am I planning to stay indefinitely? If you do plan on staying in the home for years to come, it may make sense to splurge on higher-end finishes and custom features...if they will bring you joy (yes, happiness is worth investing in). In this case, think through the function and form of your spaces. What bothers you on a daily basis -- maybe kitchen drawers that stick or a lack of a laundry room near bedrooms? What have you seen in friend's homes that has you repeatedly saying, "I need that in my next home"? Finally, planning to stay doesn't mean you should inject every current trend in your renovation. Instead, make timeless choices and find less permanent/expensive ways to make your spaces current.

Of course, these questions are just the beginning of a project that should be purposeful. For some pouring over colors swatches and tile & hardware options is fun; for others, it's a chore. If you find yourself in the latter, don't hesitate to enlist the help of a professional. And, even if you enjoy it, an expert set of eyes can help you navigate a sea of choices at a range of price points.

Amber Harris is the owner of At Home DC, an interior decorator and a licensed real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties working with clients in DC, Maryland and Virginia.