To Renovate or Not: These Are the Questions

renovation – apartment during restoration

Whether you’ve lived in your house for 20 years or you’ve just purchased it, odds are, there’s something about it that you don’t love. Even homeowners who customized a build have regrets about their design choices. So…renovate or not? Consider it carefully.


Do I have the stomach for it?


As much as we love our starry-eyed TV-world visions of what it would be like to have design/contracting geniuses come to our house for a few weeks, the in-the-trenches experience of a house renovation are a bit different. Living out of suitcases in the in-laws’ spare bedrooms and adding a half hour to the daily commute. Drywall dust that seeped inside the cabinets and coated the pots and pans. The month long delay when the windows were the wrong size for the cutouts. They usually don’t show those parts.


It could be totally worth it. But we’re just saying. 


Do I know how to resolve my design angst?


Unless you have a background in design or a natural talent for reimagining a space, you probably don’t know many options for getting the design you want. A cramped bathroom may require building on. But what if it doesn’t? Someone with the knack for design may be able to look at your problem from a new lens.. Maybe that huge guest bedroom could donate space to your bathroom. Aching for a second living room? What if you could transform your garage and and build on an attractive carport for vehicle storage?


The point is–look in the magazines, visit websites like HouzzHGTV, and Freshome (bathroom remodels, kitchen design), and spend some time talking with professionals to explore your options and get a feel for what the process would look like (including potential costs) in every scenario. Due diligence pays off.


What renovations am I allowed to make on my home?


It’s your house. You pay a mortgage, so you should have full creative rights…right? Not always. Before you get blueprints drawn up, check with your local governing bodies, namely your HOA, if applicable, and your town/city/county. They may have strict guidelines regarding boundaries, sightlines, and a host of other details you never thought they’d care about. Get all those permits handled before the renovation is underway. And factor the fees into your total costs.


About cost: should I go full speed ahead or seek a budget-friendly alternative?


If you’ve done your homework, you have some tools for cost comparisons. Now you have to decide whether to go big or go home. Here’s some food for thought.


  • If you’re going big, but you don’t have the cash, you can check into a home improvement loan.
  • If loan interest rates are high, but you have a credit card with a low balance, that’s another option for funding your renovation.
  • Depending on your reasons for renovating, you may want a conversation with your home insurance carrier first to see if they’ll cover anything.
  • If you purchased your home with a VA Loan/ are eligible for a VA Loan, the VA offers home Renovation and Rehab loans.
  • Some renovations are a sound investment. Here are some of the stats on renovations most likely to be financially worth it.

Once you’ve decided you’re going through with the project and have a quote, contact your home insurance provider. Depending on who’s doing the work–you and your hammer-wielding buddies or a pro contractor–you may need to amend your policy during the remodel. While we don’t think of our friends or family as being willing to sue us, the reality is, if one of them gets seriously injured working on your home project, they may expect you to cover their medical bills. Making changes in insurance may allow their medical provider to bill your insurance directly instead of things getting awkward or downright ugly.


Your insurance also needs to know about the changes to your home, as it should increase your home’s value. If you finish your basement and two months later, you get a 500 year flood that destroys it, you’ll be looking to your insurance company to help out, but if you never told them about the remodel, it may not go your way. Take “before,” “during,” and “after” pictures of the space. Keep receipts from contractors and for materials purchased. All of that will help you in the end.It’s a big task, but a home you love…priceless. Well, sort of.