Affordable Home Renovations – What to Do and What to Avoid

By Andrew Te

|10 min read

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Looking for a new home is both exciting and challenging. It can be very challenging to find a home that fits all your needs and wants. Most people realize quickly that whether you buy a new or old home you’ll have to make changes to make it what you want. So what are affordable home renovations and what could break the bank?

Even if you buy your dream house, you’ll probably want some changes to make it your own. Unfortunately, renovations can be costly!  When looking for a house, how do you know what will be an easy fix and what could potentially take your whole budget? What are practical improvements and what’s too expensive?

Read on to learn about 6 things you can change in a home and 3 things shouldn’t. These will help you decide if the renovations you want are possible, or if you should move on to the next house.

Should you plan on renovations when shopping for a new house?

When buying a new home, it can be tempting to think about all the renovations you’ll make. But before you get too excited about tearing down walls or replacing countertops, there’s something else to consider: what is a simple change and what would eat up all your budget?

It’s true that pretty much anything can be changed. But some changes will be easier and more cost-effective to make, so it’s best to know what’s possible before you buy.

home renovations

What renovations should you try to avoid?

Many homeowners don’t consider the cost versus value of the renovations they’re putting into their homes. If you’re planning on living in your home for a long time, there are likely changes you’ll want to make. These might be for your own comfort or style. But you’ll still want to consider the long-term investment of your home renovations. 

Renovation reality shows make it look easy to add rooms, take out walls, or change large portions of a house. But in reality, major renovations like those on TV are expensive and not always practical. They can also put a strain on your comfort, as they take a long time to complete. 

Here’s 3 kinds of renovations that should basically be considered “impossible” without an unlimited budget.

Changing the layout of the house

Remodeling projects can increase the value of your home, but some projects make more sense than others. A kitchen or bathroom remodel will have a higher return on investment than adding another bedroom, for example.

Whether you are making changes to the interior or exterior of a house, changing its overall layout will be expensive. Even adding a closet will cost thousands of dollars.

Homeowners often wish they could take down walls for a more open floor plan, move load-bearing walls, or add a bedroom or bathroom. However, these kinds of changes usually cost way more than they expect and don’t always have a positive investment return. The national average for a home addition is almost $50,000 but can go way beyond that.

Renovations that add square footage to a house, like adding additional rooms or a second floor, can end up costing more than the value of the house itself. 

Changing window placement or size

Windows can be an aesthetic asset and the source of much-needed natural light in a room. But changing them is an expensive and complicated project. And because windows are an important part of a home’s structure, experts recommend avoiding changes that affect their size or placement.

While this is a relatively small project, it can have a big impact in terms of cost. Placing windows in new locations requires opening up the walls and installing headers to support the weight of the window and roof. That can add up to $3,000 to $10,000 per window.

If your goal is to bring more natural light into a room, try hanging a mirror opposite the window;  it will help reflect light throughout the space.

Moving wiring and plumbing

Moving electrical wiring or plumbing is expensive and messy. It involves breaking walls and floors, which may be covered in tiles, graniteware or concrete.

This can be a big job, so it’s not surprising that it would also be costly. The expense of moving plumbing and electrical wiring depends on what is currently in place and where you want to move it. 

If there is no existing plumbing or electrical wiring where you want it to go. Adding a bathroom, for example, can cost more than $10,000 in plumbing alone. Even moving a lightswitch a few feet can cost over a thousand dollars.  

What are the best, most affordable home renovations?

We’ve talked about the kind of renovations you shouldn’t do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make any changes! 

There are many ways to renovate a home affordably and practically. You may want to update, make a house more suitable for your family, or just make changes to fit your style. Here are 7 renovation ideas to get the most of your money and effort. 

Painting

Painting is one of the most affordable home renovations with the biggest impact. You can paint the interior or exterior of a home on your own, but when in doubt, it’s best to hire a professional painter.

Painting is one of the most accessible home-improvement projects. A fresh coat of paint can turn a dingy room into a cheerful one, and brighten the exterior of your home too.

Interior painting is straightforward, since you’re mostly working on flat surfaces. 

Exterior, however, painting is more complex. There are many factors involved, and it’s a good idea to hire a professional.

Changing or Adding Trim, Molding, & Fixtures

Want a quick, inexpensive way to freshen up your home? Make a few simple changes to your trim and moldings.

Simple home renovations like changing trim can make a huge difference in the look and feel of your home. They don’t need to cost a lot, either. You can give any room a simple facelift with some new paint, hardware and trim.

Improvements like installing new trim, crown moldings and other decorative touches can add an upscale feel to a home without the need for major renovations. Updating older lighting fixtures is another easy project that can make a big difference.

Updating the Kitchen

Kitchens and bathrooms are often the first places to look dated in a house. A kitchen update will cost more than a fresh coat of paint. But you can update this room affordably to modernize it or improve the value of a home. 

Updating or remodeling your kitchen can be a great investment of your home improvement dollars. In a recent survey, 70% of buyers said they’d pay more for a house with a great kitchen. But if you’re going to spend money on upgrading or renovating your kitchen, it’s important to know what will add value and what won’t. 

You don’t have to tear your kitchen down to the struts to have a successful makeover. You can save money by keeping the general layout – don’t move any electrical, plumbing, or vents. Instead, look for easy, classy upgrades like a new backsplash or countertops. Paint cabinets instead of replacing them, and refinish the floors you have instead of changing materials. 

Modifying the bathroom

The bathroom is one of the most used areas in a home. But it’s also the most likely to look dated and dingy. 

Like kitchen renovations, changing a bathroom can get expensive if you start moving things around. However, there are plenty of different ways you can remodel a bathroom, and even make the space feel larger, without breaking the bank. 

Storage

One of the best things you can do is customize the storage area. Hire a carpenter to build custom storage into your space. This will give you more room for storage and elevate the overall feel of your bathroom.

Hardware

Changing cabinet pulls and knobs are a great affordable home renovation. Since these are things that are touched on a regular basis, they will become worn out.  And they can make your bathroom look less attractive. One way to improve this area is by adding new fixtures throughout the room.

Shower

The shower is the part of your bathroom you use the most. That’s why it deserves special attention when you’re remodeling.
Replacing your shower floor may be necessary if you have leaks or damaged tiles. It’s also an opportunity to make a big change in your bathroom. Choose tiles that are durable and will add a modern touch.

Tile

Bathroom tile design is an easy way to give your bathroom a brand new look. You can choose from a wide range of sizes, colors, shapes and textures for flooring, walls and accents. 

Building a deck

Building a deck can add value to your home and increase your living space without the expense of adding a room. This might not be the most affordable home renovation but you’ll likely get your money back and then some on a resale.

The average cost to build a deck is around $6,000. Though depending on the size and scope of your project, your costs to build a deck can vary.

The first step is figuring out what kind of deck you want. The size, shape, height, and location will depend on your budget and your yard. You’ll also want to consider which materials you want to use. The type of material you choose will affect the design, cost, maintenance requirements, and how long it will last.

Installing central air conditioning

Installing central AC is one of the best home improvements you can make. It increases the value of your property, improves comfort, and even helps to extend the lifespan of appliances.
It’s not cheap to install, but when you consider the value it adds to your home, it’s certainly worth it.
If you’re still not sure, there are calculators online that will help determine whether or not central air conditioning is worth installing in your home.

Is it better to buy a new home or renovate?

Sometimes, the choice is between buying a new home or renovating an old one.

Here are some questions to yourself before embarking on a renovation project:

  • How old is the home? Old homes are more expensive to maintain, and there’s a chance that repairs will cost much more than they would have in a new home.
  • Is the home accessible? Major changes may require access to plumbing, wiring, or air ducts. If you do not have an accessible crawl space, renovations can be difficult if not impossible.
  • Does your home have enough space? If you’re adding bedrooms or bathrooms, think about how much the additional space will cost you in the long run. Putting in another bedroom or bathroom can increase your property taxes or insurance rates.

When it comes down to it, it’s not always a great idea to buy a house with the intention of doing big renovations.

In fact, there are some renovations you should avoid altogether. You want to make your new home as comfortable and stylish as possible. But there are some home improvements that can actually hurt your property value or that just aren’t worth it.

Even without major renovations, there are a lot of great ways to make your house a home. You might decide to hire a professional or DIY it. Either way, you can invest in changes to your house that will be a good investment and reflect your personal style. Talk with a real estate professional who can provide advice on other affordable home renovations and if they are worth the price for the home you are considering.

Andrew Te

Andrew has 7+ years of experience in Real Estate and working with Real Estate Agents. He is passionate about the housing market and solving problems.  

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