Get the Most for Your Money

These simple strategies will help you minimize the hassles of remodeling and maximize the payoff.


+ enlarge image While the remodelers are at your home, you can save money by hiring them to do other jobs at the same time.

Accomplish work when it costs the least. Let's say you're replumbing a downstairs bath and intend to create a new master bath in the attic during the next five years. It makes sense to rough-in the new wiring and plumbing lines for the attic bath now. At the very least, you'll minimize disruption and debris. The same principle applies if you'll be running new ductwork in the future. Tearing out plaster and refinishing the same wall twice will cost you far more in the long run than springing for extra installation costs now.

Likewise, if you're hiring a carpenter or any other trade professional, think about what else in your house might need to be repaired or changed while the person is on-site. You'll pay a bit more than you would have for just the one project, but it may cost considerably less than if you call back for a separate job.

Shop around, shop ahead. Old-house rehabbers often scavenge salvage yards for future improvements, seizing opportunities as they come. Factory outlets and sales on fixtures and appliances can save you a bundle. Caveats to keep in mind: Have a clear picture of your new room in mind so that you only buy the things you need, watch out for expiring warranties, and be sure you have room to store your bargains.

Pay as you go. By working in stages, you often can afford a higher-quality job, because you're spreading out expenditures over time. You'll also build equity as you renovate, provided your overall remodeling plan is sound. As equity grows over time, prior improvements can help finance the work yet to come. Talk to your financial and tax advisers about your remodeling plans up front, and be realistic about how much each step of the project will cost.

Minimize disruption. It only makes sense to isolate areas of construction as much as possible and to plan for minimal inconvenience. If you're adding a second bath, for example, do it before you gut the first one. Before you make your kitchen unusable, consider building a snack bar in your basement; even a makeshift arrangement will make the project go smoother. Otherwise, the cost of restaurant or take-out meals night after night can really eat into your budget.

+ enlarge image Upgrading your kitchen can pay off in more ways than one.

The best reason to make improvements to your home is to make it a better space for you. But it's wise to keep an eye on how the money you spend is improving the value of your home. For example, if you spend $20,000 redoing your kitchen, the value of your home will increase by around $17,400, according to a survey compiled by the National Association of Realtors. By comparison, $6,000 spent on a deck adds just $4,200 to what prospective buyers are willing to spend.

Listed below are the most popular remodeling projects and the average percentage of costs recouped for each type. This survey compiled statistics from homeowners throughout the United States who completed a project between 1990 and 1995, then sold their homes within a few years.

  • Minor kitchen remodeling: 94 percent
  • Bathroom addition: 89 percent
  • Major kitchen remodeling: 87 percent
  • Family room addition: 84 percent
  • Two-story addition: 84 percent
  • Attic bedroom conversion: 83 percent
  • Master suite addition: 82 percent
  • Bathroom remodeling: 73 percent
  • Siding replacement: 71 percent
  • Deck addition: 70 percent
  • Whole-house window replacement: 68 percent
  • Home office addition: 64 percent
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