At some point in life, you’ll want to improve some inconvenience in your home. It might even be a lingering problem that should be re-engineered rather than repaired. However, there are times when your family’s income might not be able to pay for the improvements you want to make. Different stages in your life also pose different challenges to your lifestyle and income. Our Preparing for Home Improvement Costs Series will examine a few of the problems you might face so you can anticipate and navigate home improvements in your future.
Parenthood and Middle Age
As newlyweds’ careers advance and their fortunes expand, so do their families. The arrival of a new baby and the need for more space over time usually puts them on the hunt for a larger home. That can mean trading up for a larger home or enlarging their existing home.
In our first installment, we covered the basic rules for considering and planning home improvement projects as a new homeowner. But while those still apply throughout your life, being older and a becoming a new parent add a few new things to consider.
1) Become More Comfortable with Doing It Yourself
By the time you get to your second or third home, you have learned enough from home improvement shows to tackle some smaller home maintenance or improvement projects. Now, you’re more willing to try more advanced DIY projects yourself — installing light fixtures and ceiling fans, installing or fixing plumbing, adding insulation, and more.
You’ve probably also assembled a collection of good, useful tools and know how to use them safely. While material costs keep going up, your combination of skills and tools will help you save money on labor costs for slightly more involved projects. Just one bit of caution — do NOT over-estimate your skills. If you get in over your head, call a professional.
2) Budget for Larger-Scale Projects
Whether it’s adding a dormer upstairs for a bedroom or master bath, downstairs room addition, or building a complete home addition, your income stream will probably allow you to afford a discretionary remodeling project. Again, it’s important to weigh getting biggest return value for the least cost with your long term plans.
3) Learn How to Plan, Plan, Plan
Whether you download handy worksheets or work closely with an architect, you’re going to need a detailed plan and budget to keep costs under control – especially if you find surprises along the way. When you’re shopping for a contractor, always ask questions and get estimates that you can compare.
4) Plan on How to Survive
Bigger remodel projects take time, and if you’re living on-site, the work can seem to take an eternity. For example, kitchen renovations are extremely disruptive and annoying, especially if there’s no water or electricity. You’re going to need to plan and prepare for all these renovation inconveniences in advance – and this might mean alternate living arrangements in the short-term.
5) Research Your Financing Options
In addition to being further along in your career and owning your home, you probably have better credit compared to when you were a newlywed. This can open up more affordable loans for you:
- A Home Equity Loan is a loan for a fixed amount of money that is secured by the equity in your home — up to 85%. Basically, it’s a second mortgage and includes fees and points you’ll need to be aware of.
- A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a line of credit for a certain amount of money, similar to a credit card, that is secured by your home. HELOC’s can go up to 85% of your home’s value.
- A construction loan is a short-term (typically one-year) usually interest-only loan that pays for the building project. Frequently used for building a home, complex renovation projects can get financed this way. Once the project is completed, the construction loan needs to be refinanced into a mortgage. Qualifying can be tough —the builder should be a licensed contractor with an excellent reputation and great track record. You’ll need to put in a 20% down payment. There are also other drawbacks such as falling housing values, rising interest rates, and delays that increase construction costs.
- Private loans are unsecured loans that tend to lend out higher amounts than an average credit card limit, but they also have higher interest rates than other loans because they are not secured by collateral.
6) Keep Your Kids Safe
Finally, during a home renovation project of any size, you do need to keep safety in mind for your entire home, and specifically regarding work areas and children. This includes keeping the air clean to reducing hazardous VOCs and allergens. Simply put, your kids will be interested in what you’re doing to the house, but they might not understand what they can and cannot do or touch in the work area.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our Preparing for Home Improvement Costs Series, as we discuss your kids leaving the house and your retirement.