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Realistic Expectations

Creating an inspired home with a pragmatic approach.

Deciding to remodel your home is just about as important as your decision was to buy it. It’s a significant investment that makes a statement about your intentions: how long you plan to stay, the number of children you have, the lifestyle you want to lead. While it’s easy to fall in love with a room on Pinterest or Houzz, those inspirational photos don’t tell the whole story. Rarely is a project as carefree as its outcome, but with realistic expectations, you, too, can have a picture-perfect home.

First, before you Pin the entire Internet, check your bank statements. Determining your budget is the first priority. Remodeling projects are not as cheap as HGTV would have you believe. “They are complicated, require good planning and good plans, talented labor and quality materials,” says Jim Scovell of Scovell Wolfe & Associates. “These things can be expensive.”

To get a ballpark figure on a kitchen remodel, for instance, he suggests you start shopping for appliances. If you’re good with decent, functioning machines, you’ll probably come in around $6,000, but if you want commercial brands and extras such as warming drawers, you’re more in the $30,000 range. Factor in cabinets, countertops and tile, and Jim estimates that you’ll run up a bill that’s $24,000-$60,000, with all of your items still packaged and sitting in the garage! 

Once you’ve worked out the numbers, you’ll need to add 10 percent for overages. Terry Skilling of Rhino Builders says some project loans allow this to cover the inevitable changes. Old houses tend to reveal hidden surprises, especially those built before 1960, from substandard framing to termite damage. If something pops up, plan on a change order and, thus, added cost.

The temptation to scrimp on certain things might end up costing you more. The major mistake is falling for the low-bid contractor. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is a helpful source for homeowners, with listings of companies who adhere to a code of conduct. For a list of questions to ask during your interviewing process, go to In addition to the quality of work you hire, the quality of product you buy also will matter. Jim recommends never skimping on windows, cabinets or appliances; Terry adds a no-no on painting and lighting. So where can you cut costs? “Save your money by not buying the latest fad item that sounds good now but you easily tire of later, like in-house steam or sauna baths,” Jim notes.

If you can adhere to the admittedly no-fun but necessary rules of remodeling, you can be well on your way to living each day in a home tailored just for you.  

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