If there's any endeavor that really does take a village, it's home renovation. As you tear down walls, imagine the kitchen of your dreams, and install large appliances, you'll be dealing with a team of specialists. Here's how to put together an Olympic-worthy dream team.
"I always half-rolled my eyes at real estate listings that said 'Bring your architect.' It sounded impossibly high-flown, perhaps aimed at the type of people who traveled with an entourage of servants," a New York City renovation survivor wrote on Curbed. "But let me say this flat-out: The best thing we ever did for our renovation was hire an architect." An architect listens to your ideas and helps you think through the design, then translates all of that into a plan that can be made real. Expect to pay 10 to 20 percent of the overall project cost.
The Project Manager
Think of the general contractor as your project manager. They take those plans from the architect and executes it with a team of subcontractors they have on speed dial. That means you don't need to spend hours of your own time to find individual tradespeople to paint, plumb, and carpenter. Even if your project doesn't require an architect, if your renovation will require more than one specialty tradesperson and cost a few thousand dollars, you need a general contractor.
Ask people you know for references and see if neighbors have had projects similar to yours done. The rule of thumb is to interview several contractors and receive a bid from each before you decide. Expect to pay 25 percent of the project cost.
You really don't need an interior decorator or designer for your renovation, but for some, choosing between hundreds of different countertops, cabinets, and floors gives a flooding sense of decision fatigue. In those cases, the expertise of a designer may help you feel less overwhelmed. Find certified designers through the National Kitchen & Bath Association (nkba.org) or the American Society of Interior Designers (asid.org). Designers will charge somewhere between 4 and 7 percent, according to Consumer Reports, but you can expect to pay an interior decorator, especially of the Million Dollar Decorator variety, up to 20 percent for them.
When your renovation is complete, you will hopefully no longer require the services of highly-trained specialists like plumbers, carpenters, and painters. It may not be a full-blown renovation, but home repairs will still come along that are too much for you to handle.
In those cases, you need a handyman or woman. Whether it's a silencing a squeaky front door or drippy faucet, hanging the projector screen, assembling bookshelves, cleaning the gutters, or power-washing the upstairs windows, no job is too small for this household helper. These people can also sometimes tackle slightly larger jobs, like installing a simple deck or building a ladder for your new above-ground pool. Angie's List says you can expect to pay anywhere between $50 to $100 per hour — but a good one is worth their weight in gold.
You've got your team and your chomping at the bit for the kitchen of your dreams, but whoa there, Nelly. You need to set a budget for your project for you start getting stars in your eyes over German appliances and carrara marble. How much should you spend?
First, you need an overall estimate of the value of your house. One easy tool is to use Zillow's "Zestimator." Once you know how much your house is worth, a good rule of thumb is not to spend more than the value of that room as a percentage of your overall house value. Kitchens, for example, generally account for 10 to 15 percent of the property value, so if your home is worth $200,000, you'd want to spend no more than $30,000.
Where does that money come from? You've got a few options. You could refinance your mortgage, get a home equity line of credit, or a home equity loan. This choice can be overwhelming, so consult with a lender about which option is best for you.
Last but not least, you'll want to leave wiggle room for unforeseen expenses. Factor in 10 to 20 percent (or more) of your contracted budget for those imperfections that are revealed when the layers of your home are peeled away.
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As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.