As a guy who writes about home remodeling, I feel like a traitor. But it's instructive to look at the other side of the coin. Naturally, my comments exclude emergency projects that involve your safety. But then, we would be talking more about home repair than home renovation, wouldn't we?
1. You Will Not Even Begin to Recoup the Costs of RemodelingYou bought your house for $350,000, put in $50,000 worth of work, and sold it for $400,000 or more. Money spent, money regained! Right?
Not really. In a house sale, so many factors are at play that it's impossible to identify how each one contributes to the sales price. Factors unrelated to remodeling may have a bigger impact on a house's sales price--economic climate, comparables, mortgage rates, etc. If we're talking about a major increase in space, such as an addition, a higher sales price is likely (though still not guaranteed).
Some remodels (e.g., major kitchen remodels) retain high value. Other remodels have laughably little value (e.g., office remodels). But no remodel will, by itself, return 100% of the cost you put into it.
Your Takeaway: Investigate the resale value of home remodel projects and accept reality.
2. You Might Get Scammed--BigtimeIt's one thing to get ripped off over a magazine subscription; it's another thing to get scammed over a $16,000 roofing job. The lure of big loot is exactly why unscrupulous contractors prey on unsuspecting homeowners.
Your Takeaway: Thoroughly research contractors to mitigate the possibility of getting scammed.
3. The Process of Remodeling is Rarely GreenRemodeling is an inherently wasteful process. Just look at the contents of your Dumpster on your next kitchen remodel and you will see 40 cubic yards of drywall, MDF, vinyl flooring, wire, and glass, all destined for the landfill.
Not only that, consider the energy wasted in manufacturing and transporting the building materials.
4. Remodeling Can Damage Your Psyche and Your RelationshipsThe home remodeling horror story genre ("Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House"; "The Money Pit"; etc.) has a basis in reality. Home remodeling can have a corrosive effect on marriages and other close, personal relationships.
Your Takeaway: You can't always be hanging drywall and installing flooring. Reclaim your life by maintaining a good balance of remodeling and living. Investigate all the ways to keep your relationship healthy. Budget a long-term hotel stay for any remodeling project that takes a major room out of commission.
5. Remodeling Is Always More Difficult and Expensive Than You ImagineFind a contractor who can deliver a bathroom remodel on time and on budget, and he'll have guaranteed business for the rest of his life. More realistically, large-scale remodeling projects are riddled with change orders that increase the cost and extend the finish date. Even small remodels have a unique way of inching upward in cost.
Your Takeaway: Get an accurate, third-party view of remodeling costs. After that, mentally add 25% to both the cost and the schedule.
6. You Often Can't Do It Yourself (Even Though You Think You Can)The clarion call of home remodeling TV shows is that you can do it yourself! But some home remodeling projects are patently DIY-unfriendly: installing air conditioners or furnaces; building additions; roofing your house. Other projects call out for your personal touch. Interior wall painting? Sure. Installing a sink. Bring it on.
It's no big deal to take on clearly defined DIY projects. But things get costly when you begin a project by yourself, find yourself out of your element, and then shift the project to a contractor.
Your Takeaway: Categorize projects as DIY, hire-a-pro, or either way. If you're unsure, automatically shift it to the hire-a-pro side.
7. Why Exactly Are You Remodeling Your Home Anyway?If you believe this five-figure kitchen remodel is necessary, can you answer why? In most cases, an ugly kitchen boils an egg as well as a pristine kitchen. Many homeowners add space to their house or recondition a bathroom for no discernible reason. Outside influences might be fueling your remodel: low home equity rates, boosterism from home remodeling shows, and keeping up with the Joneses. None are good reasons to remodel.
Your Takeaway: Carefully consider your next home remodeling project. If you need a long, dark night of the soul before committing to a remodel project, take that night. Realize there is no shame in deciding not to proceed with the remodel at all.