Home improvement is any renovation or remodeling that increases the value of a house. Examples include adding a porch, deck or patio, painting the interior or exterior, installing new flooring, and remodeling the kitchen and bathroom. Some projects are relatively inexpensive and can make a big difference, while others are expensive and may add only a small amount of value to the house.
Regardless of the size or cost of a project, it is important for homeowners to carefully research contractors before hiring them to work on their home. This includes checking references, licenses and insurance. It is also recommended that homeowners obtain multiple estimates before beginning a project.
The concept of home improvement dates back to the early 20th century when returning soldiers from World War II embraced it as a way to build family “togetherness” around the security of their homes. It grew further with government mortgage insurance programs for veterans, which encouraged homeownership and expanded the suburban housing boom. Today, home improvements are more focused on maintaining and upgrading a home rather than building a new one.
Some projects produce a high ROI when it comes time to sell, while others simply aren’t worth the investment. For example, an outdoor kitchen might increase the resale value of your home but will cost you more in utility costs than it will return in food sales. Similarly, an attic bedroom might add valuable living space but may not be something that a future buyer would want to pay for.
Before starting any project, homeowners should evaluate their interest level and skill set. If they plan to do the project themselves, they should purchase the necessary materials and use model and design software to help them visualize their ideas. This can help reduce the risk of over- or underspending, and it will give them an idea of how the finished product will look before starting work.
If you’re planning to hire a contractor, the best way to protect yourself is to get everything in writing, including a payment schedule and details about the scope of work. You should also require a deposit before the work begins and withhold final payment until all inspections and certificates of occupancy have been obtained.
Many home improvement projects are easy and affordable, such as adding a splash of color to a room with paint or choosing a unique wallpaper. Other upgrades, such as replacing toilets and vanities, laying new tile and updating lighting fixtures are more involved but also relatively inexpensive. A smart tip is to choose midrange fixtures, which offer the same visual impact as high-end options but won’t break the bank. Lastly, don’t forget to budget for unexpected repairs and other unexpected expenses. It’s a good idea to have three to six months worth of cash saved before beginning any major project. This will help you avoid going into debt or using credit cards to finance a home improvement.