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Planning for your home improvement

Evaluate your needs

The first step in any home improvement plan is evaluating your needs. Do you need to update cabinets older than you are? Have you outgrown your available space? Is there an immediate need for something broken to be fixed? These are just a few of the questions you must answer before you can proceed.

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Once you know what you'd like to do, sit down and consider the costs involved. This can vary dramatically, depending on whether it's a job you can do yourself or one that will require hiring professionals. If you have the necessary time and skills, small jobs such as painting can save you money. Don't be tempted to take on larger projects, though. Unless you're particularly handy, attempting to remodel your kitchen on your own, for example, can become a much bigger expense than you originally budgeted. Hired professionals will finish the work faster and more efficiently, saving you both time and money in the long run.

Paying for home improvement

While small projects are usually financed with your household budget, larger projects often require more creative solutions, usually in the form of a loan. Short-term loans, second mortgages, and home equity loans are some of the most popular means of financing.

Planning carefully and doing your homework will provide the most satisfaction with your home improvements. By arming yourself with the right information and a realistic idea of your needs and budget, your dream house can be that one step closer.

Will your repairs pay off?

One of the primary concerns you should assess prior to undertaking any project is whether the proposed changes are economically sensible. This means not only finding out how much the work will cost, but also researching your local real estate market to find out if your venture will return your investment when it is time to sell. Most often, kitchen and bathroom remodels offer the most consistent returns on your money, but extensive remodeling may be an expensive and time-consuming process. Since you can't guarantee you'll get a decent return, it often makes the most sense to only remodel when you'll be staying long enough to appreciate the benefits.

Buyers beware: does your dream home have baggage?

Estimating the renovation costs before you buy will help you determine whether or not it's a cost-effective decision. Inaccurate estimates, or problems that go unrecognized until it's too late, will only add to your expenditures. By having the property inspected as a condition of purchase, you can save yourself a lot of grief further down the road.

If you factor the cost of improvements into your purchase price, you may have numerous options for adding them into your mortgage, including U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development 203K loans. Financing doesn't have to be a difficult thing.
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