Home may be where your heart is, but it’s likely also where you sink a lot of your cold hard cash. According to the 2019 LightStream Home Improvement Survey, 73% of homeowners plan to renovate this year, and projects costing $25,000 or more jumped by 83%. It’s not just inside that people are changing, either—41% of homeowners were hoping to complete outdoor renovations, followed closely by changes to the bathroom (37%) and the kitchen (31%).
Renovations may sound exciting, but without proper planning, they can really bungle your bottom line. If you’re considering a renovation, it’s important to keep some things in mind.
Pros and cons of home renovation
Home renovations are often about more than making things look nice (although that is a big perk, as well). “Renovations can help to increase the value of your home and, in some cases, make it safer,” said Tom Wallace, a certified master inspector with Home Check Inspections. “Older homes can especially benefit from renovations.”
On the other hand, costly and timely renovations might not be worth it for every homeowner, especially those who don’t intend on staying in that particular home much longer. “Always keep in mind a long-term strategy when undertaking home renovations,” said Tod Colbert, president and CEO of Weather Tight, a Wisconsin-based contracting and remodeling company. “If you are in the home that you plan to stay in forever, do what you’d like. However, many times that is not the case, so you need to think about the new owner, as well.”
If you hope to sell your home in the future, Colbert suggests keeping your home’s functional design in place, rather than making changes that only you might enjoy. For example, “it may be suitable for you to turn a room or two into unique spaces to fit your particular needs,” said Colbert, “but a subsequent owner may not agree, especially if it changes the way the home blends in with surrounding homes.”
How much does it cost to renovate a house?
While home renovation costs (see here for tips on reducing costs) will vary based on a number of factors—like whether plumbing or electricity needs to be moved, for example—it’s a good idea to be familiar with the averages so you’ll be prepared for what a certain type of remodel may cost. The following are some common remodels, according to Colbert, as well as what you might expect to pay for each:
Kitchen renovation costs
Most popular upgrades: Depending on the price point of the home, it could be anything from backsplashes and tile work to adding high-end appliances and equipment and large islands. “Kitchen bars are very popular and sought after in any price range because so many of our family and entertainment time is focused around food,” said Colbert.
Biggest potential setbacks: As with most areas of the house, if you outspend the value of the house, you will not recoup your money. In other words, “stay within the expectations of the house and neighborhood,” said Colbert. “A $100,000 chef’s kitchen in a $200,000 house is going to lose money in the end.”
Estimated cost range: Anywhere from $100 for small tile jobs to $100,000+ for a full chef’s kitchen.
Bathroom renovation costs
Most popular upgrades: Even though they aren’t used as often as anticipated, Colbert said large soaking tubs are a frequent request, followed closely by dual sinks/vanities.
Biggest potential setbacks: Bathrooms have a lot of structure—like drains, waterlines and added support—so you’ll need to plan any new upgrades with that in mind. “That new tub, shower, or toilet might not fit with your existing plumbing,” said Colbert. “Changing and rerouting plumbing can change a rather minor renovation into a costly and nightmarish project and may affect other rooms in the house.”
Estimated cost range: $100 for basic cosmetic changes including paint and a mirror to upwards of $50,000 for a complete redo with spa-like features.
Living/dining renovation costs
Most popular upgrades: Lighting and built-ins
Biggest potential setbacks: Again, Colbert said not to outspend the house on making renovations to the main living space. “For instance, dining room chandeliers are beautiful and most people would love to have a huge crystal chandelier to adorn their dinner parties,” he said. “However, you will not get your money back if you think about selling.”
Estimated cost range: $100 to $1,000+
Bedroom renovation costs
Most popular upgrades: Adding an en suite or sitting area
Biggest potential setbacks: Sometimes renovating one room means taking away from another, and you should be careful not to make a room unusually small just to enhance the amenities of an existing space. For example, “you might think that it’s a good idea to take a bedroom and make additions to the master bedroom,” said Colbert. “In reality, your home may be worth more as, for example, a three-bedroom home than a two-bedroom home with a really big master suite.”
Estimated cost range: Adjoining bathrooms (en suites) run anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, and sitting areas can run between $1,000 and $25,000, depending on the build-out and other features.
If the estimated cost of a remodel puts your plans out of reach, there are a few ways around it. “What homeowners should realize is that the materials for any renovation to a house are relatively inexpensive, it’s the labor that is the major cost of all home improvement renovations,” said Nancy Wallace-Laabs, owner of real estate investment company KBN Homes. The more you’re willing to look into DIY options for at least part of a project—like installing tile and fixtures and adding a coat of paint yourself—the more you might be able to save.
If in the end you do decide to go the professional route—which is particularly smart when it comes to more detailed or complicated changes—get as many estimates as possible from contractors who come highly recommended by people you know and trust. Then take your time deciding how much to spend. The more you can actually pay for a renovation as it happens (rather than taking on debt to finance it), the more likely you’ll be to fully enjoy it.