America has caught the home renovation bug – are you feeling it, too?

Homeowners are donning their hardhats for many reasons. And whether it’s to improve energy efficiency, accommodate your space as you get older, give rooms a facelift, or for a combination of reasons, home improvements usually affect your home’s value.

If you do the right work on your home at the right time, you may be able to get a sizeable return on your investment. That’s value you can use for refinancing your mortgage or even improving your home’s resale price.

This all sounds great, but you’re probably asking, “How?” Well, strap on your tool belt, and let’s go through the biggest do’s and don’ts of renovating your home.

DO complete the necessary research.

Which renovations add the most value to a home? It depends on a lot of factors, but where you live is one of the most important. If getting the biggest return possible is your highest priority, understand the current market value of your home by researching other homes in your neighborhood.

Some projects can outprice the value of your home. Before committing to a remodel, search online to investigate comparable property values in your community, talk to neighbors to understand where most are investing their renovation dollars, and even consider speaking to a real estate agent to get a clearer picture of what projects are really getting homeowners the return on investment they expected.

DON’T throw caution to the wind (and money down the drain).

When completing a home project, things can go wrong. That’s the simple reality. Being prepared for the unexpected is your best line of defense against needlessly overspending on your renovation.

First, outline your budget. Include projected costs for both supplies and labor after comparing prices from retailers and renovation professionals. Then, give yourself a contingency of at least 20% on top of this budget. The extra wiggle room will give you invaluable peace of mind as you begin your project. And if you end up under budget in the end, you can treat yourself to something nice with the spoils of your smooth renovation!

DO favor function over form.

Your home should reflect your personality. However, it should first and foremost fulfill a purpose.

There’s no sense in putting a lot of money into high-end finishes if your living space is awkward and non-functional. Buyers and appraisers will notice these issues. And as a result, your home’s value may suffer.

DON’T follow a trend to follow a trend.

No, you don’t need stainless steel appliances and a granite countertop to get the most ROI out of your home.

The best home renovations make sense for both your home’s style and function. Designing or updating a space that feels incongruous with the rest of your home won’t add to its value, and could possibly detract.

DO improve your home’s curb appeal.

Good first impressions go a long way. Improving your home’s curb appeal may increase your home’s (and your neighborhood’s) value. Plus, you won’t need to spend a huge amount of time or money to do it.

Keep it simple. Hang planter boxes, paint your shutters, edge your gardens, and keep your lawn well maintained. Additionally, when you replace your front door, you can expect an average of 96.6% return on investment. And if you can achieve the same effect with a fresh coat of paint, all the better!

DON’T recreate the Gardens of Versailles in your yard.

AKA, don’t go overboard. The most important part of improving your curb appeal is the image that your home portrays. It sends a signal to neighbors and potential buyers that your home is cared for, which can only increase your home’s market value.

The more intensive and dramatic your outdoor space, the harder it will be for future owners with different tastes to undo. Simplicity will appeal to a wider audience for that reason, and may help you get the biggest return on your investment. Pour too much money into your landscaping and façade, and you likely won’t see that money back.

DO cut costs by doing some of the work yourself.

Save on labor costs and maximize your home remodel by taking on projects you can do on your own.

Painting is the obvious DIY project. But many home improvement stores also offer free classes on simple projects like installing a backsplash or laying tile floor. Not only will these classes help you get the most value out of your renovation, but you’ll also emerge with a new skill or two in your toolbox that you can use in future projects.

DON’T test your limits.

To avoid costly mistakes (and potential danger), some home improvement projects are better left to the professionals.

Don’t think twice about hiring a professional for those renovations that require a high level of skill you lack—like anything electrical! Check out online reviews, ask your family and friends for recommendations, and contact your local Better Business Bureau. Make sure to interview a number of people before pulling the trigger. Choose someone you trust and who offers you a competitively priced bid.

DO save what is salvageable.

Demolition day can be a blast. Many people will pick up a sledgehammer and suddenly transform into a destruction machine. Not to ruin anyone’s fun, but sometimes there’s value in saving the old instead of clearing it out for the new.

For example, if you’re gutting a kitchen with dated but functional cabinetry, consider repurposing them for storage in your garage of basement. You may be able to uncover opportunities to improve the function of your home and also cut costs on trash removal. Can’t find a use for salvageable material yourself? Many local contractors would be happy to take them off of your hands for their own projects.

DON’T let your new and improved value go to waste.

After you’ve completed your renovation, have your home appraised by a professional to determine your home’s market value.

You may not have to sell your home before taking advantage of any value you’ve added from your remodel. Actually, many homeowners choose to cash out this added value with a refinance. Learn if refinancing may also be a viable option for you: 7 Reasons to Refinance Now.

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