Renovating Your Home: When to Say “When”

Many of us are faced with a decision when we decide to renovate as to how extensive we will go.  Jeff Opdyke of  (complete with Podcast)shares his personal experiences with renovation and points out that it is a decision that involves both emotional and financial considerations. 

Much of the debate — as with cars or vacations or any big-ticket items — comes down to affordability. But when you’re talking about your home, the rules take on a different dimension. This is your castle. The last thing you want to do is look at your home every day and think: If only we had done….

And thus the challenge so many of us face: When remodeling your house to meet your dreams, do you pursue what you want, or simply settle for what you need?

Part of this debate is financial, part is emotional.

Unlike spending money on, say, a car, remodeling a house is an investment in a generally appreciating asset. If you’re lucky, you will be able to recoup some or all of — or even more than — your costs when you resell the house.

Yet it’s the emotion that drives most homeowners. Most of us are spending the money with an emotional, not investment, return in mind. We want something nicer than we’re currently living with. 

Whether or not you also are considering resale value largely depends on your time line.  In a market that is as transient as ours in New York City, perhaps the most important factor to consider is the length of time in which you "think" you will be staying in your apartment or house.  If you, like Mr. Opdyke, believe that this is your last move for a long time and finances aren’t a major consideration, then by all means, create your "castle."  If you have even the slightest desire to recoup the money that you put into the renovation, then it is my belief that you should steer clear of super personalized touches that may not appeal to the masses.

This leads me to those of you who are in a property that is a step on the continuum to your next home.  If your horizon is 3-5 years, try to pick finishes that you love but that are also somewhat neutral and appeal to the masses.  For example, don’t wall paper your entire apartment and expect buyers to "adore" what you’ve done 3-5 years down the road.  In my experience, wall paper screams "renovate me!"  That said, the option always exists to remove the wall paper or even paint over it (they make some fancy new paints that actually have a chemical reaction to the wall paper and adhere it further to the wall when painted).   Another example would be that if you paint, stain, or pickle your floors, you may also be decreasing the pool of buyers who may be interested in tackling the reversal of what you have done.  Also, consider neutral colored stones and ceramics when doing kitchens and baths.  In essence, try to stay away from super taste-specific type renovations.

Other than those few tips, I am a firm believer in creating the home of your dreams within your financial means.  Now if only my wife and I could get our acts together so that I could walk the talk.  I promise when we do, I will give you the complete scoop on all of the pros and cons of living through the process.


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