How to Avoid Costly Home Improvement Mistakes

Home improvement projects shouldn’t have to wait for springtime. There’s no time like the present to begin planning and organizing your project — starting with these tips.

Pick Your Project

If you’re thinking home improvement, then chances are you already have an idea (or two) of what you want to do. But if you need to narrow down or prioritize your list, consider these points:

  • Home value and “ROI.” If you plan to move in a few years or want to improve your home’s value (and possibly your equity), consider focusing on changes that might yield a good resale value compared to the initial project cost. 
    For instance, according to Pacific region averages from Remodeling’s 2011-12 Cost vs. Value Report (,* a minor kitchen remodel might cost $20,947 and be worth $19,165 when you sell, for a return on investment (ROI) of about 91 percent. Yet adding a sunroom could cost more than $85,000 and have a resale value of only $43,184 — just a 51 percent ROI.
  • Needs versus wants, today versus tomorrow. Consider placing a higher priority on “must do” projects — such as major repairs — and lower priority on those you simply want, like wood floors. To get the most from your remodeling project, consider future needs and wants as well as today’s.
  • Savings. Also think about improvements that might reduce household expenses — like installing energy-efficient windows to help lower utility bills.

Set Your Budget

Budget is a primary consideration when selecting your home improvement project and deciding whether it will be “just the basics,” middle of the road or a high-end upgrade. So before you get too far into the details, determine the total amount you can spend. Consider using 80 percent of that sum as your base budget, leaving 20 percent to cover extra costs that might pop up. 

If you have questions about financing your project or want to investigate some options, Rabobank is here to help, with a variety of financial solutions — including home equity loans and lines of credit — and personal assistance.

Visit your local branch or call (888) 945-6600 today.

Choose a Professional

If you’re not doing the project yourself, then your next step should be finding the right person for your job. Points to consider:

  • Is the contractor licensed and properly insured?
  • hat is the company’s background? How long have they been in business? Can you view past work and/or talk to references? Are there any complaints outstanding with the Better Business Bureau?
  • How well you do you and the contractor communicate with each other? Do you share the same vision?
  • Will the contractor manage all the permits?
  • What is their payment plan — do you need to put down a deposit?
  • Do your friends and family have any recommendations for professionals?

Last But Not Least

Before you hand over any money, make sure you thoroughly review the contract. It should include details on the project, including scope of work, type of materials, timelines, payment deadlines and so forth. When you’re satisfied with the paperwork, you’ll really be ready to get rolling on your new home improvement project!

* © 2011 Hanley Wood, LLC. Complete data from the Remodeling 2011–12 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at

The information contained in this article is intended for general educational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal, tax, or financial advice. Please consult with your own legal, tax or financial advisor for guidance with your own particular circumstances.