Text by Kathy Wiebe

Thinking about remodeling your home? You’re not alone. Rising home values and favourable interest rates over the last decade have allowed homeowners to tap into equity in order to upgrade their property. Within the four quarters, homeowners spent over $160 billion on home improvements, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

So where do you begin? Here are a few things to consider. First, determine the motivation behind your remodeling. Is it to add more space, modernize, improve energy efficiency or increase your home’s resale value? Perhaps it is all of the above. Once you decide what you want to accomplish, prioritize your project list. Start gathering ideas by looking at magazines and Web sites. You can even get ideas by watching episodes of home improvement shows.

Next, determine your budget. Will you hire a professional or do it yourself? Unless you have the proper skills, you may want to leave the larger projects such as knocking out walls or major plumbing to professionals. Doing smaller projects yourself can be more economical as well as rewarding. If you are on a limited budget, but want to update your home, there are several improvements you can make without spending a lot of money. A fresh coat of paint on the walls or new flooring can give your home a new look as well as add value. Modernize by exchanging carpeting for hard surfaces, such as wood, ceramic or laminate. If you like the look and feel of carpeting, replace the old pea green shag with a trendier Berber or plush in a neutral colour.

Other small changes that can make a big difference are installing new light fixtures, cabinet hardware and doorknobs. In the kitchen, replace appliances with up-to-date models or add a tile backsplash. You can even create a spa feel in the bathroom by installing multiple showerheads. No matter how big or small your remodeling project, you want to be careful not to over-improve your home for the neighbourhood, especially if your goal is to increase resale value. Make sure that your improvements are in line with similar homes so that you don’t become the most expensive house on the block.

Take a look at resale properties in your neighbourhood and compare them to newer properties. This will give you an idea what may be considered a standard or luxury item. You can work with a real estate professional to get comparable data and guidance on the type of options and upgrades that can add resale value to your property. Also, don’t just concentrate on one room. Why have an upscale master suite or kitchen when the remainder of the home still has the ‘80s look? A home’s ambience should be seamless throughout. A mismatched home can decrease the home’s value.

And last, although your home is an investment, it’s important that you are able to enjoy it. Whatever remodeling projects you undertake, make sure the final results make it a house you are proud to call home.

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