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How to Plan for Next Year's Home Improvement Projects

Written by Ilyce Glink on December 31, 2010 in Real Estate  |   9 comments

How to Plan for Next Year’s Home Improvement Projects Do you have a wish list of home-improvement projects? Have you thought about what you’ll be able to afford to do this year and how much it will cost? Over at my house, I’ve been making…

How to Plan for Next Year’s Home Improvement Projects

Do you have a wish list of home-improvement projects? Have you thought about what you’ll be able to afford to do this year and how much it will cost?

Over at my house, I’ve been making my list of home improvements and checking it twice. As we end the year, I thought I’d share a little bit about how I plan for upcoming home-improvement projects and offer a few suggestions on budgeting for these outsized expenses.

Next year, I’d really like to replace our carpet. When we bought this carpet, some twelve years ago, we never expected to keep it this long. It wasn’t expensive (we were out of money after building our home addition), and, sure enough, after about seven years it started to fray, so you can imagine what it looks like now.

I’ve also thought about repainting a few rooms that have big cracks, and redecorating my sons’ bathroom. Finally, I’d really like to put in a proper patio.

These are four projects that can be as big or small as you make them, so figuring out how much money you have available for home-improvement projects in the coming year is an important next step. It’s a process my husband calls “What’s the budget?”

I actually hate when he asks me this question, because it forces me to really think about what I want (everything!) and what I can afford to spend (not as much as I’d like!). And that’s the reality for most of us: we always could do more, but we’ll be happy with a little less.

Coming off several tough years in the economy, you might not have the financial resources to pull off even one home-improvement job in 2011—and that’s okay. I’ve put off my carpet project for about four years. With unemployment as high as it is, and a lot of economic uncertainty, you don’t want to go into debt for something that you can live without. That’s especially true if you wind up with a needed or necessary repair, like replacing a hot-water tank or fixing a leaky roof in the middle of winter.

Let’s pick a number. Say you have $5,000 to spend on home-improvement projects this year. And let’s say you have five projects on your list. If you prioritize your list and work your way from the top down, you might only have enough cash to accomplish one or two of your top projects.

At that point, you can go ahead and do those projects, or you can save up more money through the course of the year and do more. Or you can choose to complete three of the less-expensive projects and save a more expensive project for another year.

I can’t tell you which way to go, but keep this in mind: if you are planning on selling your home in 2011, the home-improvement projects you choose to complete should all relate to the salability of the property.

In other words, if the home-improvement project you choose won’t increase the value of the house or make it easier to sell, you should table that project and choose another.

As for me, I’ll let you know at the end of 2011 which home-improvement projects I was able to get done.

Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com and at the Home Equity blog for CBS MoneyWatch.


Balancing What the Bank Says You Can Afford and What You Can Really Afford
Getting Rid of Debt before Buying a Home
How to Think about Debt When Buying a Home
Strategic Default: The Consequences of Not Paying Your Mortgage
4 Tips for Buying a HUD Home

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. ritesh says:

    good plan for home improvement thanks for this plan see the bathroom design ideas for bathrooms
    this site.

  2. Maggie West says:

    It's as if you read my mind on this one. I'm new to your site. But, we (me, my husband and mother-in-law) listen to you often. This year there are two home major (to us at any rate) improvements projects on our list. And it's sad, but I never asked the "how much?" question. Now that I know that one. What amount should be set aside for emergencies like water heaters and the like? We've been fortunate (other than unexpected car repairs last year). But you never know.

  3. starlite says:

    For carpet visit Dalton, Georgia. Besides learning the "lingo" of weight, yarn, twist, padding and installation options, you will save a great deal of money.

    This is a great home furnishing experience.

  4. Editor, Equifax Personal Finance Blog says:

    From an email comment:

    My general comment relates to advising home owners that investing in home improvements, beyond maintenance, should be tempered with knowledge of a realistic return on investment and current market, i.e., the best information regarding equity status for the individual home.
    My wife and I sold a home in NY State recently for personal reasons at a loss of more than $100k of equity relative to market value 2 years ago. We were fortunate to have had sufficient equity to walk away with some cash. However, this would not have been the case if we had invested in the improvements on our wish list at the time….

    My other comment was that sellers need to be realistic about the market when setting their asking price. We have moved to Virginia to be near family and are looking to buy a house in VA. Given the strong buyers market, limited recent/comparative sales, and no confirmation that the bottom of the market has passed, I have been considering the tax assessment information as one point of reference for determining offering prices. Municipalities here update "market value" assessments annually, but, the data used can be a year or more old. Based on my research for one subcommunity here, the only 2 comparable homes sold in March 2010 for 86 and 87% of the 2010 assessed value. Also, asking prices for foreclosures seem to be at or below 80% of assessed value. Hard to know details, but, given this and the assumption that we are not at the bottom of the market, I chose to begin offering price calculations at 80% of the assessed value. This pleases no one but me…. RE agents and owners are not impressed, but, I am holding out for that one reasonable or desperate seller. I am really trying to minimize our risk of loosing more equity on a house immediately after closing. There are numerous listings that note the asking price is below assessed value, clearly attempting to suggest that the house is offered at a price below market value – while the statement may be true, I consider this practice to be misleading and reflects a more blatant effort to prey on the uninformed buyer.

    I understand the limitations of using tax assessment information, but, find that most people don't – perhaps this is a good topic for a blog or article.

    Thanks for your insights and service.
    – Bill D.

  5. Ilyce Glink says:

    Maggie – Sorry for the delayed response. I just saw this.

    I think that you'll be safe if you give yourself a 15 to 25 percent cushion for the unexpected things that pop up. If you know your home pretty well, it's newer and you've already done a lot to it, then I'd go lower end with the reserve. But if it's an old house, and you don't really know what's behind the walls, then use the higher amount.

    Thanks for listening – and for reading the blog.

  6. MatthewWilliam says:

    Once you have been in a home for over five years, you really do start to see some wear and tear. If you’re the type of home owner that likes to entertain outside you should purchase top quality patio furniture that not only looks good, but is practical.

    landscape architect sydney

  7. Home Improvement - Home Remodeling says:

    Home improvement can focus on multiple areas for both indoor and outdoor renovations that benefit the home. Making them more up-to-date and energy efficient, expanding the square footage and remodeling those areas, we need home repair and replacement that can increase the home's value.

  8. stone supplier says:

    How to plan for upcoming home improvement projects?Great tips and ideas.Really informative post.

  9. Home Renovation Contractor in Toronto says:

    Planning is the key for a smooth future so reading your tips will be valuable for us thanks for sharing this.

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