8 things to keep in mind as you renovate your home

When you decide to list your house, your real estate agent will undoubtedly give you a laundry list of improvements to make your home ready to put on the market. Not only can this be a financial burden, it doesn’t allow you to enjoy the renovations and projects you decide to take on.

Instead, consider spacing projects out over time while focusing on ways to retain or increase your investment. Here are eight key factors to keep in mind for what and how you choose to renovate.

Big-ticket items. When it comes to choosing which aspects of your house to improve for long-term functionality and return on investment, begin with the big-ticket items — the roof, heating and air conditioning, water heater, windows and siding.

Many of these items will cause considerable improvement to the functionality of your house, saving you on monthly electric and gas charges. And while these improvements may not have the same appeal as a brand-new, expansive kitchen, they will protect that new kitchen and allow it to work efficiently when you put it in.

[See: 12 Home Improvement Shortcuts That Are a Bad Idea.]

Start from the outside. Scottie Pitts, owner and founder of Pitts Elite Contracting, a residential remodeling company based in Frederick County, Maryland, says whenever he walks up to a prospective job, he takes the time to analyze the house from the outside before going in to meet the client.

“I can always tell how much care the homeowner has put into the overall upkeep of the home simply by assessing the exterior,” Pitts says. Not only will industry professionals recognize a well-maintained house, but prospective buyers and their agents will as well.

While curb appeal is generally thought to be improved through colorful landscaping and a coat of paint, it is often much more than that. A new roof, aluminum-wrapped trim, and power-washed siding are just a few items that show you’ve taken the time to not only improve the presentation of the house, but have worked to protect everything inside and outside as well.

Life expectancy. When choosing which projects to take on, as well as the products to use, take the time to evaluate your current situation and who your target market will be once it’s time to sell. Ask yourself a few questions:

— How long do I plan to be in the house?

— Will prospective buyers see this as a starter or forever home?

— Is the difference in price for the different products worth it?

[See: Weird Home Features That May Confuse Homebuyers.]

Compare warranties. As you choose which products to use in your renovation, Pitts advises looking at both the company providing it and the warranties attached.

“If you have two companies both selling a similar window, and one comes with a 50-year warranty and the other a lifetime warranty, take a look at the companies providing them. If a fly-by-night company can put them in for a little cheaper and may give you that lifetime warranty, it won’t mean anything when you call them in 10 years and they’re no longer in business,” Pitts says.

Trending traditional. You can turn on any HGTV program and figure out the latest and greatest trends. But how long are they really going to last? Your goal is to create a home you enjoy living in that has your own personal flair, but one you’ll be able to sell with as few modifications as possible.

“When you talk about trends, you have the past, present and future,” Pitts says. “The one that spans them all is called ‘traditional.’ You can use it at any time and it works.”

While it’s important to put your personal stamp on your home, keep in mind the importance of appealing to as many buyers as possible for resale value.

“A traditional style includes warm tones that flow from flooring color to wall paint, decor and window coverings,” Pitts says. “Muted colors that don’t scream individualism often allow people to flow in and out of rooms without a polarizing view of the space.”

Optimize the layout. Layouts, like all other design aspects, have trends. Today’s trend leans heavily to the open concept, while houses built in the 1970s can feature 17 different rooms in 1,000-sqaure-foot house. Focus on function and flow as you determine what configuration works best in your home.

For example: Opening up a kitchen by knocking down a connecting wall and adding an island can be a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Not only are you opening up a once-closed-off kitchen that stifled entertaining, but you now have an extra food-prep area. And if that isn’t possible or opens up the area too much, try building a pass-through with a built-in counter.

Find a pro. The right general contractor is the glue that holds the entire project together. Whether the renovations are big or small, make sure you go with quality over cost.

“You can always find someone to install what you pick out, that’s the easy part,” says Pitts. “It’s finding someone who can talk you through all the options and help guide the entire project to a great final product — that is key.”

Not every contractor has the ability to both swing a hammer and design a kitchen, but understanding the strong points of those you work with is important. Get a referral from someone, like your real estate agent, who has a long history working with the contractor on multiple projects and find out their strengths, weaknesses and overall track record.

Just like when you go in for a haircut, you will want the contractor to understand exactly what you’re looking for, and have the ability to produce what you already see in your mind.

[See: 8 Easy Renovation Projects Every Homeowner Can Do Now.]

Keep the extras. At the end of any project, there are going to be extra supplies — and thank goodness for that. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a bachelor living on your own or a family of eight, accidents will happen. Fortunately, most builders typically over-order by about 10 percent.

Hold on to any extra tiles, paint cans or flooring so you can patch or replace anything that may break or become tarnished, and restore a worn look to new.

More from U.S. News

Current Design Trends That Will Date Your Home

10 Unorthodox Ways Your Real Estate Agent May Market Your Home

10 Ways to Save Energy and Reduce Utility Bills at Home

8 Things to Keep in Mind as You Renovate Your Home originally appeared on usnews.com

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