How to Improve Your Home on a Budget

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Home Improvements on the Cheap

By: Jenny Zhang

For most of us who are first-time home buyers, home improvement isn’t something with which we have experience – nor do we have thousands of dollars to spend on construction crews to improve our homes. Chances are your first home isn’t perfect and you’ll likely want to make a few changes to suit your needs. So how can you do home improvement for cheap? Where do you even begin? And what improvements will help you get the biggest return on investment?

For all those answers and more, here are some simple (albeit somewhat labor intensive) solutions to some of your first-time home owner questions:

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Keep up with the Joneses

The first thing to keep in mind when you do renovations is to make sure your improvements are appropriate for the neighborhood in which you live. If the neighbors don’t have in-ground pools, Jacuzzis and built-in saunas, then chances are you won’t get the return on investment for adding those to your home either. This same theory applies to the type of countertops, appliances and building materials you use.

Once you decide which rooms you want to renovate, the key is to find building materials that match the pricing for the neighborhood. After all, you don’t want your home to look too cheap or too expensive compared to the rest of the block. For actual renovations, my personal experience is that you don’t necessarily need to hire everything out. For home improvements that have room for mistakes, like ones that don’t entail messing with the gas lines, you can do it yourself relatively easily. All you need is Internet at the house and a basic understanding of how to Google for the rest.

Learn How to DIY

Not what you expected? Or maybe this sounds unhelpful? Truthfully, you really can learn nearly everything from watching instructional YouTube videos, and reading blogs and construction websites on how to do home improvement. I speak from experience. The first few steps may seem unnerving, but soon you’ll feel more comfortable with tearing apart cabinetry, installing new fixtures and removing walls.

Start Small

Begin with small, safe projects like painting or refinishing your floors. Then eventually when you feel more confident, research what you want to do thoroughly and go for it. The truth is you can save thousands of dollars by doing the work yourself. And being a homeowner often entails quite a bit of maintenance anyway, so learning along the way doesn’t hurt.

While construction can seem difficult for those who have never done this type of work, a majority of it doesn’t really require skill as much as the ability to lift heavy building materials. Double check all of your measurements before cutting into something and home improvement will only get easier as time goes on.

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This article was originally featured on Quicken Loans Mortgage News, where personal finance writer, Jenny Zhang, specializes in writing about home buying, refinancing and money saving tips.

  • hausdok

    Another point is ALWAYS ALWAYS shop out for your supplies. Different places will have price differences. Some quite significant. There are stores that will also do price-beating just for business. Watch the ads and work the stores for your benefit. Jobsite scraps are also a good thing. Ask before you grab, you can get repair stuff like drywall scraps and wood from them. I did a complete kitchen remodel for under $300.
    I shopped insulation, tile and countertop and used leftover drywall and plywood.

  • rachel

    Construction doesn’t require skill??? That is without a doubt the most derogatory thing I have ever read! Do you think anyone could just go out and join a framing crew and be could at it? A true carpenter is a skilled artisian with generally years of experience. That is construction, not some homeowner who put a book shelf together or made a small sheetrock patch.