Renovation Solutions: 4 tips to successfully navigate the first phase of remodeling

Published: Friday, Feb. 7 2014 4:53 p.m. MST

Before: When you are planning a remodel, look at your house as if you were a prospective buyer. Try to see the pros and cons of your house as if you were going to buy your house again today.

Trina Knudsen

Most people spend years dreaming before they actually make a move to start the process of remodeling their home. However, all that wishing and hoping will actually help in the first phase of remodeling, which is called programming. This is where you determine what needs to be done to give you the house of your dreams — or at least a home that functions well for your situation and adds a little peace and happiness to your life every day.

In this phase, we can begin with the dream but need to move beyond that to create goals based in reality. Reality consists of the constraints of an actual budget, your current and future family circumstances, and any immediate needs that may be pertinent.

Determining what actually needs to be done takes some effort and analysis. You need to determine what is working about your house and what isn’t, as well as what you like and what you don’t.

Remember, remodeling should impact your life for the better, not just your house. If you spend $100,000 on a new addition and you still hate the rest of your house, then what was the point? You may have been able to better use that money to remodel a different area in a different way to make your whole house more useable and more functional on a daily basis.

Here are three tips to successfully execute the programming phase.

See your house with different eyes

Really looking at your house objectively and analyzing how it functions for your family is one of the hardest parts of programming. Usually one of two things happens. Sometimes a homeowner misses the problems in the house because they are so used to living with them. They don’t see how bad it is because, frankly, they simply don’t notice the issues anymore. They don’t see the problems that an outsider would identify.

The other option is when the homeowner is so sick of the house that they can no longer see the good qualities and potential the home possesses. They are fed up with everything! They just want to tear the whole thing down and start over when that may not be necessary. It is important to see your house for what it is and how it truly works for you.

Be honest

It is important to be honest. We often make excuses for the shortcomings of our houses. We factor in vague future plans and good intentions so we excuse them. However, to accurately determine what needs to be done, you need to be honest with yourself about your house.

Try this experiment. Imagine you are a visitor pulling up to your house. What do you see? What do you notice? Don’t let yourself make excuses for yourself. Just see it. Notice what needs to be fixed or changed. Notice what is outdated or lacking. Give yourself a tour of the house. Honestly walk through as if you were a prospective buyer. Would it fit your family’s needs? What is it lacking? What are the deal breakers that would stop you from making an offer on your own house if you could buy it again today? Looking at your house in this way will help you know what you need and what needs to be done in a remodel.

Dream a little

In the programming phase you can let yourself dream a little. Determine what needs to be done, but also consider what you want. Now is the time to put down your wishes for your house. If something doesn’t get out on the table, it will never make it into the plan at all.

When it comes to the design, an architect should present several alternative plans for you to choose from in the beginning. There is nothing wrong with making one of those plans be the dream of all dream plans. While the reality of a budget usually stifles the dream to some extent, a good architect has a way of adapting the dream to a reality with an affordable price tag.

Crunch some numbers

First, determine the current value of your home. If you were to put it on the market today as is, what could you expect it to sell for? A conversation with a realtor familiar with your area will at least give you a price range to plug into your financial equation.

Second, determine what amount of money you are willing to invest in your home. This may not be the same number as the equity you are estimating from your real estate research. You may want to hold on to some of that for other financial goals (college funds, travel, etc.), or you may decide to spend more if that meets your personal and family needs. Figure out what you want to spend on your remodeling project.

Third, if you are going to finance all or part of the project, find out what your borrowing power is. Talk to a banker or mortgage company to see what you can realistically count on for your remodeling project.

Dreaming alone will not get anything done, but bring your dreams along with an honest assessment of your home and financial information pertinent to your circumstances to a residential architect and this may be the year you change your home and your life.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the Principal Architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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