5 costly home renovation mistakes to avoid

A glass of wine. Your comfy couch. Hours binge-watching your favorite home renovation show.

Sounds like a dream night at home. There’s just something nice about watching wholesome, young couples transform houses with interiors so dated the ‘70s wouldn’t even take them back.

Here’s the thing, though. What all those popular home reno programs don’t always show is what happens between the before and after photos. Because the truth is, renovating a home is more than just couples arguing over wallpaper or flirting on camera.

That dream project can be a nightmare in reality. By the time you realize just how hard it is, you don’t want to be in the middle and pushed to quitting. Nobody wants to live with a massive hole in their kitchen.

Tedious, time-consuming and terribly complicated. Home renovations can be all of these things – and very expensive if you’re not careful.

So, before you start tearing a house down (and eventually, your hair out in frustration) take note of these common home renovation mistakes to avoid.

1) Taking your contractor’s word at face value

Everybody loves hearing only what they like to hear. That’s great when you’re asking for your spouse’s opinion on an outfit, but when you’re getting a pitch from a contractor? Ehhh, not so much.

“You want your remodeling project to be done within this time frame? No problem. You want this specific style using this specific material? We’ll make it happen.”

So, here’s our advice: Always take the time to reach out and get quotes from several potential contractors.

It’s best to start your search by following referrals. Gauge their competence, diligence and reliability based on first-hand experiences from people you trust. Word-of-mouth is powerful for a reason.

If you’re going into this cold, no worries. You can safeguard yourself here, too. Be sure to go online and check out a contractor’s published reviews or check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.

Your homework isn’t done yet. Once you narrow your options down to two or three contractors, ask them for a detailed quote. Then, analyze all the info you’ve gathered before committing.

Making an informed decision is smart for you – and your wallet. Your research will all be worth it.

2) Not setting a realistic budget

Do you have the taste for an open-concept kitchen bathed in natural light with copper fixtures and Italian marble countertops but a “laminate counters and chrome fixtures” budget?

It’s important to realistically manage your expectations and know what you can and – more importantly – can’t afford.

Remember: You’ll probably rack up unforeseen expenses as the project progresses, too. From cost of materials changing to weather issues, there’s a number of reasons why renovations go from awesomely affordable to punch-in-the-gut pricy.

Graph showing common reasons for cost overruns in construction projects.

Common reasons for cost overruns in construction projects.

When it comes to budgeting, don’t be your own worst enemy. Setting one that is way and above your means is utterly catastrophic – inevitably leading to the dreaded F word in construction: failure.

Your best bet is to not only set a realistic budget but track it as your project progresses. A good way to do this is choosing a contractor who uses construction project management software. This tool will help give your contractor a clear picture and save you big bucks.

3) Not prioritizing permits

You’ve seen the couples on these home reno shows effortlessly flip countless homes on shoestring budgets and need-it-done-yesterday deadlines. But you know what you’ve never seen them do? Paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork.

Yep – for every fence torn down on HGTV and every bathroom overhauled on TLC, what the network doesn’t show you is the tedious and time-consuming process of filing the necessary paperwork to start the renovation.

Unfortunately, permits are a necessary part of the whole process. Failure to get them can stall your project or even shut it down.

Needless to say, this can cost you BIG, both in fines and for any rework. Studies even show rework can add up to 10% to the total project cost. This is just one more reason to find the right contractor – they know all the right permits to protect your bottom line.

4) Not considering median home price levels

Home renovations always boost the value of a home. It’s a fact, right? Well, not always.

A home’s real value is limited to the median home price value of the neighborhood it’s located in. This means, even if you invest in a major renovation, there’s no guarantee you can recoup the money you put in.

Is all hope lost then? Are you confined to value of your neighborhood? It is just doom and gloom? Absolutely not!

There’s an easy way to make sure you don’t put more money into a project than you need to. It’s as simple as researching the neighborhood’s median home price levels. This should help you assess how much to use for renovations to ensure you recoup your investment.

When done right, renovations are an investment you can bank on.

5) Not investing in the right home renovations

It’s important to keep in mind that what seems like a good idea to you might not be so attractive to homebuyers.

A temperature-controlled wine cellar with built-in storage? Sounds like the best idea EVER. Well, to some buyers, they’ll only see it as an unnecessary expense. And wine should never scare people away. Never.

Take note as well that buyers love upgrades they can see. The best investments? Adding granite countertops, creating a patio, refreshing the landscaping or retiling bathrooms. This all excites and delights.

Investing in your home’s electrical system, adding insulation or redoing the plumping are great, but don’t expect buyers to value these renovations as much.

Sometimes surface-level beauty really does pay off.

Technology can help

Just as tech (all hail the modern marvel that is reality television!) helped blow up the renovation industry, tech can go a long way to ensure efficient planning and budgeting for your project. Specialized construction software helps with everything from estimating costs to scheduling to increasing transparency.

Here’s where Buildertrend can help. As a consumer, you should double-check to ensure your renovation contactors are using cutting-edge software like ours to avoid these costly mistakes and more. And if you’re a contractor who is either just getting into the renovation game or is a seasoned pro, reach out to us and we’ll be happy to explain how we can make your projects easier.

With less time spent fixing oopsies on that bathroom and kitchen flip, you’ll have more nights free to grab that bottle of Vino, cozy up and get back to binge-watching your favorite renovation all stars. Cheers to that!

Return to top