Sweat equity is great in the concept stage, but a lot of first time home buyers can easily get overwhelmed with projects. Now if you throw in kids and full time jobs to the mix, you’ve got the perfect disaster waiting to happen. I can attest to the difficulty of trying to juggle two children while tearing out a kitchen floor. Not having a stove at the ready was difficult and we ate out a lot. We also updated the laundry room (it is next to our kitchen) so we didn’t have laundry on site for a family of 4 either. It sure was a lot easier to get projects done before the kids were born. Never underestimate the amount of dust and dirt a project will entail. You’ll be cleaning and re-cleaning surfaces for a month after a project, whether you hire it out or do it yourself. And don’t start a big project unless you’ve got childcare with a backup plan because trust me, it will take much longer than you plan on. Kids don’t stick to schedules.
1-Demolition. Tearing out old stuff is a lot of fun and if you can get a Bagster (thebagster.com) in your area, it can be a cheap way to save a few bucks. Be wary of plumbing, gas lines and electrical conduit when ripping out drywall. If your home is older than 1978, you might have lead paint to contend with also. Homes older than that may also have asbestos, so leave that to the pro’s.
2-Paint/stain. This is a biggie for me because you can do it when the kids are sleeping, it can totally change a room and it’s cheap. A lot of older homes have wood grain style trim that can easily take a coat of white to update it instantly to this decade.
3-Lighting. Updating ancient lights with new fixtures can not only improve your home, but also your electric bill when you add power-sipper LED’s, CFL or Halogens.
4-Yardwork/landscaping. This is a big expense at our house because we have nearly an acre of land, therefore our landscaping and re-mulching every year really adds up. We’ve put in brick edgers to reduce the amount of weed trimming, added berms with low maintenance decorative plants and perennials and we buy our mulch in 15 cubic yards increments to get the biggest bulk discount. The amount of sheer muscle it takes to rake up the old mulch, then load, dump and spread the fresh mulch is the sweaty part. But the yearly savings adds up for us and we get a workout at the same time.
5-Door handles. This is a crazy simple idea, but as a Realtor, I find that a shiny new hardware on a front door is eye catching and a simple fix that people often don’t recognize. A front door entrance is the next biggest chance to make a statement that a homeowner gets to make, right after beautiful curb appeal. Why not update your door handles with something like brushed nickel or bronze that enhances your entry way? A freshly painted door also gives a home a neat, clean feeling.
Don’t forget to talk to a local Realtor before you head out to look for your next home!