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How to's and money-saving tips from resident homeowner and mortgage professional, Cathy West

Plan before you start home improvement work

Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland may hold important insight for homeowners planning to start home improvement projects. In an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat, Alice asks for directions, but doesn't have a destination in mind. The cat responds, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."

If you want to do renovation or remodeling work on your home this summer, it will beneficial to have a clear idea of what you intend to achieve. While countless Americans will soon be getting out their tool belts, hiring contractors and visiting stores like Lowe's and IKEA, many of them have probably not given adequate consideration to the scope of work at hand. Experts, in their advice to homeowners, are always recommending thorough planning and budgeting prior to starting, so things go smoothly.

You don't want to get halfway there and realize you're going the wrong way
As a homeowner, whether you're in a long-standing residence or a new home, you may be thinking about renovating your kitchen and bathroom. Studies show that these are the two most popular projects among consumers. However, there are small projects and big projects. Fixing leaky faucets, replacing fixtures and painting will not require significant planning and budgeting. Replacing all the appliances in the kitchen, or completely re-tiling the bathroom, on the other hand, will entail a lot of work. You don't want to find yourself in the position where you have started work, possibly demolished and sectioned off parts of the home, and then realize that you do not have the resources to complete the job. Planning will be helpful to you, regardless of your reasons for renovating. Home improvement is not just for beauty, raising property value is another factor that motivates many consumers to do the work. 

If you are doing a DIY project, it may be for cost-saving reasons. As such, finding out that you can't complete the task on your own will necessitate hiring a contractor. All things considered, chances are if this is the case, it would have been cheaper to hire a contractor from the beginning. This is why smart homeowners plan their projects.

Similarly, if you hired a contractor, you don't want to have him or her manage several home improvement projects at your place simultaneously – because the costs can add up. It is better to decide exactly what you want and get a price quote for each specific job. In this way, you can avoid doing home improvements on an ad-hoc basis and then receive a bill at the end that you are unable or unwilling to pay. 

Know where you are going and you won't find yourself in a  bad place
In Alice's case, she did not know where she was going, so any road would have worked. The same is true for you, but you must consider the roads. One road may be inexpensive and time-saving, while the other could turn out to be treacherous, dangerous and a time-suck. Your planned project does not have to be huge. Express & Star shared five easy tips to improve your home's curb appeal and they do not involve significant investment. 

Ultimately, it is advisable that you write out what you want accomplished, the materials you think you will need, or persons you will have to hire and the amount you wish to pay for the work. Perhaps, you will have to compromise, but tackling small goals is a lot better than committing to large projects that you don't finish until the following summer. There is a wealth of information online to help you gain an understanding of costs and projects – so make a plan that is as comprehensive as possible.

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