Remodeling: Lesson Learned

Remodeling. Does this word terrify you or excite you?  Remodeling your house is the second most difficult thing next to planning a wedding, so I’m told.  And while I don’t offer help with wedding planning, I certainly can help with the remodeling process.   I’ve enjoyed every opportunity to help my clients transform their home into their dream.  I’ve completed many remodels for my own properties, but until now there is one remodel I hadn’t completed: my personal home remodel.  After our wedding last October, Melissa and I started our journey through remodeling our family home.  My experience helped as a solid base for how to tackle our upcoming project, but through our remodeling journey I learned a number of things I wanted to share with you.

Fortunately I have created a network of tradesmen I trust and respect, which was key to our project success.  By utilizing the same contractors and tradesmen I’ve referred to my clients over the years, we have successfully completed our home remodel and planning to move home at the end of March.  As when I am assisting clients with remodels, we picked our tradesmen based on their specific talents, price points, quality, etc.  Not only did Melissa and I learn more about each other through our remodeling process, but I also came across some valuable tips for my clients’ future remodels.

First and foremost, I can hardly quantify the number of hours and money saved by using the online resources of and  These websites offered us the ability to view unlimited house projects and styles in order to determine what we each wanted in our home.  Instead of visiting tons of showrooms and dealing with costly interior decorators, we were able to pick paint colors, flooring, lighting, layouts, and so much more.  By no means am I suggesting these websites don’t take time.

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Melissa spent countless hours searching pictures, creating Ideabooks, and researching specific products.  We then discussed the many options to pinpoint our taste, style and how we envisioned our home.  By focusing our energy on these sites the time spent in showrooms was minimal.  With the many projects I’ve completed over the years it was so much more enjoyable to pick out products in the comfort of our home than traveling around the bay looking at showroom after showroom.

Top Tips for Remodeling

Decide if you are a Remodeler: First things first, you need to fully understand the scope of your project and what you’re getting ready to tackle.  I have advised clients over the years to remodel, rebuild, or just upgrade to a turnkey home.  My advice depends on many variables, mainly my client’s family dynamic (i.e. time flexibility, desire, budget).  Not everyone is right to remodel.  It can be a difficult task if you dislike making specific decisions or just have no time to focus on the daily details of your project.  In that case it is often better to consider a home that is ready to go.  In these situations I’d suggest working with your family to buy a finished home and sell your existing home concurrently.

If you are considering which direction to take I’d suggest meeting with you and reviewing your purchasing power of buying a finished home verse the cost and process of remodeling.

Have a plan: Time to decide how big you want to go.  Is it a simple kitchen remodel or a larger-scale project?  Hire the right professionals to detail the plan up front, so you don’t have surprises half way through the remodel.

Start by meeting with a quality designer or architect to discuss the scope of work.  I am also happy to discuss your scope and give my feedback.

Set a budget: One of the easiest items to get away from you is the cost.  It is crucial to set a budget up front and discuss what you are willing to compromise.  Maybe the compromise will be less expensive cabinets, or different window manufacturer, or maybe it will be a higher budget to get everything you want.  “The best way to keep on budget is to treat your home remodel like a spec project.”  Words of wisdom from a friend that has been building homes for over 30 years.  It is easy to always buy the higher end faucet, or the nicer cabinets, but if it is important to stay on budget you need to set solid numbers and stick with them as if your house was being remodeled to sell.

There are several ways to determine your budget: talking to friends that have recently completed a similar remodel, talk to your architect or local general contractor for average costs in the neighborhood or internet research.  Understanding the quality level you expect from your project will often help guide the budget figure.

Pick out finishing products early: I have seen project after project where the finishing details are picked out at the last minute in a very short amount of time.  These are the items that you will see every day: countertops, flooring, faucets, paint colors, light fixtures.  These important items should be determined early in the project timeline while you are still fresh and excited about picking out hundreds of details.  Towards the end of the project you’ll be focusing on one thing – getting back into your home.  This is where the “I don’t care” syndrome kicks in and you pick a color you may not like, or buy the faucet that is available because the one you want is a two-week back order.  By planning your finishing materials early it will save you hours of stressful shopping in the 11th hour of your project.

Take advantage of the home before the remodel by painting your wall colors in different parts of the house and put the winning color scheme in your house product spreadsheet.  Look for open houses that have similar home styles and research those products. Order your products early and have them held at the stores until you’re ready to take possession so they don’t have it backordered when you need them.

suzanne sarto