How to Renovate Your Whole House When You’re on a Budget

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

renovate your house on a budget

When Lauren Hamilton and her husband bought their house in 2014, they were excited to find the kitchen and bathrooms had recently been updated.

But other details were more than 20 years old, so Hamilton looked for budget-friendly ways to make upgrades. By thinking creatively and taking a “do-it-yourself” (DIY) approach, Hamilton made small changes that had a big impact.

I spoke with the lifestyle blogger behind Modwife.co about her tips for renovating on the cheap. Plus, Lucas Machado, president of real estate company House Heroes, weighs in with his best advice on home improvement projects.

Here’s the unique advice Hamilton and Machado have for renovating your home on a budget.

Small cosmetic changes can go a long way

Hamilton and her husband didn’t have the budget for a total house makeover. So Hamilton looked for small changes that would make the space prettier and more modern.

“We chose home upgrades that would be inexpensive, yet have a big impact,” Hamilton said. “Some of the original details aged the place … and we wanted to do updates that would make the space feel newer.”

She started by replacing the doors in her home. This fix was the most expensive, with a total price tag of about $450. But they were able to save money by installing the doors themselves rather than hiring a contractor.

When it came to updating the hinges and doorknobs, Hamilton didn’t buy new. Instead, she and her husband spray-painted the original doorknobs oil-rubbed bronze.

This clever trick gave her doors a makeover, and the spray paint cost only $6. She used a similar trick on outdated oak kitchen cabinets, opting to paint them white rather than replace them altogether.

“It made an enormous difference in terms of brightening and renewing the space,” she said. “A couple paint cans later, our kitchen cabinet update only cost about $40.”

Once she saw what a difference paint made in her kitchen, Hamilton’s next step was to repaint each room in her house.

“You’d be surprised what modern wall colors can do for a home,” Hamilton said.

Although they spent a good amount of time making these updates, Hamilton and her husband didn’t spend much money.

Overall, replacing the doors (about $450), repainting the walls and kitchen cabinets (about $400 for paint and materials), and doing outdoor landscaping (about $300) set them back about $1,150.

“Our cheap reno came down to three elements: only replacing things that couldn’t be cosmetically upgraded, using new paint to make original pieces feel modern, and making what was already there prettier,” she said.

renovate home

Image credit: Lauren Hamilton

Invest in home fixes with long-term value

Hamilton focused on cosmetic upgrades that would turn her living space into her dream home. Not only does she love the results, but the modern look might impress future homebuyers, should she ever decide to sell her house.

Machado, who regularly renovates homes and resells them to new buyers, said increasing the value of your home should be a key goal of any renovation project.

“When renovating on a budget, you need to know where to spend your cash to have maximum return,” said Machado. “The goal is to spend on renovations that have a return on investment.”

One way to figure out which projects have a high return on investment (ROI) is to research comparable listings.

“Determine the differences in sale prices between houses with and without upgrades you are considering and then get quotes for making those repairs,” suggested Machado. “It’s easy at that point to tell if it’s worth it to spend your budget on the repairs.”

But Machado said there are two upgrades that are almost always worth the expenditure.

First, he said modern homebuyers don’t like carpeting.

“Laying down a shiny new wood floor across easily pays for itself several times over,” advised Machado.

Second, he says resurfacing old floors, cabinets, and appliances can go a long way.

You could apply wood veneer over old cabinets, for instance, to make them look as if they’re made of solid wood all the way through. This project could cost at least $2,500, according to HouseLogic, and more if you go with high-quality veneer.

Compared to the $15,000 or more you could pay for new cabinets, though, resurfacing is a lot more cost-effective.

According to Machado, the final result is worth the effort. “Resurfacing adds considerable market value — without breaking the bank,” he said.

If you’re considering whether a home renovation project is worth the cost, consider its long-term ROI. Even though you’ll be spending money today, you could make it back when you sell in the future. And in the meantime, you’ll get to enjoy a more beautiful home.

Be strategic about saving money on home upgrades

When it comes to saving money on home renovations, there are a few tried-and-true techniques.

  1. Take a DIY approach where you can. That doesn’t mean you should wire electricity if that’s not in your skill set. But if you can do certain construction projects on your own, it could cost less than hiring a contractor.
  2. Use creative approaches to make your space more beautiful. You could follow Hamilton’s lead, for instance, and use spray paint to beautify doorknobs rather than paying for new replacements.
  3. Look for recycled materials. Habitat for Humanity ReStore, for instance, sells surplus building materials donated by contractors, as well as gently used furniture and appliances.
  4. Check the ROI of your home renovation projects. Consider whether the expenditure is worth it, particularly if it increases the value of your home.
  5. Plan for home improvement expenses. Save up money so you can pay for some projects out of pocket. If you’re undertaking a big renovation, a second option is to cover costs with a personal loan. Lenders such as Upstart and SoFi, for example, offer personal loans for home improvement projects. Make sure you understand the interest rates and repayment terms, so you’re not taking on debt that could become burdensome.

As long as you’re strategic about your renovation and how you’ll pay for it, your efforts could pay off in a major way. Hopefully, you will end up with a more beautiful home that increases in value thanks to your smart upgrades.

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1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 5.950% APR to 14.740% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.825% APR to 14.365% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of May 18, 2018, and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.825% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.90% plus 4.175% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.99% – 16.24% (4.99% – 16.24% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

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Upgrade Bank Disclosures


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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.