Picture of recently remodeled bathroom in Charlotte, NCMaybe it happens when you open the pantry door and three cereal boxes and a stack of Tupperware that had been carefully wedged in the small space fall at your feet. Or perhaps it happens when you’re late for work yet again, because you can’t get to the shoes in your closet, which is located on the other side of a locked master bathroom door. Regardless of the source of your frustration, you know that it’s time that you did SOMETHING to make your house more functional, beautiful, hospitable … more your home.

Yet when you’re considering a possible renovation, where do you even begin? When we meet with potential clients, we often see them make two different mistakes that we want you to avoid – not knowing what they want and not knowing what they want to spend. Here’s how to begin your project the right way, so you won’t fall into either camp.

First, take the time to make a list of your concerns. Simple statements like: “I hate my kitchen. My master bathroom is ugly.” are fine at this point. Just jot them down and then prioritize them. By doing so, you’ll naturally begin to define the scope of your project. Also, think about what isn’t working for you now. Don’t fret about how to design or construct it at this stage, just think about what you would really like to change or add. A professional, experienced remodeler will know exactly how to achieve the end results you want and will guide you through the process.

Next, give some thought to how much you really want to invest in your home. Since they don’t do this every day, most homeowners don’t have a solid grasp of what a renovation actually costs, but that’s also okay at this point. Initially, your main concern should be with what you want to invest. Consider your home’s value and the market value of other homes in the area. Bear in mind that we are living in unprecedented real estate times, so if a Realtor says your home is only worth $X per square foot, look at the history of the area and realize that value could escalate again in the future. Then take into account intangibles like how long you plan to stay in your home – is it one year, five years, ten years, or are you never planning to move. If you’re considering moving, ask yourself whether you like your current home’s location, the schools your children attend, the neighborhood, its level of convenience, etc. Ask whether you really need a larger house or just one that better fits your lifestyle. (Read our 10 Reasons to Renovate Instead of Moving blog article to learn more.)

Going through this process will help you crystallize your thinking. You may decide that you need a new home, which is great and you’ll have made a well-informed decision. But you may discover that to fall in love with your home all over again, you just need to update a kitchen or bath, remove a wall to better utilize existing space or add more room to entertain.

If that’s the case, then it’s time to talk to a qualified, professional remodeler who has substantial experience dealing with the type of projects you’re considering. Being honest with your contractor about your hopes and budget is critical, because at this point you will begin to officially define the project’s scope and determine whether it is realistic within the confines of your budget. Don’t lose heart if the initial proposal comes in over budget, because if you have clearly prioritized, a qualified, professional remodeler can find practical ways to phase in the project over time as your budget allows.