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Looking Ahead: Home Improvement Ideas for the New Year

Get a jump on your home improvement ideas for 2014 by reading below

Within weeks you’ll be celebrating Christmas, then the new year — yet another year that seems to have flown by. Perhaps there are a few personal projects that were left undone, including some things you wanted to get done around the house. Or, maybe there are certain projects you hadn’t considered before and are in the mood to look at now.

Before you get started, you need to weigh, plan and prioritize what is important to you. With a plan in mind you may find yourself living in a nicely renovated home by the next holiday season.

CONSIDER YOUR HOME

Took a good look at your home. Do you like it? Are you planning to stay in it for several years? If the answer to both questions is yes, then you are ready to make some changes to enhance your abode.

Conduct a room-by-room inspection of your home to consider what projects you would like to have done. Don’t worry about cost right now — put everything on your wish list including small projects such as adding chair rails to the dining room to big projects such as finishing the basement or raising the roof. Review your list and place each item by priority from must fix now to dream job.

GET INSPIRED

You may know what you want, but you simply cannot envision what the project would look like. Well, thanks to various home decor shows you can get some ideas. Moreover, reviewing copies of home decor and renovation magazines can help your cause.

When you find something you like, tape the show or bookmark the magazine. You’ll want to share these ideas with a home decorator who can take an idea and make it your own.

CREATE A BUDGET

With plans moving around in your mind, you may wonder what you can afford to tackle in the months ahead. This is a good time to review your finances including cash on hand, savings, and discretionary income.

If you are considering a larger project and are open to tapping your home’s equity, contact your banker to learn your options. You have two options here: a home equity loan (HEL) or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Both offer benefits including tax deductions. You might also consider a personal loan. Discuss your options with your tax adviser too.

SEEK ADVICE

Before you pursue your plans, seek advice from experts on how to move forward. You may have a good or even an excellent idea for what you want, but outside input can help you crystallize your plans and put a cost on it.

The experts you speak to can range from an interior decorator to an architect to other professionals. A seasoned pro can work with your budget, manage your expectations and help you reach your design goals.

PLAN YOUR PROJECT

If your renovation or home improvement project is a simple one, you won’t need permits or licenses to do the job. Once you make any changes to the structure including plumbing and wiring, then permits will be needed.

You will also have to present your building plans to your town’s planning board before you can begin a major project. This means hiring an architect, developing blueprints, submitting your plan before the planning board and receiving feedback. It can take two to three months before your plans are approved. And only then will you be allowed to obtain the required permits to begin the job.

GETTING STARTED

With your plans approved and cash at the ready, you are ready to begin your project. Keep in mind a few important points as you move forward with your project:

1. Get references. As you interview various professionals, ask for references. Then call these people. If there was a problem with a contractor, previous customers are more apt to share their criticisms as well as their praises.

2. Pay your contractor in increments. Never pay the entire project up front and hold back 10 percent of the cost until after the job has been completed and you are satisfied with the results.

With the job done, you are now ready to enjoy your new home. It may have increased in value too, a bonus that can be most welcome if you choose to sell.

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