My fiancé and I just purchased a home together. We want to live off campus and get a head start on home ownership before we graduate college. We love the house, but it’s a major fixer-upper. Do the experts have any tips for renovating an old home?

Congratulations on your home! Fixing up a home can be a lot of work, but when all of the work is done, you can take pride in knowing that you put your blood, sweat and tears into it. 

Before you even start working on anything aesthetically, have someone come out and inspect the home’s existing systems and structures, including:

  • Electrical system
  • Plumbing system
  • Roofing
  • Windows

Old homes often have very old plumbing systems, so you may need to have it replaced. You may have already checked out these systems before you purchased the home, but if not, you’ll want to have them inspected before you start adding new paint or wallpaper.

Next, I would sit down and make a list of all of the things the house really needs, and order the list by priority. Have a plan for your renovation projects – and for your expenses. 

If there are any major issues with the home systems, these should be a top priority because they can lead to health and safety issues if they’re not addressed in a timely manner. 

Inspect the home’s appliances. Are they in good working condition, or are they on the fritz? Appliances should also be at the top of your priority list. After all, you need them for everyday living. If you’re on a tight budget, prioritize which appliances need to be replaced immediately, and look for sales. Appliance centers like Coast Appliances run sales several times throughout the year, and these are great times to shop for replacements.

When working on a new home, you may want to think about “restoration” instead of “replacement.” Restoring an old home’s features – the features that give it character – will save you money and frustration. For example, you may have a hard time finding a new door that fits in an old space. 

Sometimes, simple cosmetic changes can make a world of difference, so think about how you can work with what you already have and make it better. A fresh coat of new paint on old cabinets can completely transform the entire look and feel of the kitchen.

If you plan to make any major renovations, you may want to focus on projects that will add long-term value to the home. A few renovations that may add value to your home include:

  • Replacing carpeting with hardwood flooring
  • Resurfacing cabinets for a more modern look
  • Installing new appliances

To get an idea of which features may increase the value of your home, look at comparable listings in your area.

If you’re on a tight budget, try to go the DIY route whenever you can and look for recycled materials. Habitat for Humanity has a ReStore that sells excess building materials at a lower price.

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