Controlling Spending Frenzies on the Home

From on February 03, 2009 in General Remodel

MoneyCommon sense and self-reliance (also known as Do-It-Yourself) are main themes on the rise with the homeowners I talked to about current best practices for controlling spending on home improvements.

Finding a Common Sense Solution

One couple in the midst of a total overhaul of their home and grounds in the Santa Cruz mountains have learned to ask themselves, “What’s the common sense solution here?” before allocating further resources in their ongoing project. They began the massive undertaking of renovating their 3-acre property a couple of years ago. At the beginning of the project, they felt confident that they had sufficient resources to embark on building a new home, renovating the existing home as an art studio and spa, and completely redesigning the landscaping on the mountainside property.

As the first year progressed, the couple had many eye-opening experiences regarding the combined costs of architectural services, materials, construction and labor management fees, and the time required to complete the various stages of the different projects.

By the end of the second year, after seeing how quickly their resources were being used in comparison to the completion schedule they’d begun with, the couple realized they had to start asking some hard questions and modifying their original dreams and deadlines in order to stay within their financial parameters. These parameters, not surprisingly, have been tightened due to the current economic situation.

Originally feeling unfettered by constraints, they have learned that a deeper analysis of cost, time, and energy is now required before starting new aspects of the projects in progress. “I don’t know why it took us so long to get common-sensical about all this,” said the wife. “But now we are, and it’s a great way to make decisions. We start with the question, ‘What’s the common sense approach, right here and now?’ and our answers and decisions unfold easily after that.”

Self-Reliance – Doing It Yourself

Another couple decided to tear down their back deck and build a new one. They hired a decking expert to oversee and handle parts of the project. The husband consulted the deck expert and together they created a plan for the project. Plan in hand, the husband decided which aspects of the project he could do himself, and where he needed to step aside and let the expert step in. The deck builder was in agreement with this team approach, and was available to consult throughout the project.

This combination of teamwork, the homeowner’s determination, and the deck builder’s skill has resulted in a structurally sound deck that is enhanced with the husband’s DIY resourcefulness and handiwork in areas where he felt his contributions would be both safe and effective.

The DIY aspects included most of the tear down and supervision of removal of the old deck materials, ordering new materials, and assisting the deck expert during the phase of building the new deck that required his greater professional skill and know-how. Then, once the new deck and staircases were built, the husband took over once again, with the staining and addition of railings and trim work.

“This was an efficient compromise, spending-wise,” he said. “We were able to keep to our budget, and in the process I’ve learned a lot and stayed in shape.”

Although there are lots of ways to control spending before it gets into the frenzy stage, these two approaches – applying common sense and doing as much as you can yourself – are excellent touchstones for many homeowners.