We’re not all fortunate enough to buy a home that suits all our needs right off the bat. You may, for example, get stuck buying a starter home that’s smaller than you’d like. Or perhaps the layout doesn’t work well for your family. If that’s the case, you have a couple of options: You could sell your home and buy a new one, or renovate the space you already have.
The latter may be a better option today. Mortgage rates are sitting at record lows and housing inventory is so tight that you might struggle to find another home. The last thing you’ll want to do is settle once again. Here are a few things you can do to make your home more livable — even if you’re on a budget.
1. Add storage strategically
Piles of clutter can turn an otherwise charming home into a perpetual dumpster. If you’re running out of storage space, adding some could make your home life far more pleasant. You can build new closets, or add an organizing system to the ones you already have. Some companies sell prefabricated closet organizers that include drawers and shelving, while others build custom organizers at a higher cost. And if there’s no room to add closets, add shelving.
The great thing about shelving is that it’s super cheap. You can buy shelves for $15 to $40 apiece at a local hardware store and put them up yourself. Closet organizers are a different story. You can buy a prefabricated one for as little as $100 at the store, but for a custom quote, you might spend over $2,000, depending on the size of your closet. Meanwhile, installing a new closet costs an average of $1,200 to $3,000, according to HGTV. That might seem like a lot, but in reality, it’s a worthwhile investment in your sanity.
2. Knock down walls
Open floor plans don’t just make homes look roomy — they also make it easier for parents to keep tabs on young children. Imagine you’re prepping dinner in the kitchen and your toddler is playing on the other side of a wall in his playroom. Then you hear a crash. It’s not a good scenario. If you find yourself in that situation, consider knocking down some walls to open up your space. While you may want to bring in a contractor to do that work — and to check for structural implications — it’s not necessarily a super-complicated project.
How much might you spend? HomeAdvisor says it’ll cost between $300 and $1,000 to remove a non-load-bearing wall, or $1,200 to $3,000 for a load-bearing wall. That’s a lot less money than what a move might cost.
3. Finish part of your basement
If you’ve outgrown your living space, finding extra square footage could be a lifeline. And that’s why it pays to capitalize on underground space. If you have an unfinished basement, add walls and flooring to turn part of that space into an extra bedroom, office, or playroom.
Of course, the cost of doing so will vary depending on the work at hand. If your basement is already wired up, for example, it will cost you a lot less. If it’s not wired up, you’ll need to bring in an electrician. Your best bet is to get quotes from multiple contractors — or, if you’re handy, price out materials yourself and tackle the work solo. But keep in mind that you don’t have to finish the whole thing. Renovating a small part of your basement isn’t nearly as expensive as finishing an entire basement. This especially holds true if you aren’t adding a bathroom and the electrical work has already been done.
How to pay for your home improvements
Not everyone has the money in savings to pay for home renovations or improvements. If you’re not sure how to come up with the funding, you have some options.
First, you can look at borrowing against your home via a home equity loan or HELOC (home equity line of credit). Qualifying is pretty easy if you have equity in your home. If your home is worth more than you owe on your mortgage, you should get approved, even if your credit score isn’t stellar
Another option is to do a cash-out refinance on your mortgage and use the extra money to update your space. Since refinance rates are really low right now, it’s a move you may be considering anyway. Given the way home values have risen over the past year, you may find that you’re eligible to take a nice amount of cash out of your mortgage. To qualify for a competitive rate, though, you’ll need to have good credit. Otherwise, a refinance may not be worth it.
One thing you don’t want to do is pay for home improvements with your credit cards. You’re likely to rack up a pile of interest that way, and there’s the potential to damage your credit score by carrying too high a balance.
Either way, if you need to make changes to make your home more livable, it pays to explore your options for financing home improvements. A few projects could help you enjoy your space rather than resent it.
Chances are, interest rates won’t stay put at multi-decade lows for much longer. That’s why taking action today is crucial, whether you’re wanting to refinance and cut your mortgage payment or you’re ready to pull the trigger on a new home purchase.
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