Friday, 6 September 2019

Long days and warm weather mean more time for fun — and more time to tackle all those home projects that stacked up during the cold months.

It can be easy to just jump in with both feet. But a more thoughtful approach may help you actually finish these projects and complete your list.

Do you know which project you want to tackle first? What can you afford? Can you break it into smaller, more realistic tasks? And do you know which projects require a professional?

Owning a home is a big — and often expensive — responsibility and the volume of chores and projects that you want and need to do can be overwhelming. But making a list and devising a strategy to determine the most important items and what's needed to complete them can alleviate a lot of stress, according to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity.

"Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them," Allen says.

Organize your summer projects

First, start organizing your list by asking yourself if the task is a “must-do" or “want-to" project, with the must dos at the top. For example, replacing rotten boards on your deck or patio is necessary for safety reasons. However, expanding the patio to include an outdoor dining area and fireplace certainly falls into the “want" category.

Then continue to fine-tune your list by asking yourself these questions:

1. Is it an issue of safety? Obviously, safety is always your first concern. Projects that will make your home safer — like replacing batteries in smoke alarms or updating electrical wiring — move to the top of the list.

2. Is this task necessary to maintain the home? You want to protect your investment, so it's important to take steps to help your home age gracefully. Items in this category could include patching or replacing your roof, cleaning out gutters, replacing air and furnace filters, and fixing leaky faucets.

3. Will it boost your home value? Items like trimming tree limbs and improving landscaping, painting the interior or exterior of your home, and finishing an unfinished basement are projects that can make a difference if you plan to sell your home soon.

Big investments like renovating your kitchen or adding a guest bedroom will definitely impact your home value but require more time or money. To help you in your decision making, Remodeling Magazine has a handy region-by-region market analysis for 2018 of specific projects and the paybacks of each in terms of selling your home.

Paying for your home improvements

Once you reorganize your list, it's time to apply the hard filters: How long will it take? Who can do it? Can you afford it?

Assign a time investment and dollar value to each task. Then divide your list by items you can do and items that require a licensed professional.

It's almost always cheaper — and often more rewarding — to do home maintenance and improvement projects yourself. However, you should call in a professional when you have projects such as major electrical work, major plumbing work, significant roof repairs, and large tree trimming and removal.

While it's tempting to try to save money through DIY projects, keep in mind that there is always a risk that you could do more damage than good and end up with a significantly higher project price tag.

Once you settle on who will do the work, you need to have a plan for paying for these projects. Will you use a home equity line of credit or a personal loan? Will you rely on a credit card to cover some of it? Or do you have enough disposable income to absorb the costs as part of your budget?

Each option comes with pros and cons, so it makes sense to research them and consult a trusted financial consultant to determine what best suits your personal situation.

Once you have your final list and a plan for how you will pay for each item, put them on a calendar and start tackling them. The satisfaction of completing these tasks can help fuel the planning process for future projects.

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