How much does a home renovation cost? More than you'll plan to spend. Kidding. Sort of. The answer, of course, depends on how much work you do to the home, prices in your area, and how much of the work you do yourself (DIY) vs. hiring a contractor.
I can't give you a definitive answer on how much a home renovation costs, but I wanted to share my own experience: how much I paid when I renovated my first home in 2013, what all that money actually got me, and reveal what many first time buyers may not know when it comes to renovating a fixer upper.
It looks fun on TV. And sure, it is really fun, but it's also incredibly emotionally and financially stressful.
How much does it cost to do a home renovation?
Again, it depends on how much work you’re doing and if you’re shelling out for it all at once or doing improvement projects little-by-little. HomeAdvisor.com’s study on renovation costs puts the average cost of a multi-room renovation between $17,000 – $68,000. My own home renovation was in this range, but projects can run as low as $3,700 to almost $150k for high end work in pricey homes.
HouseBeautiful also has a resource section on how much renovations can cost by room!
What is the best way to pay for renovations?
Given that home renovations are such an expensive endeavor, many who do home improvements choose to pay for on credit or by taking out loans. Below are the most common ways to pay for home renovations.
Savings or paying in cash is the best way to pay for renovations because it doesn’t cost you any interest. Still, very few people have $20,000+ lying around for upgrades. As much as you can pay for renovations in cash, however, the better as this will keep you out of debt.
Here are a few things LendingHome recommends keeping in mind if you’re deciding on whether or not to use cash:
- Cash is typically best for smaller projects (think $2,000-$5,000 or less).
- It’s great for home improvement projects you’re thinking of tackling bit-by-bit that do not affect your ability to live in the home. For example, if you’re upgrading the trim in the bedroom but then discover a leak in your bathroom, it’s much more important to fix the leak and leave the trim incomplete for a little bit longer.
- Cash can also be used to fund part of a home improvement project while financing the rest. It’s also the most popular option among homeowners.
91% of homeowners in a 2017 Houzz study used cash for all or part of their home improvement projects.
Credit cards can work for home renovations, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The high interest rates, plus low credit limits make this a barely viable option. A credit card wouldn’t be able to fully pay for a $60,000 home renovation, for example.
Here's what else to consider when it comes to credit cards and home renovations:
- Only use a card to finance a home renovation if you feel confident you can repay the amount in the time required (typically 12-18 months).
- If you’re just looking to do a few small tweaks – flooring in the bathroom or new appliances – a credit card can cover it.
- After you’ve paid, try looking for balance transfer offers on other cards so you can at least get 0% APR on your home project after the fact.
If none of these offers are available, make a plan to pay off the debt.
Home Equity Loan/HELOC
This is one of the most popular options when it comes to paying for home renovations because HELOCs and Home Equity Loans come at much lower interest rates than credit cards or personal loans. This option is only available who have been in the home a significant amount of time and have more than 20% equity in the home.
Here’s a quick overview of the difference between the two.
A home equity loan is a second mortgage (loan) against your home. The money comes in one lump sum and you pay it back every month.
A home equity line of credit is an amount you can borrow against the equity in your home. It doesn’t come out as a lump sum, rather you can borrow amounts over a specified period of time (usually 10 years) and then pay it back over another term (the next 10-20 years after you take out the money.)
If a home equity loan is unavailable, a personal loan can serve to pay for home improvements. There are some major advantages to using a personal loan for home renovations, including:
- Faster than a HELOC or home equity loan with fewer fees
- These work for recent home buyers who have a home they’d like to improve but don’t want to wait 5-10 years to do it
- Your home isn’t on the line in the event you default
But the biggest disadvantage to using a personal loan is the interest rate. You’ll always get the lower interest rate on a home equity loan or HELOC.
It’s nice if your parents want to pitch in and help financially. If given the choice between using the home for a down payment on a home, or for renovations, choose the latter. When using cash to help finance a home purchase, the bank will want to see documentation for the money and this can be a hassle.
I also like to say that using gifts for home renovations instead of the actual purchase helps buyers get into a home they can actually afford.
What about a home renovation loan?
A home renovation loan, or a 203k renovation loan, is when the financial institution lets the borrower lump both the home purchase and home renovation money into the same loan. When I renovated my first home, I did it with a 203k renovation loan. You can read the full post on my experience here.
I would not have been able to renovate or buy a fixer upper without this option. It was nice to pay the money each month with my mortgage payment and it was nice to get the bulk of the renovations out of the way up front before I moved into the house. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the 203k loan.
I'll just say…my experience wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t amazing.
My own home renovation example + what I spent
Before we get started, the money I've spent on my little fixer upper is split into two categories. The first is how much I spent from the 203k renovation loan budget during the initial renovation phase (from August – November 2013), the second line (if there is one), is how much I spent in the five years I spent living in the home before I sold in September 2018.
When I first walked through my home during the inspection a few years ago, there were a lot of things that as a novice, I didn't think needed fixing.
When you live in a home everyday, especially when you start working there…it's really easy to get into the fixer upper mindset and keep making mental lists of everything that isn't just-so.
I've included all the expenses because (as with any investment) the money you spend impacts your investment's bottom line.
Home Renovation Costs – Let's Go Room by Room
- What I Spent: ~$25,000
- What I Got: All new plumbing, electrical, HVAC and hot water heater for the house. New drywall in places, and refinishing of the home's original hardwood floors. New light fixtures for the home (and a few I got for free through a sponsored partnership with Supply.com)
- Money Spent Since 2013: $1800 on a brand new set of stairs up to the attic.
- What I Spent: $7650
- What I Got: New landscaping to help with drainage, new front steps, and a new retaining wall.
- Money Spent Since 2013: $1200 on additional drainage work to front landscaping and to landscape the front with flowers when I attempted to sell the home with Redfin in 2015. , a cheap front door makeover that was only $15
- What I Spent: $14,061
- What I Got: New everything: appliances, sink, countertops, cabinets, and flooring.
- Money Spent Since 2013: $584.63 on one side of backsplash in the kitchen (after I decided to upgrade from the Smart Tiles, window treatments….and changing the paint color…. twice.
- What I Spent: $1,200.00
- What I Got: new shower tile and fixtures, new vanity and light fixture.
- Money Spent Since 2013: $1400 on new flooring, new drywall and linen closet, new hardware on the walls and upgrading the faucet fixture.
Office & Sunporch
- Money Spent since 2013: Both rooms just got the paint treatment. It cost me $250 to give the sunporch a makeover and ~$100 + two years of my life to finally get all of the office trim painted.
- What I Spent: $2500
- What I Got: New laminate flooring, paint and light fixtures upstairs.
- Money Since 2013: $1420.26 to convert former master closet back into a fourth bedroom, and to freshen up the bathroom (new mirror, light fixture, faucet, hardware and moving the attic access doors) when I was trying to sell the home. Otherwise, I haven't done much to this area, as I'm trying not to over build for the area.
Grand Total on All Renovations: The total for the 203k renovation was ~58,000 (which I wrote about in this post) + the $6,754.26 I've spent since 2013 makes me all in at $64,754.26.
So around $65,000 to renovate a home top to bottom. Yikes.
Total Spent vs. Total Earned
But has it been a good investment? I definitely think so. Let's check out the numbers below.
Since I bought the home I've earned:
- $40,000 in a state income tax credit (over three years) for rehabbing a historic property.
- $3,000 each year of loan forgiveness for living in the home as my primary residence. This is part of the down payment assistance program I leveraged to get into the home for just $1800.00.
- $16,410.77 from renting out bedrooms the last three years.
- I sold the home in September 2018 for a profit of $130k (Read about it that right here.)
For a total of $189,410.77 of money earned on the home, or $37,882.154 a year for my first five years of home ownership.
When I think about how I could've been renting this entire time instead of having my money make money, I know it was a good investment, despite all of the trouble it's been.