In today’s world of scaled-back socializing and home-focused entertaining, lots of people are getting the bug to spruce up their spaces with home renovations. But whether you’re looking at full-on remodeling or just upgrading a room or two, there are challenges to consider. Is a contractor necessary? What about permits? Should you stay in the house while the work’s underway? Read on for our guide to getting the best results for your home — and return on investment (ROI) for your remodeling dollar. 

Did you know? This is the sixth article in our series on home renovations. Throughout this series, real estate agent Neyshika Tellis has given us the lowdown on all things renovation. If you haven’t already, check out the rest of the series.
5 Questions to Consider Before Renovating
Renovations to Increase Your Home Value
Home Renovations to Help Save Energy and Money
Renovations That Won’t Add Value
Home Renovations to Tackle Before Listing Your House

What do I need to know before renovating a house?

Regardless of the exact home renovations you plan to do, you should consider reaching out to professionals beforehand. Even if you’re planning a DIY remodel, speak with an appraiser, for example, to give you a sense of what’s in store and how much of an impact your renovations will have on your home’s value. Understanding the bones of your house will also give you a better idea of the possibilities — and challenges — ahead on your renovation journey. 

“Speak with a real estate professional,” adds Neyshika Tellis, a Tampa Bay-area real estate agent. “They’ll look at other homes that have been sold in your area and whether buyers are seeking features you don’t yet have — like an upgraded kitchen.”

Calculate what you think you’ll need for materials and labor, and add about 10% wiggle room.

What comes first in a home remodel?

This depends on your circumstances, of course. Are you redoing your entire house with an eye toward selling it? Or are you upgrading with the intention to stay? If a “for sale” sign is in your future, you’ll want to focus on home renovations that give you a solid bang for your buck (keep reading for more on that). But if you’re staying, here are three things to do first:

  1. Create a budget: You likely won’t stick to it, so calculate what you think you’ll need for materials and labor, and add about 10% wiggle room for the inevitable cost overruns and unexpected needs. 
  2. Hire a contractor: This is a really important step if you’re doing major home improvements or renovating a house with no experience — and it’s essential to get the right person on board. Do not settle for the first contractor whose site pops up on a Google search. Do your research. Check reviews. Ask for references and call them. When you’re interviewing, scour licenses and make sure they’re valid for your state and municipality, as well as for the specific work you want done. 

And when you do hire someone, read and re-read your contract and confirm it covers everything properly — and that every “T” is crossed and “i” dotted. “It’s very important to ask if they carry general liability insurance,” says Tellis. “It protects your home in the event of an accident.”

Three other key things to know from your contractor: 

  • Exact start/end dates. These will change, of course — especially with today’s supply-chain challenges. But be aspirational and get a home renovation timeline on the calendar. 
  • Whether they’re using sub-contractors. If the answer is yes, confirm with the contractor who will be your single point of contact. 
  • Payment schedule. Are you paying a deposit? Half up front and half at completion? Get all of it in writing up front.
  1. Get the right building permits. If you have a contractor, they’ll likely handle this. But make sure you determine who’ll close the permits out when the work is done. And if you’re on the DIY track, do not skip permitting. 
Two men renovating a kitchen

In what order should you renovate a house?

Pros recommend working from the inside out. Start with the core of the house — things like wiring and plumbing (another reminder to get professional help for big jobs) that may require tearing down walls. If you have a contractor, you can let them decide which room comes first. 

If you’re working on your own, here’s some advice from Tellis: “Logic would be to do what’s most important to you. Start with that,” she says. “If you’re doing your kitchen and bath, start with what’s most critical, just in case you don’t get to the main items on your list. You may run out of time or money before you’re able to finish the entire project.” 

Is all of this worth it?

Only you can decide whether the inevitable hassles and headaches of home renovation are worthwhile. But here are a few points to consider as you decide whether to give it a go: 

  • Will your home still fit well in your neighborhood, post-renovations? You don’t want to overdo it. Make sure your remodeling results will still be in line with the look of the houses around you — and not too ostentatious or otherwise not a good fit.
  • If you’re thinking about redoing your entire house but have the jitters about it, why not start with one room and see how it goes? Two obvious choices for your starter-reno are the kitchen and bathrooms.
    • The kitchen offers some relatively easy upgrade possibilities that’ll give the heart of your home a fresh look, increase the value of your house overall, and preview whether you have the tolerance for a big-deal re-do. Install new cabinets or invest in new energy-saving appliances — both somewhat simple but with an impressive ROI, both aesthetically and monetarily. 
    • Bathrooms, too, offer some quick wins: Retile the tub or hang a new framed mirror. Replace your old faucets with some shiny new ones. Add those granite countertops you’ve had your eye on.
  • Renovators with a quick sale in mind might want to take a pause. In today’s real estate market, sellers have the clout: Limited inventory, labor costs, and supply shortages have put the industry into somewhat of a frenzy, with homeowners able to sell without putting a tremendous effort into remodeling. So do you really need to replace that roof or replace the wood flooring? Is that additional room really a done deal? Or can you make the sale with the house as-is? Investigate what’s going on in your market, talk to a real estate agent or two for a home value estimate, and then make your decision.

You’ll recover 94% of your investment with a new garage door — and you’ll get an attractive replacement for that old rickety one you’ve been meaning to repaint.

What home renovations will give me the best ROI if I sell?

If you decide upgrades are needed before your for-sale sign gets placed in the front yard and want a great return on your investment, exterior work is the best place to start (with the kitchen a top choice, as well):

  • Garage doors: You’ll recover 94% of your investment with a new garage door — and you’ll get an attractive replacement for that old rickety one you’ve been meaning to repaint for six years.
  • Stone veneer: Who wouldn’t want a 92% ROI for changing the look of the exterior? 
  • Kitchen mini-remodel: It’s the little things, like a pretty new backsplash, that will make a big difference in your kitchen. Sure, big things like new countertops, appliances, and flooring are excellent choices, but you can still net a 72% ROI with a kitchen mini-makeover.
A toddler climbing a ladder with a construction hat on

What should I do with the dog — not to mention the kids — while all the work is underway?

To survive home renovations unscathed, it’s best to try to get out of the way. That goes double for pets and kids (all of whom we love but believe should not be underfoot when workers and heavy machinery are in the vicinity). Consider using a pet boarding facility and enlisting a relative or friend to babysit for a little while.

Should we stay in the house or find a hotel?

Much like kids and pets, grownups should try to avoid workers wielding power tools and sharp objects. Unless you’re going DIY for your home renovation, in which case you still might want a place to sleep at night that’s not your house, you will likely be more comfortable through the renovation process if you’re in a hotel or at a relative’s home. 

Your furniture is a different story, however. There’s no need for it to go further than just outside your front door. We’ll deliver a PODS portable storage container right to your driveway for you to load up with furniture, tools, supplies, rental equipment — or whatever’s in your way — so you can get on with the renovations without sacrificing the guest room. Keep it there as long as you need for easy access or, if you’re filling it with things you won’t need during the renovations, we can pick it up and keep it at our secure storage facility.

When you’re ready to get started with your home renovations, dive into the PODS blog for tips and hacks on projects like renovating your half bath, laundry room storage, kitchen organization, and more.

Special thanks to Neyshika Tellis — Tampa Bay, Florida, real estate agent with Charles Rutenberg Realty — for providing her professional insight for this article!


Shannon Jacobs is a Tampa-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to the PODS blog. She has lived in Atlanta, the Berkshires, and Nashville, but always returns to the warmth of Florida’s Gulf Coast.