Just bought a home? What projects should you tackle first?

When it comes to renovating your new home, it can be difficult to decide what to do first.

Melissa Perlman and Mark Burns closed on their beach cottage in Delray Beach, Florida, nearly two weeks ago.

The first project they tackled was landscaping. The home, built in 1956, was recently renovated.

“It was move-in ready and pretty perfect in our eyes,” says Perlman, president and founder of BlueIvy Communications, a public relations agency. “We live on a semi-active road, so our landscaper put in Colusa plants that will grow and eventually provide more privacy in our front yard.”

Before writing up a to-do list, take a good look at your budget, one expert advises. “Don’t spend too much money on over-improvements,” says Artur Muller, founder and CEO of Amluxe Realty in Lighthouse Point, Florida. “Create a maximum budget for renovations, which will keep your spending in line with comparable upgrades on the market.”

Perlman and Burns, the COO at BlueIvy, focused on making small additions like landscaping, buying furniture for the master bedroom, and placing decor, such as Adirondack chairs, on the front and back porches. They’ve spent about $6,000 so far.

Homeowners who planned to renovate in 2019 anticipated spending $10,000 on renovations, according to Houzz. In addition, bathrooms overtook kitchens as the most popular remodeling project, according to the latest survey from the National Association of Home Builders.

So where do you begin?

Create a vision of what you want your home to look like, says Muller. Then put these home renovation projects at the top of your to-do list.

1. Painting

Not only is painting easy on your pocketbook, “it is one of the simplest and most forgiving projects that will have a major impact,” says Benjamin Shrauner, a real estate investor and avid DIYer. In his experience, you can paint a standard bedroom for “the cost of the paint alone, around $35 to $45 a gallon.” Today’s primer and paint combos do a great job giving one coat of coverage, he says.

2. Lighting

Just like changing a paint color can dramatically impact the appeal of a room, so too, can lighting.

“Dim and darkly lit rooms often feel small or uncomfortable,” says Shrauner.

Consider replacing light fixtures with color-temperature bulbs to give the room a soft white, bright white, or daylight effect. “Depending on the number of lights in the room, a new look can cost as little as $10 per room,” he says.


3. Decorating

Only one week in, Perlman and Burns “focused on adding some items that would make living here more enjoyable immediately,” says Perlman. They warmed up the home by hanging pictures and paintings, and to add some curb appeal, they built both a trellis and an arbor. Next up is their porch swing, “which we will hang with the help of a contractor to make sure it doesn’t take the roof down!” she says. These small fixes have made living there wonderful, they said.


4. Improving Flooring

These days, homeowners prefer hardwood flooring over tile. Luxury vinyl planks and other synthetic flooring have made great strides over the last five years, says Shrauner. “These snap-together planks offer a variety of fantastic looks at an affordable price!”

Jim Angleton, a homeowner, has renovated quite a few properties over the years, and advises new owners to lay tile or plank the floors before all of their furniture is placed.

Of course, flooring prices depend on the cost of materials, labor, size, and location. HomeGuide cites that, on average, ceramic tile costs $10 to $15 per square foot to install, while hardwood flooring costs $6 to $23 per square foot to install.

5. Upgrading Bathrooms

If you are lucky enough not to have to replumb your entire home, a cosmetic bath renovation, where no plumbing or electric is disturbed and the layout remains intact, may suffice.

“It may involve replacing toilets, changing vanities, replacing fixtures, or upgrading to new tiles,” says Angleton, whose company is a financial lender.

While he and his wife just completed a gut job on a 3,500-square-foot second home, he says to budget $10,000 per bathroom, depending on the home’s condition and your personal preferences.

6. Renovating Kitchens

The kitchen should always be one of the first projects to tackle because homeowners want to make a good first impression, and it is one of the rooms where guests spend the most time.

“This renovation includes new cabinets, flooring, appliances, countertops, and often, the layout, to open up more space,” says Muller. “Prices for this project vary from $15,000 to $30,000 and up, depending on size, materials.”

7. Fixing Major Systems

When you first buy a home, check to ensure all of its major systems, like heating, cooling and electricity, are working properly.

“They don’t have to be perfect, but if one is operable, address that issue first,” says Shrauner. Also check for “electrical hazards,” he says, because they could pose a safety issue.

Perlman and Burns hired an electrician to reset a faulty sprinkler system.

“Our priority was fixing items that had been off or not working to ensure that smaller efforts, like planting trees, would be supported by projects needing a professional,” they said.

“Always seek professional advice as you move forward with your projects, even the ones that you are looking to do yourself,” adds Muller.