Advice for Buying a New Home

INTRODUCTION

Temperatures are (finally) rising here in Chicago and the real-estate market is heating up with them. This week, we’re providing some tips to keep in mind when shopping for a new home. There are so many details to consider and I know from professional and personal experience that it can be very intimidating. Last month, we answered some of your questions on the topic on our instagram stories, and today I’m consolidating those notes for you.


Question: What should you start with after you buy a new home?

Answer: Focus on the big picture first. Repaint throughout, using a cohesive paint palette that you can build upon with furnishings and decor. Next, swap out all the light fixtures (especially the nipple lights). Light fixtures allow you to set the tone for your home and inject your personality. Are you traditional? Modern? Pull in light fixtures that represent your style.

Moody accent walls immediately added some personality to this home and this large dome-light fixture sets a modern, warm tone for the dining room.

Moody accent walls immediately added some personality to this home and this large dome-light fixture sets a modern, warm tone for the dining room.

Question: Where should you spend and where should you save?

Answer: Again, focus on the big picture first. It’s best to invest in areas that will get you a return on your money. Kitchens and baths help with equity and resell value the most! I typically estimate that you can recoup about 50% of those costs during resell (of course that can vary based on location and the market, but that’s a safe guideline). If you know you’re going to do it sooner rather than later, you might as well do it early on so you can enjoy it. Focus on your needs as well. If you’re a good cook, update the kitchen and make it practical for your needs. If you’re less skilled in the kitchen, update the bathrooms and create a spa-like escape for you to unwind in.

Mike and I barely use our kitchen, so we focused on updating our bathrooms to create a functional and stylish place for us that really represents our personal style. In the master bath, we really made sure that it created a relaxing, spa-like retreat (minus a bathtub…maybe our next place will have space!)

Mike and I barely use our kitchen, so we focused on updating our bathrooms to create a functional and stylish place for us that really represents our personal style. In the master bath, we really made sure that it created a relaxing, spa-like retreat (minus a bathtub…maybe our next place will have space!)

Question: At what point should you bring in a designer for a project?

Answer: It’s never too soon! We have worked with clients as early as the buying process and toured spaces with clients and their realtor. We’re able to help you see things you may not see on your own and offer suggestions for what can be done to a space to maximize it’s potential. That being said, designers can step in at any process. Designers will help set the tone right from the start and guide you with prioritizing your budget to maximize it before you even put money into your space.

Buying a new home is a stressful process no matter how much work you’re planning on doing to it. We strive to become allies for our clients to make sure they’re prioritize spending in the right ways and creating a home that best fits their needs. The earlier we get involved, the more efficient we can be.

Buying a new home is a stressful process no matter how much work you’re planning on doing to it. We strive to become allies for our clients to make sure they’re prioritize spending in the right ways and creating a home that best fits their needs. The earlier we get involved, the more efficient we can be.

Question: What updates should be done before you move in, if possible?

Answer: Try to get painting done before moving furniture in. If you’re swapping out floors or refinishing hardwood, get that done as soon as possible. In order of urgency, get the floors done first and then focus on painting. If you’re planning to do any real renovation work, its ideal if it can be done before moving in so you don’t have to live through construction, but I know that can be tricky for some.


Question: What design challenges should you try to avoid when looking at a home?

Answer: Make sure you’re happy with the core layout of the space. If you’re moving into a condo or high-rise, you’re not going to be able to move the plumbing stacks or plumbing locations so make sure you’re happy with where bathrooms and kitchens are laid out. Everything else is cosmetic and can be changed rather easily. If you’re buying a single-family home, make sure the foundation, exterior siding, roof and anything related to HVAC and structure are in good shape. Those are the things that typically creep up and cost the most and are the least fun to invest money in.

Sometimes older buildings have trickier layouts that require a creative design to make them work. It’s important to focus on not shifting plumbing or structural locations to keep renovations economical. This project was one of the trickiest existing layouts we’ve worked on and the end result made the space feel bigger and more functional. To see more, check out our  Old-Town Remodel.

Sometimes older buildings have trickier layouts that require a creative design to make them work. It’s important to focus on not shifting plumbing or structural locations to keep renovations economical. This project was one of the trickiest existing layouts we’ve worked on and the end result made the space feel bigger and more functional. To see more, check out our Old-Town Remodel.

Question: How much should you anticipate spending on a renovation project?

Answer: This is the hardest question to answer because there are so many factors that can affect the answer. The biggest factors that affect pricing are obviously the size and scope of work, but also things like location can have an affect. If you’re in a high-rise in the middle of the city, construction typically costs more because of parking, dumpster fees, etc. Obviously hiring a contractor will increase the cost but I’m always for hiring an expert, especially for renovation work. My advice is to create a budget first to determine how much you’re comfortable investing into the project. This is where designers can help. We always start each project by breaking down a proposed budget for a project and applying it to their wishlist so that we can help them prioritize where they want to put their money. All that said, for those of you who want to see real numbers, here’s a safe guideline. For bathroom renovations, if you’re working with a contractor for the labor, it’s safe to assume a minimum of $25-30K for a full bathroom renovation. It can obviously go up from there if you want to upgrade fixtures and finishes, but that’s a safe starting point. For a kitchen, it’s hard to do a full-renovation for anything less than $40K. Again, this can go up depending on appliance selections, cabinet designs and finish selections, but that’s typically where our kitchen renovations start.

If you’re planning to hire a contractor, it’s safe to assume at least $25K for a bathroom renovation, and up from there depending on the size, level of finishes and fixtures you choose to incorporate.

If you’re planning to hire a contractor, it’s safe to assume at least $25K for a bathroom renovation, and up from there depending on the size, level of finishes and fixtures you choose to incorporate.

I hope you guys found this helpful! Good luck with the home-search and be sure to reach out if you have any questions that weren’t addressed here!

-dgw

All designs by Devon Grace Interiors

All photos by Dustin Halleck