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Recently I was with new clients purchasing an older home they will be doing a renovation project on after they close on the purchase.

In speaking further about details the clients expressed to me they had not considered all the decisions to be made that will impact what the construction budget is to be for the rehab project. These decisions included what type of flooring to use in the new kitchen, what kind of counter tops, lighting and so forth. I have seen it is not unusual for people to be a bit overwhelmed with all these choices and the variable costs involved in a rehab project.

My role not only includes providing renovation financing but also I refer trusted contractors and a Construction Consultant to review the project. In speaking with the clients they had outlined basic goals for how they wish to update and remodel the home. The house had been viewed by the Construction Consultant. He provided guidance on what issues had to be addressed for healthy and safe use as well what improvements the buyers plan to make. He will approve the selected contractors work plan and inspect the work as it occurs. He also authorizes payments to contractors out of the rehab funds provided by the HomeStyle or FHA 203K renovation mortgage. (I have written about these before at  and ).

I thought I would write today a sort of high level guide for planning a basic home rehab. My role is primarily to explain how to finance a rehab project. But clients have asked for my advice on choices based on my experience as a specialist in renovation financing. I am very experienced in guiding clients through the process of using the HomeStyle conventional rehab loan by Fannie Mae and the FHA 203K rehab mortgage to fund renovation projects.

My approach to planning a rehab project is to start from the bottom up to the top. I mean literally start planning with the flooring and move up to the ceiling. This way the rehab planning process has a kind of managed flow to it for those who have never done a home rehab before. Seen this way the process can be managed one step at a time until a room is completed.

Below are my ideas for how to plan a home rehab, room by room, from bottom to top.

Kitchen – An updated kitchen is one of the best investments to make in most any home.    So starting at the bottom:

  • Flooring is the first choice – tile, hardwood, vinyl, laminate, Retain existing flooring.
  • Cabinets – New or sand & repaint the existing cabinets, Color, Wood stain, Solid doors, Glass doors or a mix of them, Detailed fronts or flat fronts.
  • Crown Molding – on Top cabinets.
  • Island or Peninsula – Drawers, Cabinet, Surface material same as counter tops or different, Outlet on it.
  • Counter tops – Quartz, Granite, Laminate, Concrete, Butcher Block.
  • Sink – Under mount, Stainless Steel, Cast Iron, Fiberglass, Farm Sink, Single bowl, Split bowl, extra deep.
  • Faucet – color, Recessed hose, Matching soap dispenser.
  • Garbage disposal – This might even be a local building code requirement.
  • Cabinet handles & drawer pulls – Choices are almost endless but an important detail.
  • Lighting – under the upper cabinets to light up the counter space, LED, Halogen.
  • Outlets to be moved or retained or added on the wall, Light switches.
  • Backsplash – Glass, Tile, Same material as the counter top.
  • Range Hood – Or Microwave over the range.
  • Free standing stove or built in cook top and separate oven(s), Stainless steel or a color, Gas, Electric, Induction cook top.
  • Dishwasher – One or two drawer model, Stainless steel or color.
  • Refrigerator – French door, Side by side, Top freezer, Bottom freezer, Water dispenser in Door, WiFi enabled.
  • Ceiling lighting – Can lights, Hanging pendants, Light over the sink.
  • Bathroom(s) this is also a good investment when planning a home rehab
    • Flooring is the first choice – ceramic tile, Porcelain, small or large tiles.
    • Vanity wood cabinet, white, pedestal sink with no cabinet, floating vanity attached to wall with open floor space under it for ease of cleaning.
    • Sink – one piece with counter, vessel sink on top, under mount, stainless steel.
    • Faucet single handle, double handle, mounted in wall, chrome.
    • Toilet – elongated bowl, small bowl, extra tall for comfort, dual flush to save water, color.
  • Other Basic Updates for other rooms
  • New flooring 
  • Hardwood 
  • Lighting & Electric –Can or Pot lights in living rooms, bedrooms, etc. bring more light and a modern touch to most any home at a reasonable cost

Overwhelmed yet? This is the fun part !  It should not be a burdensome or stressful situation. Instead try to focus on the basics as above, starting with the floor and working your way up to the ceiling. To be sure all will be included think about what the actual budget should be and work backwards. I have seen kitchen updates cost from less than  $5000 to more than $35,000.  The budget will depend on whether plumbing pipes or gas pipes are to be moved, whether a wall is coming down between the kitchen and another room, any new windows being installed or relocated, how many new wall outlets and light switches are needed, to name a few.

My “bottom to top” approach will work on the outside of the home as well. Or in a basement; or even with fencing and landscaping work.

My role as a Loan Officer who specializes in funding rehab mortgages starts with pre-approving a buyer or owner for a specific mortgage size to include the rehab budget. Once that number is known it becomes easier to work backwards to a specific budget. The role of the Construction Consultant in an FHA 203K or HomeStyle renovation mortgage is to view the property and view the Contractors proposed work plan being sure it addresses all issues and all work is done properly.

Selecting a contractor will be another task in any home renovation project. My number one piece of advice is to choose one you feel you can work with and have a good relationship with as the process unfolds. Meaning someone you can text your ideas and photos to at 2 AM when you think of them. Or someone you can speak to without being ignored and who will address your concerns and offer guidance and design ideas. I have written before about how to work with a contractor at .

I always tell clients to “Buy the Worst House in the Best Location”.  That’s usually the best way to go about purchasing a home to renovate.

I hope this post has been helpful and encouraging to those that may have thought a Renovation project was too complex or beyond their ability to manage. My intent is always to inform, educate, and generate discussion. Please call me or email me directly or visit my website for more information on renovation loans. I welcome your comments and questions!