Don't Become a Serial Remodeler

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Help! I Can't stop Painting!
Tips for Fighting the Perils of Becoming a Serial Remodeler

It can start with painting your bedroom. You find a robin's egg blue color and go for it. Once dry, it looks too dark so you try a lighter shade. You like that color for about twenty minutes and then decide perhaps green would look better, so you find yourself on the way to the paint store. If this is the fourth or fifth time you have painted the same room in less than a month, then you might be on your way to becoming a serial remodeler.

Remodeling a home can, of course, be a very rewarding experience, but for some of us it can also become a never ending road—a bottomless pit of time and money. Some people are just never content with the final outcome. They are constantly remodeling, spending incredible amounts of time and money to get their vision realized. One of our friends just redid a lovely marble bathroom because she decided that she no longer liked the color of the veins in the marble. Another friend stained and re-stained her wood floor until the wood was so thin she can never stain them again. If this is you (or the loved one you live with), then you know how exhausting and frustrating this can be.

The problem may stem from being a perfectionist. Being held to the idea that there is only one satisfactory solution to every project can lead to wasted time, money, and a house that will never be done.

We all know people who can spend an entire month agonizing over paint choices or a molding design. Everyone has friends like this: people for whom every single detail matters and every decision is magnified as if it were a life and death choice. These people just want things they way they want them and there is no talking them out of it.

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof cure for this kind of perfectionism. And for some it's not really a major problem other than that they'll ultimately spend significantly more time and money than the average person.

For these folks, the journey is more important than the destination. And if you actually take pleasure in doing things over and over again, we're not here to stop you. However, we'd rather enjoy the work we've done—imperfections and all—rather than tear it down and start over. In the business world, it's referred to as learning to seek excellence rather than perfection.

So how to fight the perfectionist habit? Start by seeking a little self-acceptance, not laser-focusing on every flaw. Try to avoid re-visiting every decision and second guessing yourself. Honestly, would the 2-inch base molding on the floor really make a huge difference if it was another inch higher? Not really. Fight the urge to nit-pick.

It is true that great design is in the details but the issue is perspective. If you're convinced you've made a huge mistake and really think you can't live with something, then go ahead and change it. But know when to stop and when enough is enough. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Live with that wall color for at least two weeks; it may grow on you. Everyone sees color differently, and during the course of the day as the sun moves through a room, the color can change several times. Colors also tend to get lighter with age and that paler shade may make all the difference.

If you are still unsure, ask for the opinion of someone you really trust. At times we can all use a little validation. If you have a relative or friend whose taste you admire, have them come over and give you their thoughts. Sometimes it only takes one other person telling us that they like our choice to give us the confidence we lack.

Also, those with a tendency towards serial remodeling should always keep the budget foremost in mind. Decide that you can spend a certain amount of money and then no more; this may be one way to put the brakes on constantly redoing a project. Put your numbers and ideas on a piece of paper so that you have some reference point. Decide what each project is going to cost and then stick with it. This may be the only way to keep your remodeling in check.

Thinking (or re-thinking) about bigger changes? If you've got a job change, expecting to have more kids, looking to move to a different school district, then it's probably best not to spend too much money or time on remodeling. Not every house is purchased to be your home forever. When you are choosing a mortgage, the first question you ask yourself is: How long do I plan on staying in this house? That should also be your first question when sitting down to plan a budget for your remodel.

Don't over-improve the place if you don't intend to stay, especially if you don't own it. Stick to the basics of design such as painting and perhaps rearranging furniture and artwork. These changes will alter your living space without breaking your budget.

Some people spend a fortune on a recently remodeled dream home or co-op, and after closing proceed to remodel the remodel, treating materials like granite and marble as if they were paper products. Why did they spend all that money on the place if they were only going to remodel it? Why not buy a fixer-upper?

As we have all learned from the many home improvement shows airing on television, many people are now making money buying houses, renovating them and then selling them for a profit. For those of us who love remodeling, this can seem like the perfect occupation and many first time renovators jump into this field with their eyes closed and their hopes high. This can be a disaster for the serial remodeler who has to make everything perfect.

If you plan to flip the home you just bought, then it is crucial for you to keep costs as low as possible. Concentrate on spending money only in the places that will upgrade the home and yield more money when it comes time to sell. Specifically, investing in an upgraded kitchen or bathroom will usually pay off when it comes time to sell.

Those of us who are remodeling a home where we plan to stay for five or ten years can learn a lesson from these flippers. Although we may enjoy living in the house, it is primarily our biggest financial investment, so we should think of it in those terms.

Do not make the mistake of falling in love with a place you are buying primarily as an investment to sell in the near future. People often lose money on these investments by spending too much on the renovation. They are enchanted with a particular type of slate tile or lighting fixture and spend the money thinking they are upgrading their investment. Remember that taste is very subjective and your potential buyer may think slate looks cold and that modern fixtures are ugly. As your mother probably told you more than once, there is no accounting for taste.

Two things that you should always consider before remodeling are cost and time. Think about how much you want to spend in both these areas and then stick to it. Perhaps you can overcome your tendencies to create absolute perfection wherever you go, and instead learn to live with excellence for the time being.

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