MortgagesUnzipped is a great blog with terrific information on how to get through the minefield of getting a loan.  Every day there is a new crop of good advice from the best in the industry.  I do lending in Utah, and I’m proud to be one of the bloggers here.  Recently, though, I’ve been wondering if I might offer a tiny change of pace, just for one post.

Let’s face it: it’s increasingly difficult to get mortgage financing.  Lending in Utah is more complicated every day, and that’s true everywhere.  Even worse, even if we wanted to sell, we will have a rough time of it, because we have very little equity in our homes since the market crash.  Seeing this, many people are talking about remodeling instead of moving, because they’re going to be staying around a while.

From a Utah mortgage guy’s perspective, here are the 3 best ways to botch that task:

1. Don’t plan ahead. Go on!  Strip that wallpaper.  Smash that countertop.  Dig those trenches in the lawn.  Of course you’re going to be able to afford to fix it up later.  Naturally, everything will work out great.  But, seriously, it won’t.  The Law of Entropy says that left to themselves, things go straight to crap.  That will happen with any project you undertake.

Figure out first how long it’s really going to take to do the project yourself.  Think seriously about whether you have that kind of time.  It will also probably be spendy, so is the money set aside, or will you have to borrow it?  Have you budgeted for the project?  Do you know the kind of paint or carpet you want?  Are you sure?  With all projects of any real size, every hour spent in planning will save you five hours of work.

2. Don’t get an expert to help you. Look, it’s really not that hard to install a sprinkler system.  I’m sure that most accountants know right away whether they want a Toro 53805 or a Rain Bird SST-600I system for their house.  Wiring?  C’mon.  Who doesn’t know how to do that?  Metal v plastic?  Pop-up v housed?  It’s a cinch!

Truth is, you probably can do most home improvement jobs yourself.  But it’s also true that if you do, they will take longer and cost more than if you hire someone, even for just a few dollars as an advisor, to assist you.  Unless it’s your day job (or it recently was), get help.

3. Don’t consider the market. Since you will never again sell your home

Image from Ugly House Photo

you can do whatever you want to it, right?  Always wanted it purple?  Paint away.  Have a yen for xeriscaped front yards (and I do)?  Tear out that sod.  Want to add 800 sq. ft. to the back so that your home is now the largest on the block?  Well, why not?

Because you’re taking a large risk, is why not.  You may never intend to sell the house, but the odds are overwhelming that you one day will, and when you do, are you going to have to rip out that front-hall indoor fountain you fell in

love with when you went to the day spa?  Be smart.  There are a lot of good Realtors out there that can give you pretty good estimates for how your home improvement will affect your home’s marketability.  Consult one of them. If you still want to do it, go ahead.  It’s your house.  At least you’ll be comfortable there in case you have to keep it forever.

Nowadays, more people than ever are looking at innovative ways to make their homes more the places they love instead of the places they live.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  But be smart.

And now, back to the mortgages.  Good hunting.

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