Outdoor living space. That seems to be the phrase of the year when it comes to homes and home improvement projects. With spring just around the corner (at least we hope so), now is the time to begin planning those yard projects. It's also the time to start planning your budget.
Depending on what you want to create, the expenses can add up quickly. Landscaping, an outdoor kitchen, a pergola and a fountain can wind up costing thousands of dollars. Here are a few things to consider before you begin digging up the dirt:
How long are you going to stay in your home? If you're planning to sell in a year or two, you might not want to go all out. Outdoor improvements add value, but you'll generally get only about 50 percent back on your investment. Your reason for making the improvements should be that you want to enjoy spending time outdoors in the warm weather months.
Draft a detailed budget. You might know what that outdoor kitchen unit is going to cost because it's easy to look up online or at a store. But will you have to run natural gas to the grill? Will you need electricity at the site? Will you have to pour a concrete slab for the kitchen station? Make a detailed list of what you want and then ask the experts about what the additional costs might be. Find out the "true costs" before starting construction.
Investigate your financing options. You might have savings you want to use or you might want to take out a loan for part or the entire project. Talk with your banker about which loan option is right for you. Interest rates still are low, so using a loan could be a good option.
Hire qualified contractors to do the work. Sure, your brother's friend Vinny might offer to do it "for cheap," but you don't know what quality you'll wind up with or when the work will be done. More importantly, you don't know whether he's bonded or knows about pulling required permits. It will be more expensive in the end if you have to go back and correct a mistake made by someone who doesn't know what he or she is doing.
Doing it yourself? Be realistic. Sure, you might have some construction skills, but are you good enough to have your work last as long as your home? There are no quick fixes after you've poured concrete, laid bricks or run an electrical line that violates code. It's best if work is done correctly the first time.
If you carefully plan and appropriately budget for your outdoor living space, you'll have something you and your family can enjoy for years. By laying the groundwork now, before spring actually arrives, you'll have a jump-start on your project.
Adam Dykman is branch manager for Citizens Bank in Stevens Point.