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Five tips to prepare for Home-Improvement projects

While remodeling can be a rewarding way to improve your home value and lifestyle, many people are not sure where to start. The following five steps can help you manage the process and feel more confident about finishing your project on time and within budget:

Develop Your Plan
Before you talk to any professionals, have a sense of what you expect from the project. Take the time to sketch it out as fully as you can on your own. Draw the space on graph paper or make a "to do" list that includes elements to be moved or changed.

Establish Your Budget
Consider which products you'd like to use and do some preliminary research on price and availability so you're not envisioning models out of line with your financial resources. Decide how much you can afford to spend. Include at least a 10 percent contingency fund for unforeseen expenses.

Assemble Your Team
Whether you're a do-it-yourselfer, a hirer or somewhere in between, finding the right people for the job is the most important stage of any home-improvement project. Your results will depend largely on the people doing the work, so take your time. This phase is too crucial to rush. Contractors have to squeeze consultations and estimates in between current jobs, and the most sought-after are often booked months in advance.

Define Your Goals
There's no surer path to remodeling success than plenty of time spent in the planning phase. In fact, the most successful homeowners spend as much time planning their projects as they do directing the actual work. Careful preparation can facilitate a smooth, fast project.

Begin by thinking about how you really want to change your home. You probably already have an idea, but now's the time to fine-tune your ideas. Think about how your home already supports the way you live and which existing elements you really like (gorgeous architectural details, for instance, or a wide-open floor plan). This will not only help you prioritize which projects to take on first, it will also help you better define the details of each step and help you match them to your budget and your timeline.

Take Your Time
There's no reason to rush into a home-improvement project. Your home is probably your biggest investment and probably where your family lives. Start slowly and move deliberately. Once you have your list of goals, take a break. Come back to the list in a week or so. Evaluate it to see if your ideas have changed. If not, your ready to move on with confidence.

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