Renovation shows make the process look so easy: Start with a ho-hum house, call in a contractor or two, and, after a few commercial breaks, voila! Your dream home.

But, in reality, the road to your dream home—or even an upgraded home—is filled with considerations. The best way to make sure you’re happy with the results? Start the project on the right foot by following these five steps.

1. Identify the Issues

It’s easy to get dazzled by home store displays or renovation magazines, but the flashy “after” picture isn’t the best place to start. Start by carefully analyzing the issues with your current home.

You’ll discover there’s often a simpler solution. For example, if poor lighting is a common theme, swapping lightbulbs for a different type or strategically angling lights may solve your problem. Or you may find that there are so many issues that a renovation isn’t even worth the cost or trouble!

Read More: Should You Renovate or Relocate? »

While you might want to give every room in your house a makeover, that might not be possible with your budget or your timeline. Prioritize your most immediate needs and add the rest to a “wish list.” Check to make sure projects will increase the value of your home (or at least won’t decrease it).

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2. Build Your Budget

It’s critical to ground yourself in reality. Do a financial audit by adding up all your debt (credit cards, student loans, mortgages, medical bills, etc.) and your regular expenses to understand how much you can realistically spend each month. Remember: Home renovation projects are notorious for coming in “over budget.” Research the average cost for each project on your list, then pad your estimate; Finance Superhero recommends adding an extra 15–20%. This will help you avoid having to pay for your project with credit cards—and taking on the debt that comes with that strategy.

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3. Solidify Your Project Plan

Decide which projects you have budget to move forward with—and which can wait. If your wish list puts you way over budget, take a look at your credit score and overall credit status. If you’re in good financial standing, you can look to home loans and personal loans to finance your project. These options generally require you to make loan payments each month and can take several months to secure, so consider how that plays into your project timeline and financial plan.

Your next step is to create a detailed project plan. (We recommend using the outline from Renovate America as a guide.) Your plan should include an introduction of your personal history (if any) with renovations, specific project goals, timeline, budget details, and any additional information that may impact the bid, such as building materials you already have.

4. Compare Vendors

Everyone has friends with stories about “nightmare contractors” or renovations that spanned three Thanksgivings. But, with the right planning and careful research, it’s easy to find a contractor that you can trust and that will deliver the renovation you want.

First, it’s crucial to hire a licensed contractor. According to Renovate America, you’ll want a specialized contractor for projects involving plumbing, roofing, heating and cooling, landscaping, solar installation, windows and doors, lighting, and insulation. For other projects, a general contractor may suffice. Look to,, and for contractor reviews from other homeowners who have worked with them.

Once you have bids from multiple contractors, look beyond price. Factor in contractor experience, any past homeowner reviews or referrals, a contractor’s talents or specialties, and your project’s unique needs.

Determine if you need permits for the construction and if you need to bring in professionals to help obtain the proper permits or to assist with particular portions of the project. For example, if you’re doing major layout changes, you may need an architect. If you’re looking for help with materials and fixtures, you may want to work with an interior designer. A contractor should be able to work seamlessly with these other professionals.

After you choose your contractor, decide on the final scope of the work, the materials, the timeline, the best form of communication and how often they will check in with you, as well as the budget and payment schedule. Most importantly: Get it all in writing.

5. Set Your Expectations

Home renovation projects come with several challenges, but if you expect that at the outset—and keep your end goal in mind—you can overcome them.

First, you’ll experience disruptions in your daily life. You’re living in a construction zone, after all. Second, even if the renovations are happening entirely inside of your house, you should expect some wear and tear on your yard. And, of course, expect the unexpected. From delays from weather or staffing problems to discoveries of asbestos, consider it part of your home renovation initiation.

A home renovation takes a lot of work, but a beautiful end result—the kind of home you’ve always dreamed of—certainly makes the whole process a bit easier.

If you’re looking for other ways to fund your home renovation project, you may consider a Hometap investment. Hometap lets you tap into your home’s equity—without any monthly payments or interest.

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The opinions expressed in this post are for informational purposes only. To determine the best financing for your personal circumstances and goals, consult with a licensed advisor.