Your home ages as you live in it year after year. Just as you would get an annual check-up from your doctor, you should give your home a check-up every year to see if it requires any upgrades or changes.
Your future plans for you and your family have a lot of influence on what type of improvements you want to embark on. For instance, if you are a young family with small children, and you intend remain in your home at least for the next 15 to 20 years, then you may want to include major improvements that would maximize the quality of life at your home. This would include any room additions, conversions and other major upgrades. On the other hand, if you are empty-nesters and you are considering down-sizing, you should not improve your home beyond what you can upgrade at a cosmetic level. You would be better off saving that money for your retirement account.
You should give your home a thorough assessment every year. The important things to look at is structural integrity, especially if you live in an older house. Have a termite inspection done every year or two. Watch out for cracks inside your house that are getting longer. This can mean that your house may be shifting on its foundation that that it will need to be stabilized. Look at any exposed wood to make sure that there is no wood rot. Look for any signs of dampness in areas where they should be dry. If you own a newer home, you may not need to go in depth as much with your inspection, but you should look for signs of anything abnormal.
Your budget should focus on improvements that will give you the most for your money, in terms of enjoyment and the value added. Avoid being overly unique in your upgrades if you plan to sell your home in a few year. For instance, not every buyer would appreciate a family room that has been converted to a karaoke bar. Spend money on improvements that are highly sought after, like kitchen and bathroom upgrades.
You should get permits as soon as you have a definite plan to improve something that will affect the structure of your house. Any type of tear downs usually require a permit. Any changes made to electrical and plumbing systems usually require a permit as well. If you are hiring a contractor for your projects, he should be the one responsible for pulling all required permits. If you are tackling projects yourself, it is best to check with your local building inspection agency to see what permits are required.
You need to use your judgment if you want to recruit friends and family to help. First of all, make sure that they are willing to help. Home projects take up a lot of time over a period of days or months, so your friends or family need to be aware of their commitments. Another thing to look at is their skill level. Getting help is great, but if you think that their presence will hinder your progress rather than speed it along, you should politely decline the help.
The last thing to keep in mind is to be flexible in your time frame and budget. Chances are, both of these things will exceed what you have planned for because of unforeseen things that come up. So, you will need to accommodate and adjust your expectation.
Improving your home should be an ongoing process. It will improve the quality of your life, and it will add value to your home.