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How Much Does It Really Cost to Remodel a House?

Lantern How Much Does It Really Cost to Remodel a House Image1
Sarah Mattie

Sarah Mattie

Updated May 4, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
This is Part 2 of a three-part series about home remodels during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. We surveyed 600 people who remodeled their homes between March 2020 and January 2022. We asked them about costs, issues, happiness with the results, and more. For deeper insights, we also looked at data for the country's 10 most populous states and reported any notable anomalies.In Part 1, we went over which rooms people chose to remodel and why. Here, we will focus on how much people spent on their remodel, any major regrets, and advice from past remodelers. In Part 3, we’ll discuss different design styles and inspiration.Note: Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Home Renovation Costs: General Findings

The first thing people often ask about a project is, "How much is this home remodel going to cost?" According to our study, most people spend $20K or less on their home remodels. Here’s the full breakdown of what respondents spent:
  • $10,000 or less: 39%
  • $10,001 to $20,000: 20%
  • $20,001 to $30,000: 14%
  • $30,001 to $40,000: 13%
  • $40,001 to $50,000: 7%
  • Over $50,000: 8%
Next, we wanted to find out how people paid for their remodels. Here’s a breakdown of the different payment methods respondents used to fund their remodels:
  • Savings: 51% 
  • Credit card: 32%
  • Personal loan: 9%
  • Other: 6%
  • Cash or debit card: 2%
  • Inheritance: 2%
As you can see, most people already had the money saved up. However, we saw that a majority of those who didn’t have savings used a credit card to fund their projects. While credit cards can be quick and convenient, they can also come with high interest rates. If you haven't saved up enough money for a remodel, remember: personal loans can offer benefits like lower interest rates than credit cards and steady repayment amounts. Once you’ve finalized your budget, you may want to compare personal loan options before paying with plastic.We also found that where you live may have an effect on how much you spend. New Yorkers and Floridians spent more on their remodels than the overall group, with $10K to $20K being the most common budget for New York and Florida remodelers (compared to $10K or less, the most common budget across all respondents).

Big Spenders

The biggest spenders may also be the biggest smilers. Of those who spent $50K or more on their remodel: 
  • 85% said they would remodel again
  • 53% gave their level of happiness with the remodel the highest rating. This is nearly double the percentage of respondents who spent $10K or less and also gave their level of happiness the highest rating (27%). 
Some people ended up in over their heads though — in fact, 12% of our respondents went $50K or more over budget, and of those, 40% went $100K or more over budget.Of those who found themselves spending $50K or more than they planned:
  • 77% said it was their first time remodeling
  • 33% said they regret the remodel, while only 9% of all respondents said the same
  • 53% said their relationships were strained by the remodel, almost double the percentage of all respondents who said the same (27%)
So, how does one avoid overspending? The real question may be, how does one prepare to spend more than anticipated? Either way, there are strategies you can use to mitigate both the monetary and emotional costs of a renovation. First, decide what you want to remodel and why. Is it merely cosmetic, or is it necessary? Is it just for your enjoyment or for the long-term value of the house?Once you have your vision and reason for the remodel, research costs of labor and supplies in your area. If you think you may DIY some of it, watch videos or read tutorials to be sure. Be honest with yourself and your abilities. In our survey, 42% of people ran into unexpected problems that had to be fixed before moving on with the renovations. For instance, you could be doing a simple faucet replacement and end up with a flooded bathroom, requiring a plumber to repair it at an emergency rate.That said, get quotes as needed, and before beginning any major work, have a professional check out your electrical and plumbing systems to ensure you won't encounter issues down the road. While you’re doing your research, be sure to build flexibility into your budget. Even the best-laid plans can fail. Experts recommend budgeting for 50% over your anticipated home renovation cost.This rule may be especially important for our readers in Ohio. 77% of respondents from the Buckeye State said the remodel cost more than expected, which is 25% more than all respondents who said the same (52%).

Budgeters

The budgeters were those with remodel budgets of $50K or less, and they made up 92% of our respondents.Not only that, but nearly 40% of all respondents spent less than $10K on the work, and 58% of them did the work themselves!Being a “do-it-yourselfer” doesn't need to be intimidating — just ask the 40% of Texans, 43% of Pennsylvanians, and 48% of Illinoisians who didn't hire a single worker or contractor to help with their remodels. There's something special about putting your own blood, sweat, and tears into a project. However, don't feel like you must do anything yourself. Verify twice, pay once. Make doubly sure you can do something before spending time or money on it. Watch YouTube videos, read how-to articles, and/or take classes before starting a project. If you still don’t feel comfortable taking on the task yourself, consider hiring a professional to help. Remember, you don't have to hire someone to do a whole job. For instance, if you plan to replace wood paneling with drywall, you don't need to have the contractor put the wall in and paint it. If you're comfortable painting it yourself, you may do so.Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help! Home repair and remodeling can lead to great life skills, savings, and hobbies, but only if you learn how to do the tasks correctly. If you've never picked up a drill before, ask someone in your life who is handy to teach you. 

Remodel Regrets

The good news is that only 9% of our respondents regretted their remodel. Those with regrets shared some commonalities that you may want to be aware of before embarking on your own remodel journey. The most common traits among regretted remodels included:
  • Styled in the modern farmhouse aesthetic (18%)
  • Used a credit card (42%)
  • Cost more and took longer than expected (62%)
  • Remodeled the kitchen (75%)
There are few key insights here. The first is that credit cards were the most common payment method for people who regretted their remodel. Again, credit cards can have high APRs, making them a less-than-ideal payment method for larger purchases. Personal loans, on the other hand, typically have lower interest rates than credit cards — and can be paid off in steady installments over a number of years.To help mitigate unpleasant surprises, make sure you have a strong grasp on your expected costs, then add 50% just in case. You’ll want to increase your expected timeline by about 50%, too.That said, over half of those who regretted the process said they would definitely remodel again (52%). You live, you learn!

Advice From Past Remodelers

We asked our respondents, "What is the best piece of advice you could give someone who is thinking about remodeling?"In the 600 responses, the most common words were "plan," "time," "research," "money,” "budget," and "save."There were many helpful tips, but here are some of our favorites:
  • Rome wasn't built in a day. Measure twice, cut once, and take your time.
  • Remember to remodel to what you like and not what everyone else thinks you should like.
  • Buy second-hand. Look for free materials and items on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc.
  • If you're doing the project yourself, research and learn everything beforehand, even if it seems simple. And never leave something almost done to start another. It will stay almost done forever.
  • Pinterest fails happen.

Preparing for the Real Costs of Home Renovations

Other people’s mistakes and regrets can help future remodelers better prepare for their own projects. When planning for your home renovation, make sure to research your options thoroughly, budget your time and money with a 50% buffer, and choose a payment method that makes sense for your life and budget.If you haven't had a chance to read through all of our Covid home renovation statistics, head back to Part 1: What and Why We Remodeled During Covid. If you're ready to learn about design trends, check out upcoming Part 3: Covid Remodel Style and Inspiration.
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About the Author

Sarah Mattie

Sarah Mattie

Sarah Mattie is a researcher and writer with an education background. She's passionate about teaching others about financial issues and has written extensively for a variety of degree sites and financial institutions. Her writing covers credit cards, lending products, and paying for college, among other economic topics.
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