6 DIY Myths You Need to Stop Believing Immediately

If hours upon hours of HGTV binge-watching has taught us anything, it’s that pretty much anything can be DIY’d. New deck? Go for it. Updated bathroom? You could have the walk-in shower of your dreams in a weekend’s time.

What’s more, those TV pros make it look so easy. So if you have a big renovation on the horizon, we can understand the temptation to ditch the general contractor and tackle the job yourself.

And on the one hand, we don’t want to squash your ambition. Believe in yourself and anything’s possible, right? But on the other hand, overblown ambition—fueled by more than a few myths about what it really takes to DIY a home renovation—can lead to an expensive disaster.

Have you caught yourself making these assumptions about your DIY project? Set yourself straight before you start swinging the sledgehammer.

Myth No. 1: Home improvement shows are adequate DIY tutorials

Watch Jonathan and Drew Scott rip out a kitchen wall, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you can DIY an open-plan layout, too. All you need to do is Hulk-smash your drywall! You might even picture getting the kids involved (with proper safety gear, of course).

It’ll take more than watching these guys for 22 minutes to master DIY remodeling.

HGTV

But take it from us: Set down the sledgehammer. Step away from the wall.

“Remodeling has become so ubiquitous through various media like television shows that many homeowners view it too casually, sometimes treating it more like a hobby than an expertise,” says Jason Biddle, who runs aging-in-place home resource The Helping Home and has managed multiple major renovations in his own home.

“It’s increasingly common to naively jump into a renovation, lacking the necessary level of respect for the task at hand,” adds Biddle

To give your project the respect it deserves, take the time to thoroughly research it in advance. Biddle recommends reading construction resources like “The Visual Handbook of Building and Remodeling,” to familiarize yourself with all the crucial details you’ll need to know.

And when in doubt, call for help.

“Know your experience level and have the wisdom to know when you can handle a project yourself and when you should seek the help of an expert,” says Tonya Bruin, CEO of To Do-Done Renovations.

Myth No. 2: Buying materials online saves time

Assembling the materials for your DIY renovation from the couch can seem fun and easy, but think twice before you click “add to cart.” Whenever possible, it’s better to buy materials in person. At a store, you can check quality (is that tile prone to cracking?) and make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

When you buy online, “you take on all the risk and can’t verify details for things,” says Matthew Breyer, the president and lead designer at Breyer Construction & Landscape.

Imagine that enormous cabinetry order you placed finally arriving—only to realize the hardware wasn’t included, the shelves are the wrong size, or the construction is poor.

If you’re set on purchasing online, check your order thoroughly to ensure every piece you need is included—and build in time for returns or exchanges.

Myth No. 3: Painter’s tape is for rookies

The tape is your friend

BanksPhotos/iStock

We’ll admit painting is one of the simplest DIY jobs. But that doesn’t give you license to skip the painter’s tape.

Many DIYers paint without tape “because it takes time and effort to apply, or they feel like they’re painting experts and don’t need it,” Bruin says. “However, it’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make. The only way, as a DIYer, to get sharp, clean lines is to use tape around your edges.”

Myth No. 4: DIY projects are cheap

Sure, when you do projects yourself, your labor costs will be less—but materials still cost money (and there’s also the value of your time).

“The costs will still most likely cause some sticker shock,” Biddle says.

Once again, we’ve got television to blame. Just because Chip and Joanna Gaines knock out a whole-house renovation for $70,000 doesn’t mean you’ll do the same.

“The unrealistically low budgets on HGTV shows mislead viewers into thinking that their own remodeling efforts won’t be very expensive,” Biddle says.

And don’t forget to budget for the inevitable screw-up.

“Some renovation projects are simple enough in theory, but they can quickly turn into a headache and end up costing you a lot of money having to fix mistakes,” Bruin says.

Myth No. 5: You can knock out your DIY project in a weekend

“The term ‘DIY’ has a connotation of brevity,” Biddle says. “Watching a four-minute online tutorial or reading a one-page magazine article can lead homeowners to believe that the project will be a breeze. If there are only five steps involved, then surely it can’t take too long, right?”

But even small projects can be a big deal. Shatter a box of tiles? That’s a trip to the hardware store. Take a break to watch a few episodes of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”? Before you know it, that’s a weekend lost.

“Even relatively simple endeavors can easily turn into a time suck,” Biddle says. “Add in that many DIYers are weekend warriors with full-time jobs, and it becomes obvious why the ‘little’ project takes three months to finish.”

Myth No. 6: All your mistakes can be covered with paint

No one’s expecting your work to be perfect. Installing cabinetry is hard; hanging shelves requires masterful precision; and getting all the decking boards aligned … well, good luck with that.

But don’t think no one will be the wiser if you cover up your inexperience with a thick coat of paint. Paint can’t hide that the cabinets are uneven. And when it comes to your deck, paint can actually make the problem worse. (Make sure to choose a type of paint designed for decking, otherwise there’s disaster ahead.)

“We look at dozens of decks that were just painted with a product that did not adhere to the wood,” Breyer says. “Now the entire deck is peeling and unusable.”

Myth No. 7: Cleanup is easy

It will hopefully be no surprise that renovations can be messy. A big dumpster can eliminate some of the pain—but not everything can be disposed of that easily.

“Many building materials are actually considered hazardous,” Breyer says. Your old flooring could have asbestos, and the drywall you tore down might be covered with lead paint. Governments have specific regulations about how these materials must be disposed.

Research everything you throw in that dumpster, otherwise you might get slapped with a fine. Hooray—another unexpected expense!

6 Ways to Improve Your Odds of Getting a Home Loan

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial transactions people experience in their lives, so it’s no wonder financing is one of the biggest challenges buyers face when shopping for a new home. Even though the money components of home shopping can be stressful, the good news is there are steps you can take to ensure a smoother process and hopefully improve your odds of getting approved for your home loan.

1. Get Pre-Approved Early

If you want to be ready to make an offer on a home as soon as it hits the market, consider getting pre-approved or pre-qualified early in your home search. Having this pre-approval will help you move fast when you find the perfect home. It’s also typically the first thing an agent will ask you to do before helping you with your house-hunting journey. So getting it done before talking to an agent will show that you’re serious about buying and ready to start touring homes immediately.

According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, the vast majority of people who financed their home with a mortgage in the last year got pre-approved (92 percent), but it’s when they got approved that is the real differentiator.

A little over a third (35 percent) of buyers got pre-approved before involving an agent, while 50 percent waited until they involved an agent before they got pre-approved. Buyers who use an agent are more likely to obtain pre-approval than those who don’t work with an agent, indicating pre-approval is either a prerequisite to securing an agent or highly recommended by their agent.

2. Get a Fully Underwritten Pre-Approval

If you want to take an extra step and do some work upfront to get your offer to stand out, consider asking your lender for a fully underwritten pre-approval. This will not only help speed up the mortgage process even more, but it will also show that you are a serious buyer who has been vetted.

During this process, a lender will verify the information in your mortgage application, your income, assets and debts, and send your loan through the underwriting process so that you can quickly get final approval for a loan once you’ve found your home and your offer has been accepted. So long as your financial condition and creditworthiness hasn’t changed since you were pre-approved, and the home meets other “closing conditions,” you’ll be approved for the loan.

Doing this work up front will allow you to close quickly, opposed to the sometimes-lengthy time frame of these steps once the offer is accepted.

Even though getting fully underwritten sounds like more work initially, you’ll have to go through this process in the later stages of the process anyways, so getting it out of the way early may save time in the long run and help you stand out.

3. Get Your Credit in Check

One of the most crucial component of getting approved for a home loan is your credit score. Not only does it have a huge financial impact by helping determine your interest rate, but lenders will also use this number to determine if you will be approved for a loan. Getting a firm grasp on how your credit is early in your home search could give you the time you need to improve it, if necessary.

Even if you think your score is good enough, it’s a good idea to get a copy of your credit report and take time to review it for any errors. Sometimes, boosting your credit score can be as simple as disputing errors. But if you catch them late, you may not have enough time to dispute before locking in your mortgage rate.

It’s also a good idea to not open any additional lines of credit to reduce further scrutiny from lenders.

4. Demonstrate Financial Stability

When lenders assess whether you qualify for a loan, they’re looking to make sure you’ll be able to repay the loan and not default. You can improve your chances of qualifying by demonstrating that you’re financially stable.

Limiting your spending is one of the easier ways to make sure your lender doesn’t find any red flags when reviewing your financial history. Lenders generally don’t like to see a number of big purchases recently made. And just as much as they don’t like seeing big purchases, they don’t want to see that you’ve missed payments either, so make sure your payments are on time.

To help ensure that you aren’t likely to miss payments, lenders like to see work consistency. If you’re able to, try not to change jobs during this process as the lender might think you no longer have the same funds to afford the mortgage.

5. Put More Down

Even though coming up with enough money for a down payment is often a buyers’ biggest hurdle during the buying process, if you’re able to make a larger down payment (of 20 percent or more), you might up your odds of getting approved.

A large down payment can show lenders you’re serious about buying and have the money to prove it. Outside of a larger down payment giving off the impression that you’re more trustworthy as a borrower to a lender, it can also reduce the loan-to-value ratio, which can increase your chances of getting approved for your loan.

Not only is a larger down payment a plus for lenders, but it can also help make your offer look more attractive to sellers and help them feel more confident that your financing is secure, which could help increase your odds of landing the home over someone else.

6. Move Quickly Once Your Offer Is Accepted

Unfortunately, there are a number of ways mortgages can fall through once your offer is accepted. But if you’re able to speed up the loan, inspection and appraisal periods, you might find yourself coming out ahead.

In some markets, the appraisal can take a particularly long time. So, to speed this process up, ask your lender to order the appraisal the day your offer on the home is accepted. Getting it done quickly may give you time to address any issues that arise.

For example, if the home is appraised for less than the sale price, you can still make concessions with the seller in hopes of getting the loan to go through. Some buyers find luck by paying the difference in cash, getting a second opinion on the appraisal or asking the seller to reduce the price of the home. If the buyer and seller can’t come to an agreement on one of these terms in time, the pending sale can fall apart.

Another step you can take to ensure a smooth, speedy process is to schedule your general home inspection as soon as your offer is accepted. That way if the inspector finds something wrong, you’ll have time to bring in a specialist to take a look. In competitive markets, some buyers even opt to do a pre-inspection to make their offers more competitive, while also removing potential obstacles that could prevent them from getting the house.