“Ask lots of questions,” says Irving about house

1. Not asking enough questions home
“Ask lots of questions,” says Irving. “There’s no such thing as a dumb one, and besides, it’s your money you’re spending. You should know why and on what.”

2. Making too many changes along the way
Changes that seem simple to you may require a lot of work on the back end, so be sure you check with your designer or builder on even slight adjustments. “Even moving a light switch a few feet can cost $1,500,” reminds Irving.

3. Not setting up a timeline
Work with your contractor to put together a list of items that need to be purchased and deadlines for making decisions. “The last thing you want is to feel under the gun to make an important fixture selection you’ll later regret,” says Chiappone.

4. Not thinking outside the box, literally
Gutters, grading, and roofs may sound boring when there are chandeliers to obsess over, but you’ve got to build a solid envelope if you want your house to hold up. “If you’re faced with a choice of working on the outside or the inside, start on the outside,” says Irving. “No point in putting in a new floor if the roof is getting set to leak.”

5. Sweeping interiors under the rug
On the other hand, too many times, interiors are an afterthought. Newbies often think they can do finish work themselves or throw their old couch into a new room. But if you want to love your space—and increase its value—make sure you leave room in the budget for working on interior design and décor.

6. Underestimating psychological stressors
“Any building project in your own home is fraught with power dynamics,” says Irving, who suggests that couples take on a smaller project—building a birdhouse, say—first. Seriously. You might be surprised how different your styles, ideas, and approaches are. “It’s happening in your nest, with your dough,” adds Irving, “in large amounts. If you can’t do a smaller project first, you should at least know that it would be better if you did.”

7. Skimping on quality
“Spend good money on things you touch every day,” offers Chiappone, “like door hardware, doors, faucets, appliances, kitchen cabinets. The tactile experience sends a daily reminder to you and your guests about the solidity and quality of your home.”

8. Splurging where you should save
On the flip side, she says, “Don’t get locked into the idea that the biggest items should cost the most.” Nice throw pillows can dress up a mid-range sofa. Or mix a low-end dining table with a statement light fixture. Reglazing tile will be far more cost-effective than a total overhaul. “And sisal rugs are economical and always look chic!” she says.

9. Replacing windows
“Think long and hard before you replace your windows. If they’re original to the house and are in half-decent shape, they can and should be resuscitated,” advises Irving. Adding storm windows can do the trick where it comes to energy-efficiency. “Anyone claiming that you will earn your money back in energy savings by installing replacement windows is either misinformed or looking for your money himself.”

10. Not knowing measurements
Once you know what size couches, tables, and sconces you need, write them down and carry that list with you always. You never know when the perfect item will jump into your path. “Don’t fall in love with a 94-inch sofa when you can only fit an 84,” warns Chiappone.

Buying giant furniture
While you’re at it, jot down your door widths, too. “Make sure your new purchases can fit through the front door,” says Chiappone. “You won’t believe how often this gets overlooked.”

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