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Taking on a home renovation project can be terribly overwhelming, even for seasoned veterans. With HGTV shows, family blogs and curated Instagram feeds creating the illusion that it will be a fun bonding experience with your spouse, it’s no wonder that so many are buying fixer-uppers. It’s a commendable choice to renovate an old home, but you’ll need to have a good plan on paper before you ever touch a single tool.

Do your homework. Don’t go in blind. Before you hire a contractor, it’s important to conduct as much research as you can—and not just by Googling or swooning over Pinterest boards. Find out what your local contractors’ portfolios look like, ask them about their experience and call their references. Many design professionals play the smoke and mirrors game online to sway potential clients, but a positive, long-standing reputation in your community speaks for itself.

Establish a budget. Penny-pitching homeowners can boast about how much they saved during the renovation process by cutting costs wherever they could, but even the most experienced DIYers are likely to run into issues they didn’t expect. This is why most design professionals recommend that their clients figure out a realistic budget ahead of time. But be aware that almost every renovation ends up costing more than you want it to.

Choose a dream team. Renovation and design projects often go hand in hand, and for that reason, plenty of husband-and-wife duos are starting construction and design businesses. If you can find your own local Chip and Joanna Gaines, you’re in luck. Otherwise, you’ll have to scout out a contractor and a designer separately, and figure out how well they work together to make your dream home a reality. If you’ve found a designer you’re excited about, you can also ask them if they have a contractor they prefer to work with. That can help ensure you have the strongest team possible in place.

Figure out whether you need an architect’s help. Depending on the scale of your renovation project, you may need more than a contractor. Entire additions—for example, a sunroom, an extra bedroom or a screened-in porch—to your home are unlikely to be manageable by a team of construction workers alone. If you need to get in touch with an architect, figure out who in your area is available and capable of providing you with the best service possible.

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