It is not always possible to renovate before moving into a new home. But at a certain moment in time you might start becoming intolerant and wanting to change and improve things so that they correspond to you and not to the previous owners.
Easy to say, but where do you start?
First of all, think about the works you need to do, their implications and establish a provisional budget. For most works, you might be forced to leave the house for a few weeks if not months. If that is the case, you have to add the renting/storage/moving cost to your budget. If your budget cannot cover all you have in mind, start prioritizing.
For me, the first non-negotiable thing is safety. You don’t want to live in house where the electricity is not compliant or the water pipes are made of lead. So this kind of works should have the priority. If you live in Belgium and have bought recently, you should have received a (non)compliance certificate for your electrical installation. You can ask an electrician what it means in terms of danger and in terms of works to be performed. Be careful about the implication: works on the electricity might imply the re-plastering of the walls if new cables have to be pulled into the walls. This means that you’ll have to add the plastering and painting of the walls to your cost calculation.
The second thing is comfort both in terms of physical and emotional one. If your windows are single glazing and you’re freezing in the winter and sweating in the summer then you cannot really enjoy your home. You’re also throwing away money in terms of energy so investing in new windows will be a wise choice. The emotional comfort is very personal and relates to your lifestyle and to what makes you feel good. If you have kids, like to cook and invite your friends for dinner, a small separate kitchen can feel like a prison. All the activity would go on away from where you are and you would feel alone. As an alternative everybody will concentrate in the kitchen leaving you no space to cook properly. Knocking down a wall and transforming the kitchen into an open one can make all the difference. The contrary also apply, as an open kitchen can be dreadful for someone who likes to be concentrated cooking and leave all the mess and the smells away from the family living.
The third thing is function: think about what is important for you. Do you need an extra bedroom or can you put the kids together? Can parents sleep in the smallest bedroom and leave the big one to the kids or you don’t want to give up your own space? Do you want a big bathroom with shower and bathtub or two separate smaller ones.
The fourth is aesthetic that can go hand in hand with emotional comfort but can usually be accepted in an easier way. A bathroom with ugly tiles can be depressing but you might live with it for a few years without too much of a problem.