It’s always difficult to decide where to begin. You’ve just bought this new home (new to you anyway) and there seem to be a million and one projects that need doing. Do I refinish the floors first or paint the walls? Should I build that new shelving space in the living room before or after I put in the new light fixtures? Some of the projects will naturally appear more urgent, like that broken door between your basement and the back yard which allows anyone and anything to come and go freely.
If you are working from a budget of limited financial resources (as most of us are), then the thought process needs to begin on this BEFORE you actually purchase the home. Not to say you should get ahead of yourself too much and begin planning how your bedroom suite will look in the house you haven’t even had a tour of yet. No, somewhere around the of performing due diligence stage is a great place to begin thinking about what will need to be done and what needs to come first. The due diligence period is the sweet spot because you will be finding out anything major that needs to be done and can plan for it or push it back on the seller. Usually by the due diligence period, unless something major comes up you are well on your way to purchase the home.
The next determinate of priorities is what the house is for. Will you be moving in with your family and lovingly turning it into a home? Will you be renting it out for some additional income? Or perhaps some combination of the two, moving in to one part and renting out the other. In my case, being a single man I moved into the master bedroom and furnished the home with the intent of renting out the spare room (and the small cottage on the property – but that’s for another post). With this being the case, I prioritize based on what generates revenue and what doesn’t. Before moving in I sanded and refinished the floors because that’s immensely easier when the house has nothing in it. Once moved in, I focused on the most glaring problems that would prevent the house from renting. This included putting in a new kitchen floor (because ugly 1965 sticky tiles are not an attractive feature), installing a new toilet in the main bathroom to save on water costs, refinishing the front entry way room so that it was lighter and more inviting, and obtaining a washer/dryer. With these things complete I put the place on Airbnb (subject of another post to come as well) and began earning revenue from rent.
In your case it may be different, especially if renting is not part of your plan. For this I recommend beginning from the ground up. Water pipes, electrical issues, drain pipes, etc. Focus on problem areas first. Yes, that new closet organizer would look lovely but if your tub is leaking every time you shower the closet can wait.
Once the problems have all been handled, then focus on the parts of the house you use most; bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, living room and then work to the area’s you use least. I also personally recommend working from the inside out, because it sucks to repaint the whole house and then find out you need to replace an entire wall due to a leak, thus destroying your new paint job.
From here you should have a good idea of how to prioritize your home projects. Just remember, avoid making yourself work harder by thinking through all the components of a job to ensure there isn’t something else that needs to be done prior to it. Repeating work unnecessarily is incredibly frustrating and to be avoided in order to preserve your generally optimistic view on life.