Planning major home renovations this year? The process can be more streamlined and less stressful with an architect in charge, according to Laura Cripe and Matt Nardella of the Logan Square-based firm Moss Design.

“Architects are more equipped to give a complete picture on cost and also what can be done with the building,” Nardella says. “When working with clients, timeline and cost are the two biggest questions,” Cripe adds.

Nardella estimates the cost of a gut rehab to be between $125 to $175 per square foot in materials, with a construction timeline upwards of a full year. Tack on an additional 10 percent to account for architect and engineer fees, permitting, and other non-material expenditures, Nardella says.

If that cost and timeline sounds daunting, or if you're planning to list your property in the coming months, focus on lower-cost cosmetic improvements, says Liz Muscare, broker with Rooney Realty.

“I try to look at the house as a buyer would,” Muscare says. Curb appeal and aesthetic condition of a house should be at the top of the priority list. Homeowners performing small updates in hopes of getting the best price possible have to be mindful of the cost-benefit ratio.

“Updating a kitchen or bathroom can be expensive and you don’t know if a buyer is going to like it,” Muscare says. Instead, she recommends improvements like refinishing hardwood floors, painting, and decluttering—low cost tasks that have a high impact on buyer perception.

And in terms of the timing? Those looking to to sell their home this year should already be working on cosmetic improvements, Muscare says. “I’m asking my sellers to have their repairs and renovations completed by February or March in time for the spring rush.”