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Thinking of remodeling your home? Before you get started, check out these 10 tips for home renovations.
10 Tips for Working with a Renovating Professional
Start by making lists of what you like and don’t like in your home. Make sure that everyone who lives with you agrees with what’s on the lists. What activities do you do in each room? How do they relate to features you’d like to add? All this will help your contractors understand your goals.
Personal intrusion, noise, distractions, dust and inconveniences are often unavoidable but they can be managed if you prepare yourself and your family for the process of renovation. Make your home accessible to workers, and take time to understand their schedules. Some contractors may want to work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., others from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Discuss this with them so that their schedule accommodates your lifestyle. Plan some dinners out and a few weekend getaways to give you a break from the craziness around your house.
You must completely understand what you are getting into before you purchase any products or start any work. This means always asking questions, studying drawings and confirming all details with your contractor. A calendar and message center can help you, your children, the contractor and trades people know what is happening in the house on any given day. Being accessible during the day (via cell phone or a work number) can help your contractor make fast, smart decisions as issues arise
On average, people spend 10 to 20 percent more on their renovations than originally planned. If you expect this at the outset, you’ll feel more at ease when you add a feature you forgot or indulge in a luxury or two.
Most of us find contractors through recommendations. A good contractor pays attention to details, such as placing drop cloths and cleaning the site each day, is courteous of your time, follows up with your questions and bills on a regular basis. Does he or she have a cell phone or an email address web site ?
Is there a start and finish date to this project? Are there provisions for extended completion dates, payment schedules and material specifications? Who buys what and who does what? Upon signing, the contractor will probably ask for a deposit – typically 10 to 20 percent of the total job. If he or she insists on something higher, you should consider this a red flag. And it goes without saying that you’d be wise to avoid cash deals.
Use a simple folder to keep track of products you have specified, dates of certain installations and what happens each day at the house. This will become your memory bank of the day-to-day goings-on at a chaotic work site.
When you go on your own, you can dream, get ideas and be creative. When you take your contractor, reality will hit. The contractor can advise you on what will work in your home and the materials that he or she feels comfortable working with.
Confirm that the showrooms you have purchased from can have a contact available. You should also be accessible by phone during the installation dates of products you have chosen. Nothing is more stressful for a contractor than installing a bathtub only to find that a part is missing or wondering how high to hang your wall sconce.
You may think everything is well thought out and planned but inevitably, changes will need to be made. A good contractor will offer solutions to small problems and use his or her experience from past jobs to recommend what works best.
HOW TO: MANAGE RENOVATION COSTS
More than 30 percent of homeowners spend more than they plan to during renovations. If you aren’t prepared, the process can become a rocky road. Here’s my guide to navigating the terrain and ensuring yourself a smooth ride.
Setting a budget is the most important part of renovating. Price everything out first. Ask friends and family what they paid for their new bathroom renovation or finished basement and try to learn from others’ experiences – both good and bad. Be wise about your investment. Experts might advise you to keep your renovation between 20 to 30 percent of your home’s market value to guarantee a return on your investment, but the real estate market has been crazy for the past decade and investing more than the typical rule of thumb can lead to greater profit if and when you sell. Buyers can spot a shoddy renovation so if you’re going to spend more money, you need to guarantee that the workmanship is impeccable and that the materials used can garner the increased list price. If not, you could be sitting on a property for months as you watch your investment disappear in carrying costs while you wait for your home to sell.
After you’ve met, checked references and secured a written estimate from at least three licensed, insured and bonded contractors, be meticulous when it comes to drafting the contract. The bigger the project, the greater the chance that it may go over budget, so have your expectations clearly established from the start. Discuss an estimated time frame for the job, settle the payment terms, secure warranties and even talk about how your existing property will be protected once the work begins. Most importantly, write it all down and watch out for the low-ball quote. If you think it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Get a detailed breakdown and scope of work and define anything that might be considered an “extra,” such as upgrading the quality of the paint used. If you’re doing the work yourself, keep a detailed account of all of your expenses and receipts so you can stick to your set budget for your home renovations.
A good rule of thumb is to put aside an additional 20 percent of your budget to accommodate costs that will inevitably pop up. The cost of renovating can vary so much and you never know what you’re going to find behind the walls. Making changes is allowed, but know when to draw the line and try to stick to as many big-ticket decisions as possible to avoid climbing material and labor costs.
In a poll, the most common renovating complaint from homeowners was going over budget. If you’re new to the game, you might not have the expertise or the time to balance your budget effectively. Scaling back is not as hard as people make it out to be. You can still get an amazing look without forking over the big bucks. I always advise people to use an inexpensive tile, for instance, to avoid paying higher than necessary prices for materials. When your renovation is complete, don’t be shy about inviting a realtor in for an evaluation. If you’ve managed to stay roughly on budget and on time, you might be very pleasantly surprised by the result.
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