Tackling Home Improvements
Whether you’re planning to do some minor upgrades or considering a major remodel, here are some points to consider before launching your home improvement project.
Will It Pay Off?
If you’re making improvements to get your house ready to sell, do some research to see if they will pay off. Making your house market-ready is certainly worthwhile, but major improvements might not be worth the investment. If your goal is to make the home more livable for yourself, major projects may make more sense. Some improvements will bring a higher price when you sell, and some (like energy improvements) can save money on your utilities. Do some research to find out if the expense makes financial sense.
Before you spend any money on remodeling or decorating, make sure that your house is structurally and mechanically sound. Keeping things in good repair should be first and foremost on your home projects list. A leaky roof, water in the basement, drooping gutters or drafty windows should be fixed before you remodel the kitchen.
Consider Your Budget
Develop a budget for your project and stick to it. Shop around for estimates and compare prices for materials. Find out when your home improvement center is having a sale on the materials you need for your project. Plan your project schedule around those sales. For example, if you want new carpet in the living room, go ahead and pick out what you like, but wait to buy until it’s on sale. If that $2,000 carpet is reduced by 20%, you’ll save $400.
Make a Plan and Set Priorities
Even if you make a specific plan for your home improvement project and shop around for the best prices for materials, expenses can creep up. Remember that even the smallest things – like a sink faucet or cabinet hardware – have a broad price range. Make a list of items you’ll need, then price shop and be prepared to compromise. If your heart’s set on that pricey light fixture, maybe you can choose a less expensive wallpaper and stay within your budget.
Find Out If You Need a Building Permit
Local governments determine what type of work requires a building permit. See our checklist of typical rules.
DIY or Hire a Pro
Doing-It-Yourself has become the great American past-time. There’s real satisfaction from doing some of that hard labor yourself (not to mention the money it saves). But know your limitations. Installing a spiffy new faucet is an easy DIY project, but installing a hot water heater may require a plumber. Hanging a ceiling fan could be a DIY job, while installing outdoor security lighting probably needs an electrician, especially if you have to run additional electrical lines or add a new circuit.
If you decide to hire a contractor, be sure to check out the company with the Better Business Bureau. Get at least three bids, but don’t base your choice on cost alone. Get proof that the contractor carries worker’s compensation and liabilibity insurance. Check their references. Some questions to ask the reference: What type of work did the contractor do? Is the reference satisfied with the quality of the work? Did the contractor stay on schedule? Were the contractor’s employees professional? Did they clean up the job site at the end of each day? Were there any problems, and how did the contractor deal with them?
Check out some of these Web sites for additional resources and advice:
Considering a home improvement loan?
Use our loan calculators to see how long it will take to pay off and what it will cost over time.