Getting Your Mind’s Worth on Home Improvements and Keeping the Change

So you’ve realized that you need a bigger boat since your family has begun using hand signals to avoid collisions. You’re flipping a home before it flips you. Or perhaps your roof needs to be replaced because you can’t seem to find any more pots to collect rain water. Homeowners and property investors alike, all reach moments when home improvements are simply inevitable. And unfortunately, it isn’t always fun.

During this exciting time, anticipation is high, and initially, your tendency may be to focus on all of the positive benefits of completing your new project. After all, the excitement is what probably drove you to make the decision in the first place. Or maybe not. Perhaps it was your spouse who’s been begging for years, or your tenants at the courthouse. If that’s the case then you’re a bit more advanced and lucky for you, these emotions will no longer be mentioned in the next paragraph.

Once you begin considering the costs, the plans, the time, the mess and the stress of completing your new project, your cheek muscles will begin to tire from holding that smile. Your face will soon begin to change, resembling that of a puppy dog, which will become a permanent mask that you will wear until the day your project is completed. You may find yourself reminiscing about a previous disastrous project, or if this is your first, perhaps you begin to hear the echoes from horrific contractor stories-compliments of your friends and neighbors.

The fact is, you can avoid most problems, stress and financial setbacks when undergoing home improvements.

Hiring a contractor for any project should not be a decision that you can simply “leave to the pros”. Unless you’re extremely passive, collect your money from trees in your backyard, or both, chances are you will want to have at least moderate control over the project. And most importantly, control over the funds that you’ll be pouring into it. In order to avoid most problems associated with home improvements, you must get involved early, before it’s over your head.

Below is a general guide that should aid you in holding on to that smile without jeopardizing Johnny’s college fund.

From Gray to White.

It’s time to move all of those wonderful ideas from the gray matter into some fresh white paper. Get yourself a grid notebook and a pencil, and draw out a sketch or diagram. Don’t worry, you don’t need to learn CADD and check it for proper scale, just draw it out to the best of your ability. At this point this will be used simply as a visual aid. Doing this will also ensure that you to consider certain obstacles that may need to be addressed before moving forward.

Unite and Conquer.

Before standing on a chair and dictating your project plans to the ones who will be directly impacted by them, consider sharing your ideas first. Whether this will be to your family members, or if an investment property, to your tenants or real estate agent.

First, begin explaining the reasons for your project, and then the benefits. You’ll want to be able to share the same excitement you felt when you first thought about the project. This will get their attention and more feedback since they are now part of the plan. Bring all of your sketches, and let everyone have a look. Don’t forget your pencil, and make sure it has a fresh eraser at the end. You’ll be amazed to learn all of the different questions and ideas that come out of doing this. Although hard to accept, at the end of this meeting you may even end up with a much better idea, very different from your own.

Now will be a good time to discuss finances and set a budget with your spouse or anyone who may be financially affected by the project. Come up with a reasonable figure and an absolute limit to your budget.

One, two, three…

Now that you have compiled enough information for a rough draft on why the project is needed, let’s discuss what is needed.

With some simple research on the internet or at your local home improvement store, you should now create a list of different materials or products that you might consider for your project. This will help you get more educated on what is actually available. Gather this information on your notebook and list everything by preference and cost- to show the impact on your budget.
Next, find out what the requirements are for your project. You may need to pull a building permit through your city or state. Don’t do anything without it. If you are caught with a permit you may be forced to completely tear down your entire project, at whatever stage you’re in. You don’t want that to happen. Again, this information can be easily located and sometimes ordered through the internet.

If you live in a closed community, check with your home owners association, they may also have bylaws which you may be required to comply with.

Sub Total.

Contractors usually purchase materials at wholesale prices, which is usually between 10% to 20% cheaper then the retail price quotes you may get, so you’re much better off having the contractor provide the materials themselves. But even if you don’t plan on purchasing the materials, it is a good idea to add them all up at this point. This figure will provide you with excellent insight on cost and can be used as leverage when the pricing phase begins.
If necessary, touch up your specifications so that you know how much of what is necessary. The more precise the specs, the more accurate your material costs will be.

Putting it Together.

Most home improvement projects are labor intensive. This means that much of the costs associated are a direct result of hiring someone to put it all together. This is of course, on of the most important pieces of it all, since without it, all you’re left with is an overly erased piece of grid paper with chicken scratch. The process of selecting a contractor is crucial, and there are many things you should consider doing before hiring.

Everyone has got Something to Say.

Friends and neighbors can certainly provide positive (or negative) feedback on local contractors. But don’t settle for just that alone. Just because things worked out well for your neighbor, does not mean that they will for you.
Today, with a few simple clicks of the mouse, you can go from being a novice to an expert consumer in a matter of minutes. Go online and visit websites that offer descriptive business profiles and customer reviews. This will give you a much better idea on who to consider and who to stay away from. It’s like having multiple neighbors now, providing you with feedback for free! Consider the length of time the business has been around too, you don’t want your project to be the first of its kind for a contractor. Also consider visiting the Better Business Bureau to review information on any contractor you’re considering. You’ll have access to review any complaints (or compliments) made by prior customers, again providing you with excellent free information.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

Once you’ve selected two or three potential contractors, gather up all of your information and reach out to each one for a free quote. This process is called RFQ, short for Request for Quotation. You will want to provide as much detail as possible in order to get an accurate figure back from bidders. Schedule a time when bidders can meet with you in person to review your details and the actual work site. Don’t forget to include a date when quotes are due, so that you’re not sitting around waiting to get them all back.
After all your hard work and research, there’s no greater feeling then knowing what you’re talking about. Make sure the contractor understands that you’ve done your homework. Use your newly acquired terminology with them and be clear about what you know and what you expect. Your new skills will help you tremendously when your project is quoted and during any negotiations. You should feel confident that you’ll be getting what you pay for.

Make sure that you request the following documents from all bidding contractors:

o A current copy of their License & Insurance

o Proof of Workman’s Compensation

o Customer References (be sure to take the time to contact each one!)

You’re It!

Once you’ve received all your quotes back, it’s time to compare them. Each should include detailed information such as the description of work to be performed, cost of materials, cost of labor, estimated completion time, warranties on any product and labor and of course the price quote for your project. Although the quote isn’t an actual contract, it should cover most of what you should expect to see in the actual contract.

Remember that although price usually weighs the heaviest when selecting your contractor, remember that cheapest isn’t always better. There are many factors that you should consider before making your selection. Review each one closely.

Done Deal.

It’s finally here! Time to get moving.

Next time you meet with the contractor, you will be required to sign a contract. It is a good idea to have a copy of the original quote document handy. All of the items and any amendments you discussed with the contractor should now be in your contract, along with much more detail. Verbal agreements are not acceptable, so make sure you take the time to review it all and make sure it’s in writing. Consider having an attorney review your contract for large projects prior to signing it.

So there you have it. With a simple combination of gathering, sharing, planning and learning, you can in fact complete a very smooth and successful home improvement project. While minimizing unnecessary stress, maintaining control and that wonderful smile, all the way to the bank.

Knowing When to Replace Soffits and Fascias – A Home Improvement Guide

Not many people know how to replace a soffit; there are those amongst you who may not know when to repair a fascia, either. Perhaps the best place to start is by providing a definition of a soffit and explaining what a fascia is. I must stress the importance, though, of getting a reliable home improvements company to carry out the work – mistakes can be costly.

Okay. So a fascia is a piece of horizontal material that’s found between the highest-part of an outer wall and the eaves that extend from the building. Toward the end of the rafters – often supporting the gutter – is the fascia board. The completed underside of the fascia is the soffit. Unless you work for an expert fascia maintenance contractor, however – or fascia repair company – you won’t necessarily know what signs to look for.

Start by looking at the wood. If it’s showing sign of rotting, there could be a problem and you may want to seek advice on soffit repair. Look at your guttering too and examine the interior walls of your property; if the former is leaking – and/or the latter is damp – then these are early signs of fascia/soffit damage.

Unfortunately, I can’t provide you with a complete guide to fascias and soffits. What I can do is come to your home, complete a survey, and provide you with a quote to repair those soffits and fascias. There may well be nothing wrong, in which case I’ll be quick to put you at your ease. But please, contact me if you’re not sure – else you could end up with woodworm, maggots or dry rot.

Quick Home Renovation Guide For Newlyweds

If you just got married weeks ago, then you must be still tired from all the activities that you went through the time that you prepared for the wedding until the parties that you have organized and attended after the ceremony. But the truth remains that today, you are no longer just a young couple but husband and wife who need to think of your future together. That involves thinking of a home renovation guide to follow if you are going to live in a house that needs improvement. Here are some points for you to consider before you do this soon:

Reasons For Improving The House

If you just got the house from either one of your parents, then you must talk about the reason for thinking of doing this soon. Do you really think that the condition of the house is not conducive for you to live comfortably?

It is best to hire the services of a skilled carpenter to do this on your behalf. Set an appointment with him to have a tour around your house for a day. He is the best person to assess the current condition of the house as well as provide home renovation ideas that you can implement soon.

How Soon You Need To Get These Improvements Done

This is the time when you need to think of certain conditions that will affect the quality of your stay in the house. For example, if you really need to improve your insulation, then that should be your top priority. Same thing goes when you also need to replace your furnace or place a new siding.

Carpentry companies are the best resource for this information since they know to keep a home safe even in the presence of extreme heat, rain and other weather changes. If it is that urgent then you have to let them work on this to prevent further damage to the house and to give you peace of mind in keeping your home a decent place to stay.

Keep It Practical

Another reason for coming up with a home renovation guide is for practical reasons, especially for newlyweds like you. You just had weeks of doing left and right spending activities for your wedding. You have to think of a way to minimize costs while getting the necessary home improvements done. This is for you to still have money to use for your other immediate needs as a couple.

Hire The Best People To Do The Job

Thinking of hiring these experts does not mean that you will spend a fortune. But if you happen to let other providers do this project because you can get their services for cheap, then you have to think twice. You are after the quality of work, something that will last for a long time. This will not be possible if you hire other people to get the job done only to find out that your house will have the same problem in few months time.

These are just some of the things that you should include in your home renovation guide the moment you talk about improving some parts of your house. This can be one of your first few projects as newlyweds, so it is better to talk this over and agree if this is something that your home needs today.

Home Improvement Guide – Understanding the Dynamics of Price Appreciation

How can you add premium value to your home? Beyond the variables within the control of the owner, the home will appreciate in value depending on the prevailing conditions in the market. In addition to this, there are other variables that come into play, and these include the overall condition of your home, specific home improvement projects done and the overall state of safety and stability of the community. The highest jump in prices of homes generally occurs when the economy is going strong. It is during these times that home prices are usually on the higher range.

On the other hand, you can also gain substantial increase in the value of your home through carefully planned and properly executed home improvement projects. In most situations, there are specific home improvement projects that provide the highest added value. These include bathroom remodeling, which can provide as high as 81 percent return, bathroom addition, which can provide 89 percent return, and master bedroom, which can give you 82 percent return.

You have to remember that quality translates to higher value. Proper home remodeling projects are one of the best investment options of homeowners, and poor or inferior home improvement projects amount almost to nothing. You must also remember that the overall state of security and safety of the community directly impact on the actual value of your home. If you are living in a community with higher crime index, a full-functioning watch program in your community can help boost the value of your home.

Does buying a larger home result to higher profits?

You have to take into consideration the following critical variables when deciding whether to go for home addition or move up to a bigger home. Assess your financial condition. Determine how much you have in your coffers and your probable source of additional funds in order to determine how far you can go. From there, decide whether you can afford a larger home or not. If the current budget is not enough to cover your equity for a larger home, then you may have to seriously consider your home addition option.

You must also evaluate the actual additional space required. Carefully assess the overall design of your current home. Can the foundation accommodate a second floor or can the lot area have available space to cover the additional room on the ground level? You must also verify if the home addition complies with existing zoning and building ordinances. Finally, you must also check out available home units for sale that can satisfy your requirements.

At the end the day, your final decision will have to be based on your needs and preferences, the scale and scope of work required and the added value for each of your home improvement options.

Assessing the real value of the home

Proper assessment of the actual worth of your home must be anchored on a reliable comparative market review or an appraisal. A real estate agent will be able to help you derive the numbers and come up with a comprehensive comparative market review, which is the determination of the value of your home based on careful comparative price analysis between your home and similar type of real estate property within your community. You can also gather relevant information by accessing records not only from your local assessor’s or recorder’s office but from private entities as well. You can also check out available information online.

Home appraisal is generally defined as professional opinion of a certified appraiser on the actual value of the home at a particular time. Appraisers take into account a number of factors when making a fair assessment of the actual value of the home, and these include location, area, construction and improvement history and comparable sales.