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Home Remodeling Tips
The BIG Home Remodeling Mistakes.....and how to avoid them

Making major changes in your home's design and structure can add thousands of dollars to it's sale price. If you're thinking of making home improvements, make sure you consider the option of a home loan. In other cases, fixing up your home is more cost-efficient and practical than moving. As more and more people take on the tasks of designing new rooms, choosing materials and hiring labor for the first time, they are more likely to fall into traps that cost them time and money. Here are the most common errors to avoid when renovation your home....
MISTAKE: Not seeing the big Picture.

When planning major structural changes, such as adding a room, many people do not take the architectural integrity of their homes into consideration. They need additional space or want their homes to look new, so their main concerns are that the work be done quickly and at a cost that is within their budgets.

Problems: Renovation work that is out of character with the rest of the home sticks out and will be a big turnoff to potential buyers if you decide to sell in the future.
In addition, many people try to do too much without having enough money to do it right. The result is shoddy work.

Strategy: First determine how much you can afford to spend on renovating. Then draw up a wish list of what you want done, in order of preference. To find out what your money might realistically buy, invite two architects and two contractors to look around your home and provide you with ballpark estimates. They should do this for free.

Then plan on striking a proper balance between solving your needs and achieving an appropriate level of quality for your type of home while working within your budget. If you can't get to it all, postpone renovations on other parts of the house until next year or the year after.

TRAP: Spending too much on the renovation project and making your home the most expensive one on the street, thereby pricing it out of competition.
Choose work that will truly improve your lifestyle and make your home more attractive without putting it beyond the reach of a potential buyer.

MISTAKE: Being excessively trendy.

As the number of colorful home-improvement magazines and TV shows increases, so do home owners wishes for the fancy things they see.
While many of these features may look great for a few years, you'll probably outgrow them faster than you think. In all likelihood, you'll also have to live with them, since the expense of redoing what you have done will be higher in the future.

Before you commit to the latest design fad or put a Jacuzzi in the family room, consider the long-term consequences. Ask yourself if you will be comfortable with this style for the next 20 years. When it comes to resale - conservative, timeless work such as elegant, functional spaces and generally neutral colors in kitchens and bathrooms - always holds up best.

MISTAKE: Assuming that you will pay what your neighbors did for the same work.

When home owners go looking for architects, contractors, carpenters, electricians, etc., they usually call their friends for recommendations. They also frequently ask what their friends paid for remodeling or renovations work that was done a few years ago.

With those estimates in mine, they are often shocked when they hear what the work will cost today. During the 1990-1991 recession, business was terrible for architects and contractors. In addition, the cost of lumber has soared in the last 6 years. Be prepared to pay a lot more.


MISTAKE: Not spending enough time hiring the right people.

Most home owners who set out to hire people to design or build for them wish the job were already finished. It's only natural to want your renovations completed shortly after you imagine them. But it's important to be practical and take the project one step at a time.

Once you've talked to a few architects and contractors, ask three of each for bids - no matter how inexpensive the project. Of course, the contractors bids are solicited after the architect completes documents for bidding. The contractor will hire electricians, plumbers, etc.

Ask each for three references, and be sure to contact all of them.
Key Questions:

  • Where you happy with the work and the working relationship?
  • How long did it take to complete the job?
  • Did the contractor ask for many change orders that boosted the cost of the work well past the estimate?

IMPORTANT: Don't automatically choose the lowest bid.

This is a major temptation, but beware - a low price may result in low-quality work, either because the caliber of the person is low, or because the person did not understand the actual scope of the work and bid to low.

A bid is probably too low if it is very different from other quotes. Most people who get three bids accept the middle one, if it is reasonable.

MISTAKE: Not deciding on the details early enough.

Many delays are the fault of the contractor. But some are caused by home owners who haven't selected fixtures, colors, etc. Avoid delays by selecting your faucets, tiles and stones early and making sure everything the contractor needs is in place.

Holding up a project for a few days because you have changed your mind about some element can add weeks to the timetable. You may save money by ordering and picking up finish materials yourself. Get a list of what you need from the contractor. Bring samples home to make sure the new tiles work with the rest of the room. Ripping up newly laid tile costs time and money.

MISTAKE: Assuming you can live in your home while work is being done.

If possible, home owners should move out while extensive interior work is being done. It's not just a question of noise and work-men underfoot. There will be dust, debris, and furniture out of place. There may even be hazardous materials around.

STRATEGY: Arrange alternate accommodations at a residence hotel, which offers lower weekly and monthly rates than commercial hotels...or sublet and apartment. If you do continue to live in your home, be willing to make certain sacrifices.

Paragano, James. "The Big Home Remodeling Mistakes, and how to Avoid them."
Bottom Line Personal March 15, 1995 (7-9.)

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