Tip 1. Compare The Cost Of Moving To Remodeling. Moving is expensive, typically involving a 6% commission on the sale of your current home, plus another 2-4% for closing, moving, and other costs. If you like the present neighborhood then look into what improvements you could make with 8-10% of your home’s current value before you decide to move.
Tip 2. Design Ahead. You don’t want to come up with an additional brilliant idea right after the job is complete. You can reduce the risk by doing some advance research. Read up on design, talk to friends with knowledge and experience with the type of remodeling you’re considering, and get suggestions (and references from architects and remodelers while you’re in the early stages of planning. If you’re changing current floor plans get some graph paper or a floor planning kit and play around. Start a file for literature about components and finishes.
Tip 3. Don’t Over Improve. This may be of less concern if you plan to remain in the home for a long time, but it’s very important if you’re remodeling to sell your home. Some remodeling jobs, such as a prudent overhaul of a very dated bath or kitchen, or the addition of a second bath to a one bath home, can return more than 100% of the cost at the sale of the home, and help you sell it faster. However, if you want a different look, you’ll probably not recover the investment in a home that is already significantly more valuable than most of the others in the neighborhood.
Tip 4. Allow Plenty Of Time For The Job. Murphy’s law applies to remodeling. If you expert a contractor to compress a six week job into four weeks, you’re asking for trouble. Also, you can save money and probably get the job done faster if you have the ability to schedule it in the off season when contractors have fewer jobs to bid on.
Tip 5. Check The Remodeler’s Credentials- Carefully. Are they licensed and insured for workers compensation, property and personal liability? If in doubt, ask to see their insurance certificate. Do they belong to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council, and/or any of the more specific trade associations in the remodeling sector? That’s a sign of commitment to the trade and to professionalism. Most also offer certification and/or management training and keep their members up to date on the latest products and techniques. Ask for recent references on similar jobs (employee and subcontractor turnover is often fairly high, so recent jobs are a reliable indicator of their current capability). Check their record with the Better Business Bureau while you’re at it.
Tip 6. Request A Comprehensive Bid. It should detail as many of the specifications as possible. Get bids from three remodelers. If one of the bids is unusually low, make sure that they have included everything. If they have, make sure you’ve thoroughly covered tip #5.
Tip 7. Consider Doing Some Of The Work Yourself. If the bids are higher than expected and too much for you to afford, you might be surprised how much money you can save. But make sure you’re not getting into something you don’t have time to do. Things that come up near the end of the job, such as painting, finish carpentry, etc. are good bets since the other parts aren’t dependent on their completion. Some can even be done after the issuance of the final occupancy permit.
Tip 8. Get A Comprehensive Written Contract. It will greatly reduce the likelihood of disputes with your remodeler. Most disputes arise over issues that were not resolved in advance. Make sure it covers the description of the project, timetable, payment schedule, etc., with general provisions defining the responsibility of the contractor and the subcontractors, defects and correction, change order procedures, warranties, right to termination, and alternative dispute settlement mechanisms (since more than half of the costs of lawsuits represent legal fees, homeowners and contractors will almost always be better off with mediation, conciliation, and/or binding arbitration clauses should a disagreement arise).
Tip 9. Consider Buying Certain Building Materials In Advance. Styles for appliances and other building materials and suppliers are subject to change and are often heavily discounted when they go out of production. If there’s a style you like very much, it may not be available next year, so consider buying and storing them when you see a really good deal. With the advent of the larger super discount home improvement stores, prices are down to the point that remodelers often can’t get much better prices from other sources, even with their business discounts.
Tip 10. Be Careful About Financing. If you’re financing the project, you want the lowest rate possible and you want the interest to be tax deductible. Only certain types of loans will give you an interest deduction so check with an expert. In some cases, refinancing your mortgage can be the best bet.