Even though it may not look like it right now, spring is just around the corner. We're heading into home and garden show season, so remodeling and repair weather can't be far behind. You may have a number of items on your "honey do" list or projects you'd like to have done to upgrade your home, but whether you are a DIY'er or hire a professional, making the most of your remodeling budget is of utmost importance. Here are some tips to make sure you get the most for your money.
- Be clear on your goals. Define what you expect to accomplish with a project, establish your budget, and have concrete goals in mind. For example, "replace the windows" is kind of vague. If your purpose for new windows is to cut down on drafts and reduce your heating and cooling bills, a more precise statement of your intention is "replace existing windows with better-insulated, more energy-efficient ones." A vague goal means you'll make decisions without a target, and that always means spending money unnecessarily, and often not getting what you really wanted.
- Be honest about your own abilities. When it comes to deciding whether to take on a project yourself or to hire a remodeling contractor, don't let pride cost you. When in doubt, hire a pro. If you make mistakes yourself, you'll have to hire one anyway to fix it, and that will cost more in the long run than if you had a contractor do it from the start.
- Set a budget, and then communicate well with your contractor. Budgets should be talked about in your initial interview with a contractor, not after you've signed the paperwork. Communicate your goals and vision for your project, and then be honest about your budget. Expect honesty in return; if you can't get what you're envisioning for the amount of money you're prepared to spend, a good contractor should be able to suggest more economical alternatives.
- Check your credit and evaluate your financial resources before starting. Unless it's a small project you're prepared to finance yourself, you probably will need a home equity loan or similar financing to cover the costs. It's a good idea to know beforehand where you stand in terms of creditworthiness. That has an impact on the interest rate and repayment terms you'll get. If you haven't gotten a copy of your credit report recently, you can request one every year from such sites as freecreditreport.com or annual creditreport.com
- Hire a reputable contractor. That may seem like a no-brainer, but there are a lot of scammers out there in the home remodeling business, and for some reason siding and window replacement seem to be big targets. Be wary of a contractor who makes a cold call on your home offering a "special" because they're working in your neighborhood. Check with the better business bureau, verify licensing, and check references. Don't be afraid to ask who some of their suppliers are - you may get some helpful information from the lumberyard or builder's supply they deal with.