Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Money tips for home remodeling

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Homeowners expected to spend more on remodeling

By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch 
A 20-year-old house in suburban Atlanta is getting a makeover to create a more open floor plan for its kitchen, dining room and living room. The homeowners had wanted to make the improvements for a while, but because they purchased the home when prices were at peak levels, their plans were shelved. 

Until now. 

“The rebounding economy gave us the confidence to invest in our property — even though it is still worth less than what we paid, at peak,” said Jeffrey Ulrich, who lives there with his wife and three children. “At the same time, we have no intention of going anywhere else. This is our home, and we made a decision to invest in our everyday living, and think it will pay dividends now and in the future.” 

Researchers at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies think there will a fresh crop of homeowners like Ulrich, finally going forward with postponed remodeling plans in 2014. In fact, they are expecting 10% to 15% growth in remodeling spending through the third quarter of this year, compared with the same period a year ago — which would add up to a “very good year for the industry,” said Abbe Will, the research analyst who puts together Harvard’s Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity. The projection is based on a wide variety of housing data. 

“Homeowners are starting to feel much more confident about the fact that their homes are not just retaining value, but are starting to see home-price increases in many markets,” Will said. To fund these discretionary projects, there’s an improving environment for home-equity lending; until just recently, home-equity loans and lines of credit were nearly impossible to get. 

Remodelers are getting more requests for kitchen and bath remodels, home exterior improvements, changes to help homeowners age in place — even additions, said Tom O’Grady, chairman of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s strategic planning and research committee, as well as president of O’Grady Builders, based in Drexel Hill, Pa. 

The increased demand had many remodelers entering 2014 with jobs in the pipeline, something that hasn’t happened for years, he said. Remodeling activity started slowing back in 2006, O’Grady added. 

Renovation of distressed properties is also helping fuel the remodeling industry, as owners invest money into foreclosures and short sales that have been neglected over the years, Will said.

Before you remodel

If you’re planning a remodel of your own, consider the following before hiring a contractor. It will make for a smoother process, and ensure you’re getting the most for your money. 

Collect ideas: Go online to get ideas, and share pictures that you like with your contractor, Ulrich said. That will help you communicate your desires, and will make it easier for the contractor to quote jobs. “It puts everyone on the same page from the beginning,” he said. 

Set a budget: For yourself, set a maximum budget and make sure you have a contingency for any splurges you may want to make or problems that you could run into, said Liza Hausman, vice president of community for Houzz.com, a home remodeling and design website. Then, create a goal budget to share with your contractor. As much as you can, research materials to understand what they’ll cost. That will help you understand whether your budget is realistic. 

Take a breath: Don’t rush into major remodeling jobs if you’ve just moved in. “Live in the home for a few years so you know what you want to fix,” Hausman said. Only then will you understand how your house works — and what really needs improving. 

Research contractors: Contractors should be licensed and insured. Read online reviews, but make sure that the site you’re using allows both positive and negative reviews (some only post the positive), Hausman said. Don’t forget to ask for referrals from former clients, and reach out to them to find out how they liked working with the contractor, she said. 

Break down bids: Bids should include detailed information on what everything should cost, including materials and labor, Hausman said. But there can be wide variations when it comes to material costs, she said. Find a contractor who can “value engineer” your project and “help you find ways to pull stuff out or do things in a creative way,” so you’re spending your money in a smart way and getting elements that are the most important to you, she said. 

Trust your contractor: Choose a contractor you trust, but also make sure that the person who gets the job is a good communicator. That will go a long way to making sure you’re happy with the final result. “We’ve heard plenty of horror stories from friends,” Ulrich said. His contractor was good about following up after the initial inquiry — and Ulrich took that as a good sign. 

Start with a small job: Although he had a good feeling about the team doing the work, Ulrich gave his contractor a smaller project, a bathroom remodel, first, before hiring him to do his large-scale great room project. “How you’re treated on a small project is going to be how you’re treated on the big project,” he said. “They treated us like the most important customer they had, and it showed.” 

Prepare for inconveniences: Workers will be in your home all day, and if you’re redoing a kitchen, take-out dinners will become the norm. And then there’s the dust. But remember that remodeling requires a spirit of adventure, Ulrich said. “Take a deep breath and say ‘This is all going to turn out great, and it’s a small price to pay for decades of enjoyment.’” 

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Does DIY add to the value of your home?

Hi Everyone!  Welcome to today's blog post about DIY projects!  Did you know that I'm the author of not just one, but thirteen books?  For more information, please visit www.charlesirion.com, www.irionbooks.com and/or www.summitmurdermystery.com

Does DIY add to the value of your property?Wherever you look in the world, there are literally millions of people attempting do-it-yourself on their home properties and investment properties. If you know what you are doing, and you are confident in your own ability, there is the potential to add significant value to your property and make yourself some serious money. So, if DIY is so easy why do so many people fail to see the increase in the value of their property that they expected?

There are many reasons why DIY does not work for everybody, it is not as easy as it looks, there are potential pitfalls and the bottom line is that you need to know exactly what you are doing. We will now take a look at some of the issues surrounding DIY and why you should only attempt it if you are confident in your ability.

Simple DIY is easy
There are many different levels of do-it-yourself taking in anything from painting to roofing, from electrics to fitting a new bathroom and many more in between. When it comes to very simple tasks such as painting and “tidying up” a property to assist with a potential sale then this is something which is not out of the reach of the vast majority of homeowners. You would be surprised to learn how big an impact a simple “tidy up” and repainting job can have on the saleability of your home – making your property more “easy on the eye”

Medium level DIY
We then move on to the medium risk DIY projects which take in the likes of flooring, replacing tiles, wallpapering and other similar tasks. On the surface, again, this type of project seems fairly simple but have you ever tried to lay flooring? Are you confident climbing ladders and replacing tiles? Are your wallpapering skills as good as you think they are?

When we move towards medium level DIY this is an area which can have a detrimental impact upon the value of your property, its saleability and can actually impact upon your finances. If you make a hash of replacing flooring, replacing tiles, wallpapering, etc then the likelihood is that you will need to call in the experts at some point at further expense. Indeed, if you have made a mess of your medium level DIY then it can actually cost more to put it right than it would have to bring in the experts from day one. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems where DIY is involved!

High level DIY
DIY projects such as installing gas equipment, rewiring your home, fixing new lights and fitting a new roof to name but a few are high-level DIY projects which require professional skills. There are many tasks in the DIY arena which experts would think twice about tackling unless they have specific focused skills in the relevant areas. Just because you can wire plug does not mean you can rewire your home, just because you can fit a few tiles does not mean you can fit a new roof. You also need to take into account the safety aspect, the fact that tackling electrical, gas and other challenging DIY activities can not only place you in danger but also those around you.

If you are looking at any level of DIY on your property you need to make sure you have the experience, the expertise and perhaps just as importantly, the right tools. Many people will make a success of their DIY projects, they may well add a significant amount of money to the value of their property but there are more people who make a mess of their DIY projects and end up paying more to get their mistakes corrected!

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Renovation Solutions: Survival tips for living while remodeling

The Smiths, a family of eight survived fairly extensive renovations while living in their split home throughout the construction process.  Their remodel included an addition of 400 square feet to both the main and lower levels, creating a great room (family room, dining area and kitchen) on the main level and a secondary family room below.  As much as they tried to keep the construction zone contained, living in a home that is being remodeled disturbs the rest of the house and how a family lives. Tiffany Smith offers some insight into how she survived living through the remodel with her small children.

Deciding to stay, The Smiths broke ground for the project when the youngest of their six children was 7 months old. It took almost a year to complete the construction, and they lived through it, literally, right in the midst of the construction zone.

Many families stay in their home during a remodel. One common reason is the budget.  On one hand, if a family moves out, they can theoretically save money because the contractor can get the job done faster (and therefore more cheaply) if they don't have to work around a family.  On the other hand, the cost of a temporary apartment or a condo tends to eat up any such savings.  For the Smiths, it was a hard decision. "I thought about this so much," Smith said. Even now that the remodel is finished, she has gone back and crunched the numbers again.  "Would it cost more to stay, or is it cheaper to move out? Honestly, I still don't know."

Ultimately, they stayed because they didn't want to uproot everyone. "Even though it was a weird construction phase, the kids were sleeping in their own beds," Smith said. It was a constant among the chaos.

Stay organized (as much as possible)
The problem with staying in the house during a remodel is that it is almost like moving but you don't go anywhere.  You still have to pack boxes. Everything from the areas to be remodeled has to go somewhere else during construction. The Smiths used a storage shed for some boxes, but most of the stuff ended up stacked in the den and the master bedroom.  "Our master bedroom was the catchall," Smith said. "Everything had to go somewhere, and our room was floor-to-ceiling with boxes. I don't know how we survived it."

Check in with reality
The reality is that remodeling is messy, noisy and stressful.  "So many people prepared me," she said. "They warned me about the constant mess and the constant dust. They said you just have to grin and bear it, and in the end you will be grateful. They warned me that those days are going to come where you are going to cry and say, 'How in the world are we living here?'  So, when those days came, she was prepared for them. "There were only two or three days when I threw up my arms and said, 'I can't stand this; I want my house back!' And that was pretty good for me."

Getting over the no-kitchen blues
Surviving three months without a kitchen is not easy, especially when you have a family of hungry children.  The Smiths' secret: lots of microwaveable and slow-cooker meals. Smith says one thing that saved her was that her older kids were back in school during the time when they had no kitchen.
“That way, I didn't have to worry about all three meals for all the kids,” she said. “Breakfast is easy — toast, cereal or oatmeal in the microwave. For lunch, the older kids would be in school so I would only have the younger kids to worry about. They were so young, they won't even remember how bad it was.”

Make as many decisions as you can upfront: Smith says it took a year to get all the plans and specifications done. She worked with the architect and an interior designer to finalize all the specifications. "I made 95 percent of all the decisions before we even dug the hole," she said.
"I didn't want to make any last-minute decisions. I knew with my family responsibilities I wasn't going to have the luxury of going out and pricing items that the contractor needed the next day."
At the same time, because she was living in the house, she was accessible for the contractor when there was a question. “Being on-site made it easy to meet with my contractor," she said. "I didn't have to pack up the kids to go talk to the contractor for 15 minutes."

Think safety
When you are living in your home during a remodel, safety comes first.  "Safety definitely was a concern," Smith said. "You have to make sure the job is cleaned up every day and that there are no nails lying around. We had a really great contractor who was always good about keeping his job site clean.” The family has a responsibility to stay out of the construction zone for the duration of the remodel no matter how much they may need that space.

Overall, living in your home during a remodel is not easy. It will take patience and a good attitude. “Sometimes we just needed to pack up and go to the park," Smith said.

"My attitude was, 'Just grin and bear it.' I knew it was going to be worth it in the end, and it was. It was all worth it.”

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Article source: desertnews.com