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Friday, July 10, 2009

13 Things Your Home Remodeler Won't Tell You

With business down it may be the perfect time to indulge in some home improvement projects. Read on for more secrets of home remodelers.

1. Business is down 16 percent. The good news for you: I’m returning calls and trimming prices.

2. High-end people will do smaller jobs we might have spurned a few years ago. Focus on projects that will keep your house market-ready, like upgrading a bathroom.

13 Things Your Home Remodler Won't Tell You
© F. Young
#1--Business is down 16 percent. The good news for you: I’m returning calls and trimming prices.
3. Triple-check financing before you start. You don’t want to run out of money to pay me because your lender decides to lower or eliminate your home equity line of credit. (And it can, at any time.)

4. Those of us who do new houses or commercial projects may not have great remodeling skills. Long track records count.

5. Look at work I’ve done in the past 12 months, on a budget similar to yours. (Older projects likely had bigger budgets and more expensive materials.)

6. Check me out: Any liens? Pending lawsuits? Do I have a valid state license? Do my subcontractors?

7. Test-drive me on a smaller project before you commit.

8. Do I have insurance? (Check directly with my insurance company. Those papers I waved in front of you may have expired years ago.)

9. Don’t overimprove—especially since home values are falling. Check out local trends in the “Cost vs. Value” report at

10. Spell everything out. Otherwise, I may not prime the walls before I paint or I may not build that closet shelf and put up that rod. Expect nothing that’s not in writing.

11. Ask if you’re getting a dedicated crew. If not, your project may drag on while I juggle multiple jobs. Tie the contract to deadlines for each phase.

12. Ditto for the brand and precise quality of the materials, appliances, and fixtures you are ordering. Don’t let us sub in materials of “equal or better quality” that aren’t.

13. Put “while you’re at it” projects on a separate list and ask me to give you separate estimates. Home improvement spending is projected to slide another 12 percent this year. I’ll likely have time—and be glad—to come back.

Sources: Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies; Roger Peugeot, president of Roger the Plumber, Inc., Overland Park, KS; Collin Johnson, director of inspection services for the City of Glendale, WI; Bruce Case, president of Case Design/Remodeling, Inc., based in Bethesda, MD. Interviews by Joanne Cleaver.
From Reader's Digest