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home improvement tips: how to get the most effective results for your money

regular contributor Joel McDonald forwards us this advice on how to ensure you get good value for your home-improvement dollar:

If you are a homeowner, you have probably thought about remodeling. If you are getting ready to sell, it could very well be the time to do a bit of remodeling, and increase the value. Home improvements can be expensive, so, of course, the average homeowner will try to get the nicest improvements done with the least cost. Saving money is a big consideration for most homeowners, but that certainly does not mean you want a cheap job.

The cost of investing in and maintaining real estate makes it a serious business. If you are not careful, you could over-invest, whether a project is for a single room, the roofing or landscaping, or the whole property. Hiring a legitimate professional is key to getting a good remodeling job done at the right price.

The Federal Trade Commission says that homeowners should be aware of the tricks of dishonest companies. The FTC warns about these warnings that your contractor might be trouble:

  • insists on the need for a quick commitment
  • asks for full payment up front
  • offers you a cheaper price for finding other clients
  • offers you a special price due to (how lucky you are!) having extra materials on hand
  • asks you to get the building permits
  • only accepts cash

Any of those circumstances could be a sign that you should run and get a different firm. Sometimes a bogus contractor will also try to get you to borrow from a lender that they know. At its worst, a loan scam could literally put you out of house and home.

Precautions to Take
There are several precautions you should take to keep from being taken advantage of. Interview potential contractors thoroughly. The FTC suggests that you ask how long they have been doing business, license details, and insurance offerings. Check with the city or county building office. Ask around. These things are not unlike the normal way you normally approach any big purchase or transaction.

Another important tip is asking for recent references. Not only should you get a list of references, but you should call and checkup on them. Ask these references about the quality of the job. Question them about whether there were last-minute costs, and other problems.

Terms of payment must be clear and agreed upon before the job is started. Some local laws set limits on how much higher the actual cost can be above the contract estimate. Check into the laws where your work will be performed.

This article was provided by Automated Homefinder, Colorado's Louisville real estate professionals.