Owning three homes over the years and planning some extensive projects have put some experience behind me and taught me some valuable things. While I am by no means an expert on home owning or improvement, I humbly offer the following questions to consider.
Ten questions to Consider When Doing A Home Improvement Project
1. How long will you live in your home?
2. Are you remodeling for your own enjoyment or for resale?
3. Will the value of your home increase by completing this project?
4. What is your budget? Plan on 10-15% more (for upgrades and unforeseen “fixes”) than the cost you agree to pay.
5. What do you want changed? Sit in the space where you want work done. Make a sketch or a list of what you want done. When planning, don’t just think about what you need to change, consider what you’d want or would love to change….. look every direction and think of EVERYthing – walls, floors, even the ceiling. Now is the time to consider moving walls, changing paint color, ceiling texture, lighting, adding a skylight or skytube. Small additional changes while major work is being done can be a minimal extra expense compared to having it done separately later.
6. What are needs vs. wants? Separate your “must have” list and your “wish list”, then check cost to see what you can afford. Consider price, durability and maintenance.
7. Have you tapped resources? Ask others for references, especially those who have had work done recently and/or family members who have your best interest at heart. Get at least three estimates. Compare prices and personalities. Ask a lot of questions and notice what questions contractor asks you – how thorough is he/she? Choose someone you LIKE because they are going to be your houseguests for an extended period of time….but be guarded not to get too friendly or you’ll not want to risk hurt feelings by voicing justifiable complaints.
8. Is the company or individual you want to hire licensed and insured? Licensed means he/she has the required training to do the work. Insured means if there is a mistake or accident, their insurance will cover costs for repairs or medical bills (instead of your homeowners insurance).
9. Have you checked references and online reviews? You don’t necessarily need Angie’s List – there are lots of reviews available when you do a simple search of a company name.
10. Is the company/indvidual qualified/licensed to do all of the work you need (electrical, plumbing, etc.)? If not, do you want contractor to hire subcontractors? Sometimes they have specific preferences about who they will or will not work with – if you have a favorite plumber or electrician, make sure that’s clear and watch/listen for a reaction to see if there is a workable business relationship or otherwise.
11. Can price be negotiated? Often there is room for bartering. There are times negotiation is even expected. A good way to approach negotiation is to ask “can you do any better on the price?” or “I was not planning on spending more than $___, is there any way you could do the work for that price?”. The response you get will indicate if the conversation can go any further.
12. Are all of the details of what you want done in writing?
13. Is there a mutually agreed upon payment plan in place before work is started? Most agree it’s fair for the contractor to have a partial payment/financial commitment from you, but only as an initial payment and after both of you sign a legally binding contract. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated into paying more than is reasonable.
14. Do you have the necessary leverage to get the job completed? Never pay the final payment until all work is completed to your satisfaction or contractor has no incentive to finish and make necessary changes or fixes. Also, get lien waivers before making a final payment.
15. Have you given feedback? If you have been satisfied with the work done, consider giving the contractor a bonus, offer to be a reference for him/her, or vow to recommend the company if you have the opportunity to do so. Verbal compliments are not often given and go a long way if you need work done in the future. Limit communication to facts and not feelings. Remember that these workers likely know your home, your hours and your habits. Do not make unnecessary enemies.
The last step is to enjoy the work that has been done and be confident you have been a smart and savvy consumer.
What can you readers add to this list?