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Bring your home out of the 90's! Home Improvement tips

Is this the year you committed to putting on a new roof? Ready to update to your dream kitchen, or to put on that family room addition?

If you’re considering a home project that is going to be fairly sizable in time and expense, it’s a good idea to do your homework so you can hire the right professional. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Develop a List of Possible Candidates

Start by talking with family or friends who have used contractors. Local hardware or home improvement stores may also be able to suggest contractors who they respect. Be sure to check your names with organizations like your local Better Business Bureau or your state’s consumer protection agency to learn whether complaints have been filed against the individual or company.

Get Multiple Estimates

Ideally, you’ll want to meet face-to-face with at least three contractors to discuss your project and get a written estimate. At a minimum, estimates should include separate costs for materials and labor, any other anticipated expenses, and an approximate timetable for the work. Ask whether any product or service warranties are included or what the contractor or company will cover if something goes wrong after the job is done. Are extended warranties available for purchase?

Evaluate Carefully

Once you have your estimates, don’t automatically choose the lowest bid and be wary of any estimate that is significantly lower than the others. Beyond price, review the contractor’s technical competence, availability, experience, and reliability. It’s also important to consider your comfort level with the person. How did he/she handle the estimate meeting? Did you get good answers to your questions? Ask for and check references. Confirm that the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured, including liability and worker’s compensation insurance.

Get a Contract in Writing

After making your choice, your next step is to get a clear, detailed contract. Along with listing what will be done and when, it should include a payment schedule and how change orders will be handled. Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces where known information should be.

Agree to a Payment Schedule

Most reputable contractors will agree to a payment schedule that requires a small amount with the signing of the contract (to help purchase materials), with additional payments as the job progresses. The final 15% - 20% should be paid only when the work has been completed to your satisfaction and any necessary inspections have taken place.

Don’t Forget to Update Your Homeowners Insurance

Once your project is done, it’s a good idea to talk with your homeowners insurance agent or insurance company to determine if you also need to adjust the amount of coverage on your home.

“In the event of a total loss, you want your limits to be sufficient to rebuild your home so that it includes any recent improvements or additions,” says Mary White, assistant vice president at The Hartford. In some cases, that may mean increasing the amount of coverage you carry. Adds White: “Remember that your home is your largest asset, and you want to make sure it’s fully protected.”

However, doing a coverage review can also work to your advantage, according to White. “For example, putting a new roof on your home reduces the likelihood of a leak that could damage the home and trigger a claim. That lowered risk may be reflected in a lower premium,” White says.


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Posted 10:39 PM  View Comments

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