Home improvement can be a pricy proposition. Whether you are upgrading your master bath to an in-home spa or taking care of a much-needed roof replacement, you are likely to need a good chunk of change. However, it is possible to save money on home improvement projects by advance planning and savvy shopping. Here are 13 ways.
- Do your research long before you ever hire a contractor. It's easy to find home improvement inspiration online, as well as practical information about prices and quality. Clarify about what you want, how you will fund the project, and what your time frame is. (For example, you might want to remodel your kitchen in time for an important family celebration.)
- Pay for a designer or architect. It might seem strange to spend money in order to save, but these professionals will suggest ways to make the most of your home that might never have occurred to you in a million years. They may also advise on which renos will provide the best return on investment in terms of your home's resale value. Last but not least, they can translate your vision into clear diagrams for the remodeling crew to follow.
- Ask several contractors for detailed written estimates, including materials, schedule for the work and incremental payments, insurance, and warranty on materials and labor. Then negotiate for a discount. The final written contract should contain the same specifications as the estimate.
- When you choose a remodeling contractor, request his suggestions on keeping costs down, perhaps installing engineered wood flooring rather than solid hardwood.
- Stick to the plan. Changes once construction is underway will cost you. If you are ordering materials such as ceramic tile yourself rather than via the contractor, allow plenty of lead time. Construction delays due to missing supplies are also costly.
- Have a slush fund for unexpected expenses. That way, you will not have to scramble for additional financing in an emergency.
- Schedule your reno for the off season -- usually from after Christmas through spring -- when contractors may be more "hungry" for work.
- Decide what parts of the job you can realistically do yourself. For example, complex wiring or major structural changes are usually best left to the pros, while cleanup, interior painting , and hauling demo'ed materials to the recycling center or the dump are good candidates for DIY.
- Avoid the hassle and expense of moving your plumbing (sinks, toilets, washing machine and dishwasher hookups) if you can. Ditto for structural elements of your home.
- There are tons of ways to save money on materials. Think rehab rather than replace when major items like kitchen cabinets or floors are basically sound, if a little worn. Don't order custom when stock will do just fine. Shop for discontinued tiles or lighting fixtures, lightly scratched or dented appliances, carpet remnants, and unneeded special-order items like oops paint, to name just a few. Browse the classifieds for bargains or haunt building supply auctions, demo sites (with permission, of course!), and secondhand outlets.
- Request a volume or cash discount and take advantage of sales tax holidays to purchase big ticket items.
- Improvements that increase your home's energy efficiency may make you eligible for financial assistance in the form of rebates or tax credits, from the federal or state government or your local utility company.
- Low cost loans are helpful source of funding for home improvements. The FHA 203(k) is a type of mortgage loan that will cover the cost of certain repairs, as well as the price of the house itself. The FHA also makes available its Title I property improvement loan for improvements that increase a property's livability and usefulness; you may be eligible even if you do not have substantial equity.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.