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I have been compiling this list of home improvements and the general percentage that is recouped when you sell your home. Of course, the percentage rates will vary slightly depending on your location and your market.

Percentage of your investment that is recouped at resale:

150% for  Remodeled Kitchen
A kitchen update can reward a seller with a sizable payback. Just remember though; splurging on fancy finishing materials or sophisticated equipment may cut into your profit. Keep it simple and don’t update over what is common in your neighborhood.

100% for Revitalized Lawn and Garden
A beautiful green lawn and a modest but colorful flowerbed will entice potential buyers. The few hundred dollars invested may yield several thousands in profit.

100% for Fireplace
Especially if it is energy efficient, such as a gas-powered model, a fireplace holds the promise of cozy family gatherings around the warmth of the hearth. Location will  make a difference too-Florida & California will not yield as much.

90% for Second Bathroom
All it takes is a simple 5×9 foot extra bathroom to make mornings more civilized for most families. But don’t count on a return on extras like a heat lamp, sauna or whirlpool tub.

80% for Room Addition
For the most attractive return of your investment dollars later on, the added room should be today’s most popular rooms-family room or a third bedroom.

80% for Remodeled Bathroom
A master bathroom is on many buyer’s list, so invest here. If you own only one bathroom, install two sinks or a double vanity to handle the morning crowd.

70% for Expanded Master Suite
To keep costs down, try to find extra space to create this wish list item by combining existing rooms and spaces. Heavy structural work entailed by adding square feet diminishes your return.

70% for Deck
Outdoor living space is a desirable asset no matter where the locale. No maintenance decking material leaves lots more leisure time, too.

50% for Exterior Paint
Sprucing up tired siding, trim, etc., can take years off the look of an older house, which helps curb appeal and may help your home sell quicker.

50% for Finished Attic
You can expect to recoup more of your investment if you make sure the renovation does not detract from the aesthetics of your home. It is especially attractive as an extra bedroom in a small house or office but it must be well insulated.

40% for Finished Basement
If you live in an area where there basements, his is a great way to gain added living space without building a costly addition. If the basement has an access door to the outdoors, the project becomes more valuable. Unfortunately, in Florida & California, you don’t find too many basements!

40% for Heating and Cooling Systems
Replace it only if your old system is dysfunctional. Depending upon a buyer’s priorities, a new energy efficient furnace/AC may or may not be a selling advantage.

35% for New Windows and Doors
Buyers appreciate changes that improve the look of a house, so attractive new French doors, for example, may be a plus. Energy efficient units are an ecological boom, but may be a resale bust.

30% for Garage
Don’t go overboard to blend it into your home’s architectural style. Its desirability increases if you live in a part of the country with a harsh climate.

0% for Swimming Pool
Unless you live where the sun always shines, such as Florida, this luxury item can detract from your resale profit.


by John Riha in Houselogic

The retailer plans to sell solar panel systems at its U.K. stores. Is the U.S next?

IKEA is now selling residential solar panel

The forecast for energy savings is bright in Britain: Bargain furnishings giant Ikea announced it will start selling solar panels at its U.K. stores. Image: IKEA

When you pop over to Ikea to get your akurum kitchen cabinets, an ullgump rug, or a plate of Swedish meatballs, you can pick up a couple of solar panels, too. At least in the U.K.

I guess Britain isn’t as overcast as it’s reputed to be!

Ikea just announced it’ll begin selling photovoltaic (PV) solar panels at its stores across the pond. A 3.36kW system to power a medium-size, three-bedroom home will cost about £5,700 ($9,200). If you don’t have the up-front cash, the bargain furnishings store will offer a financial package.

Will Ikea panels come to the U.S.? It’s likely. Major retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s already offer panels, and many solar companies are offering financial incentives, such as lease options.

Plus, there’s a glut of PVs in China manufacturing plants, which has helped drive down the cost of panels by some 60% over the past three years and helped bring about the Ikea deal, according to news reports.

How Does the Ikea Price Compare?

Prices in the U.S. vary depending on system size, but we found one quote for a 4kW “medium-sized system” for a three-bedroom home estimated at about $17,000, after rebates and tax credits.

Does Solar Make Sense Now?

Maybe. If you get at least five hours a day of sunlight, you’re trying to reduce your energy bills, you can handle the cost, and you think it could be a marketable feature when you go to sell (check with a REALTOR® in your market about that), this might be the time.

In the U.S., the feds are offering an energy tax credit on solar for 30% of its cost through 2016. You also might find rebates from your state or utility from the DSIRE database.

By the way, in the U.K., the government pays homeowners for the electricity they generate from solar PV systems.

What’s Included in the British Ikea Price?

  • Consultation
  • Installation
  • Ongoing service by Chinese energy giant and Ikea’s solar partner, Hanergy Holdings Group

IKEA predicts that energy savings will allow the panels to pay for themselves in about seven years. So if you’re saving money on energy, you can buy more lansas. (That means drawer handles in Ikea.)

John Riha has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.



What an informative article!! Please take the time to read this wonderfully written article if you think that you might remodel your kitchen in the next few years.

By: John Riha  from
Afraid your kitchen remodeling choices will look so 2013-ish in a few years?  Relax, we know how to make your kitchen timelessly gorgeous and functional.

Fiesta ware displayed on open shelves in kitchenA white kitchen is the perfect backdrop for showcasing Fiesta ware on open  shelves. Image: Kim Woodward/

We see lots of kitchen trends at HouseLogic, so we know it’s easy to get  swept along with what’s in vogue, only to get bummed out by your faddish design  choices a few years later. Thank you — and damn you — Pinterest.

But chances are you’re only going to remodel your current kitchen once. After  all, the annual Cost vs.  Value Report from Remodeling magazine pegs the average price of a  major kitchen remodel at about $54,000. With that much on the line, you want to  make all the right moves. If you do, you could recoup nearly 70% of your  investment if you sell.
So we’re here to future-proof you from angst by  naming the seven definitive kitchen features that will retain  their beauty, marketability, and value — all while giving you lasting enjoyment.
#1: White is the Dominant Color
Bottom line:  White is the most marketable color. You’ll always find it atop the National  Kitchen and Bath Association’s annual survey of most popular kitchen colors. It  simply doesn’t go out of style.
White’s mojo:

  • Throughout history, it’s been associated with happiness, purity (think Snow  White), and new beginnings.
  • It’s a bright color that reflects light and makes even small  kitchens feel larger.
  • It’s a neatnik’s dream — dirt has no place to hide.

Even better, it’s uber-tolerant of both your budget and taste: A standard  color for any manufacturer, you’ll find white cabinets, tile, counters, faucets,  sinks, and appliances at any price point.

Vintage stove

Credit: Ken Clark, Realtor


  • White:  The Savvy and Chic Kitchen Color Choice
  • Before  and After Pictures of White Kitchens

And with a white backdrop, you can be as conservative or expressive as you  want. After all, it’s about your enjoyment, not just dollars and cents. For  example:

  • Add your personal touch with colored glass knobs and pulls.

Glass knobs

 Credit: Allessia of Little Lessy

  • Show off antique Fiesta ware on open shelves or in upper cabinets with glass  fronts.
  • Paint walls the color du jour — even off-white!

Paint walls

Credit: Lisa Damrosch

Heck, with a white palette, you can change your mind about paint color on a  whim. Those all-white basics will make any hue you choose look fresh and  contemporary.

Related: Using  Color to Personalize Your Kitchen and Home
#2: Hardwood for  Flooring

Wood floor

 Credit: RJK Construction, Inc.

It’s been our foot fetish for years. That’s especially true ever since  hardwood flooring was mass-produced during the Industrial Revolution, making  beautiful flooring readily available at a reasonable cost.
Today, more  than half of home buyers who purchased a home without hardwood floors say they  would have paid an extra $2,080 for them, according to the 2013 Home Features  Survey from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. And among buyers of any age,  upwards of 80% say hardwood floors are “somewhat” or “very  important.”
“It’s the one feature men and women agree on,” says Debe  Robinson, NKBA treasurer and owner of Kitchen Expressions Inc. in Sheffield,  Ala., who’s also worked in the flooring industry.
Why? The love of wood  is in our genes. Our nesting instincts know that hardwood has warmth,  personality, and makes our homes cozy and inviting. That’s why this clever  chameleon pairs well with any kitchen style — from casual cottage and sleek  contemporary to the most chi-chi Park Avenue traditional.
More reasons  why wood flooring is the goof-proof option:

  • Perfect for open floor plans. It flows beautifully from the  kitchen into adjoining rooms.
  • It’s tough. Hardwoods such as oak, ash, and maple will  shrug off your kitchen’s high-traffic punishment for years. Solid hardwood  flooring can be refinished 10 to 12 times during it’s typical 100-year  lifespan.
  • It’s eco-friendly. Hardwood is considered a green building  material when it’s certified  by the Forest Stewardship Council and comes from sustainably managed  forests.

Related: The  Best Choices for Kitchen Flooring

#3: Shaker Style for Cabinets

Shaker cabinets

Credit: Stacey Collins Design

Thank heaven for the Shakers. While they were busy reducing life to its  essentials, they made cabinets with clean, simple lines that will  forever be in style.
Shaker cabinets are an enduring legacy of American  style and, like wood flooring, have the knack for looking good in any setting.  Their simple frame-and-panel design helps reduce the amount of busyness in a  kitchen, making it a soothing, friendly place to be.
“In a kitchen with a  timeless look, you want the cabinets to be part of the backdrop,” says Alan  Zielinski, a former president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. “You  don’t want to be overpowered. You’re looking for plain, simple, clean  lines.”
Those plain, simple, clean lines are a perfect fit for  transitional style — a beautiful combo of traditional and contemporary styles.  In fact, the National Kitchen and Bath Association says that after creeping up  on traditional for years, transitional is now the most popular kitchen  style.

As our families grow more diverse, transitional style will only get more  popular. It lets us personalize and blend cultural influences — Latin, Asian,  Mideastern — into our homes; it’s the perfect balance of old and new, just like  Shaker-style cabinets.

Related: How  to Choose Kitchen Cabinets for the Best Value
#4: Carrara  Marble for Countertops

Carrara marble

Credit: Jennifer Thompson

Carrara marble is a timeless classic that’s been used in homes for thousands  of years. (Michelangelo’s “David” was carved from Carrara.) It’ll look as good  in the next millennium as it does now.
Here’s why:

  • Carrara’s lacy graining and subtle white colors look terrific in a white  kitchen (or any kitchen, for that matter).
  • It has a whiteness you won’t find in other natural stones.
  • It’s readily available, making it less expensive than other high-end  choices, such as quartz.
  • It’ll last for generations.

If you Google it, you’ll find a lot of debate about it (and marble in  general) because it stains easily. But if you want something truly timeless,  Carrara is the answer. And with today’s sealants, the problem of staining is  almost moot if you reseal once or twice a year.

Related: How  to Get the Look of Marble Without the Cost
Still not sold? Or don’t  have the budget? Laminate  countertops are relatively inexpensive and can be upgraded to stone when you  do have the budget.
#5: Subway Tile for the  Backsplash

Subway tile

Credit: A Lo and Behold Life

Subway tile goes back to the early 1900s, when it was used to line New York’s  first subway tunnels. Classic subway tiles are white, 3-by-6-inch rectangles — a  look that became popular in American kitchens and baths, and has stuck around  ever since. Now it’s an iconic part of the American design vernacular, destined  never to go out of style.
In the kitchen, ceramic tile excels as a  backsplash, where it guards against moisture, is a snap to clean, lasts forever,  and always looks classy.
Sure, a backsplash can be an opportunity for a  blast of color and pattern, but neutrals will always be current and blend with  any look. Plus, a subway tile backsplash and a marble countertop make a dashing  couple that will stand the test of time.
To make it even more enduring,  keep it achromatic and camouflage dirt with gray or beige grout.

Related: Classic  Backsplashes for Any Budget
#6: Ergonomic  Design
Adaptability and universal  design features mean easy living at any age. A recent survey on kitchens  from the American Institute of Architects points to the growing popularity of  smart ergonomic design, a sign that kitchen adaptability will stay in vogue.
Smart ergonomics simply mean convenience — for young or old, party  people or homebodies — a key factor when remodeling  a kitchen that will function well, retain its value, and always feel  right.
No matter you or your buyer’s current or future needs, everyone  wins with these approaches:

  • Create different countertop heights. Standard height is 36  inches, but you can raise or lower sections of cabinets by altering the height  of the base. Add color-match shim strips to the bases of countertops that don’t  include sinks or appliances. You (or a new owner) can easily remove them or add  to them to adjust the height.
  • Swap a standard range for a wall oven and a cooktop. Ranges  have fixed heights. There’s no getting around the fact you have to bend to  access the oven. But a wall  oven conveniently installs about waist-high.
  • Add pull-out shelves to base cabinets. Lower cabinets with  doors mean having to twist like a pretzel to see what’s inside. Pull-out shelves  put everything at your fingertips.

Smart storage

Credit: Autumn Clemons of

  • Keep wide clearances. Kitchens attract people, and with  open floor plans, you’re apt to have folks hunting for snacks, helping you cook,  or just hanging out while you prep meals. Keep traffic flowing with a minimum of  42 inches between counters and islands.

Related: Find  Out How Stylish Ergonomic Design Can Be

#7: Smart Storage
Today’s families store about 47% of  their kitchen stuff outside the kitchen — in laundry  rooms, basements, even sheds — according to data released at the 2013  Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.
We blame it on the fact that kitchens  have evolved from a tucked-away place at the back of the house into a  multiple-chef, multi-tasking space that’s the hub of family life. Plus, our love  of open kitchens and stocking up at warehouse stores means less wall space and  more stuff, kitchen design expert Robinson says.
The solution: smart  storage. Cabinet manufacturers have you covered with nearly unlimited storage  options — shelves and compartments that unfold, turn, extend, and  slide.
But it’s not just about having storage, it’s about designing it  smartly. Follow these guidelines to make your storage  timeless:
Create a primary storage zone. This is an area  30 to 60 inches high and within two feet on either side of your body. Store your  most-used items here — your favorite work knives, measuring cups, salt and  pepper for cooking, your trusty pots and pans. With one easy motion, you can  grab what you use all the time.
Plan for the unknown. A  truly timeless kitchen anticipates and adapts to future needs, such as:

  • A space that can easily convert to an office, wine  storage, or a closet.
  • Lower cabinet spaces that can accommodate a wine cooler, under-counter  refrigerator, a second  dishwasher, or new must-have kitchen appliances on the horizon. (Remember  when microwaves didn’t exist?)
  • An open space that fits a freestanding desk or favorite antique that can  personalize the kitchen — no matter who owns the home.

See Storage Options  that Pack More Space in Your Kitchen

Related: Smart  Kitchen Remodeling Strategies to Get You Started
We feel strongly  about these kitchen features, but we love your strong opinions, too. So tell us  what you think! 

John_Riha   John Rihahas written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on  home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of  the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of  Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

This is fun to check out. It shows some of the different homes styles that have been built over the years. It sometimes helps my first time buyers decide what style they do or more importantly don’t like when home buying. Actually, it has helped some of my sellers when remodeling or adding onto their home too.

Every house has a style. Sometimes it has two or more; because of renovations and new, eclectic mixes, fitting a home into one specific category can be daunting or even impossible. Thankfully, there’s no need to memorize complicated architectural terminology. REALTOR® Magazine has compiled a convenient compendium of common styles. Delve in and learn to highlight the details that give a home character, history, and romance.

By: Dona DeZube

As long as you’re remodeling, why not cut your utility bill and make your home a bit healthier?

Saving energy wasn’t on the list of reasons we’re finally ripping out the kitchen in our mid-century home (green-veined, imitation marble laminate countertops figured much more prominently). But, a session at the recent 2012 Remodeling Show in Baltimore clued me in as to why adding a few simple tasks to our remodeling plan could lower our home’s energy bill, get rid of some of the annoying hot and cold spots in our house, and make our home less hospitable to mold and other allergens.

Carl Seville, author of Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction, shared some simple, inexpensive ways to make remodels and additions more energy efficient from the standpoint of energy usage and conservation of resources.

Try these eight tips from Seville:

1. Check for water intrusion, condensation, and excess moisture before you begin the project. Fixing those issues during remodeling can improve your home’s indoor air quality (excess moisture encourages mold).

2. Use the least amount of framing allowed by your building code when adding walls. Not only will you have to pay for less lumber and fewer nails, the contractor will have more room to put insulation in your walls, making your home more energy efficient.

3. Resist the urge to splurge on multiple shower heads. Opt for a single low-flow shower head rather than installing a car wash-style plethora of shower heads.

4. If possible, add new HVAC ducts to parts of your home that are heated and cooled, rather than placing them in a space with unconditioned air (like the attic). If that’s not possible, insulate the ducts. Have an HVAC diagnostician analyze your system to make sure it’s sized correctly and balanced to properly exchange old and new air.

5. Be sure to insulate around recessed lights that protrude into un-insulated attic spaces — these are major sources of air leaks.

6. If you’re wasting water, you’re wasting energy. Look at high-efficiency or solar water heaters, and insulate your water pipes. If you want hot water faster, move the water heater closer to the faucet or install demand pumps to drive hot water to the fixture.

7. Install wall-mounted efficiency toggle switch plates for the outlets where you plug in your televisions and computers to make it easy to cut off the power to electronics you’re not using.

8. A humidistat that automatically turns on the bathroom fan when moisture rises beats depending on teenagers or tenants remembering to use the fan. Reducing bathroom moisture reduces the chances you’ll have mold.

When I pull the kitchen cabinets off the wall, I’m going to use caulk to seal between the wallboards and the floorboards before I put down new flooring and install the new cabinets. And since I’ll have the caulk out, I’m going to seal the top of window trim, something my home’s builder didn’t do.

What are your tips for smart energy savings during a remodel?

5 Smart Home Products from a Cool Trade Show

By:  John Riha

Published: July 2, 2012

The 2012 Pacific Coast Builders Conference has a dazzling array of brainy products that take the worry out of having to think for yourself.

I’m a sucker for home products that are smarter than I am. OK, maybe that’s setting the bar too low, but when looking for intelligently designed stuff that has a little techno-pop to it, the annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco is a great place to start.
PCBC trots out some of the slick-but-common-sense innovations in the industry. Here are a few of the products I saw at the recent 2012 PCBC that I’d buy for my own home. A couple are a bit pricey, but expect costs to come down as demand increases.
1. Windows that let you know if they’re locked

Window lock

In this peanut butter-and-jelly corporate pairing, Andersen Windows teamed up with Honeywell to create a home security system. Wireless sensors embedded in Andersen’s Verilock-equipped products (marketed through their Eagle and Silver Line windows and doors) know if windows and doors are open or closed, and if they’re locked or not.

The info is displayed at a centrally located control panel, or you can check from your smartphone or tablet.
The setup and a couple of 2-by-5-foot casement windows is about $2,500. Windows with Verilock are 20% more expensive than without.
2. Shingles that give you solar power

Solar shingle

A grail of the solar energy industry has been to create a good-looking residential roofing shingle that’s also a solar panel. The Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingle comes close. It looks like a regular asphalt shingle, albeit a real shiny one, and it’s designed to integrate with regular asphalt shingles.
The manufacture claims:

  • They’ll withstand 110 mph winds and 1-inch hail.
  • For $31,000 worth of new roofing featuring both Powerhouse and regular asphalt shingles, a 2,550-sq.-ft. house would see $76,000 worth of energy savings in 25 years.

3. Soil guru waters your lawn when needed

Irrigation controller

One thing that makes a lot of sense when it comes to home automation (not everything does) is smart irrigation control, and the ESP-SMT Irrigation Controller from Rain Bird seems to have a lot going for it in the smarts department. Input your ZIP code and the integrated sensor monitors daily weather conditions and turns on the irrigation system only when needed. Rain Bird claims 30% to 50% less water consumption than a conventional controller.
It also factors in the slope of your lawn, the amount of sun exposure, and soil type; and it handles up to 13 individual zones and meets EPA WaterSense criteria for irrigation controllers. $135.
4. A bathroom fan that lights up when it sees you

Home vent fan

Our bathroom fan sounds like a 747 taking off — you flinch and duck when you turn it on. Thankfully, fan engineering is getting quieter, and Panasonic’s WhisperSense-Lite bathroom fan adds motion sensors, a humidity sensor, a delay timer, and a night light. Plus, it’s Energy Star qualified and really quiet — great for concentrating on that crossword puzzle. $350.
5. Chic — and safe — shower stall

Curbless shower pan

This isn’t necessarily high-tech, but I’ve been looking for a curbless shower pan for our own (endless) bathroom renovation; this one could fit the bill nicely.
The barrier-free shower is standard for universal design installations, but walk-in showers are tres chic for today’s bathrooms, and by golly we want one. The Tuff Form Shower Base from Design Without Barriers has a slight slope to drain water — no need to pitch the subfloor — and it works with either ceramic tile or vinyl flooring.
A 3-by-3-foot shower base is about $1,000.
Which product would you buy? Are you a must-have-the-latest technology person or someone who’ll wait until prices come down?

Visit for more articles like this.


Just some interesting little tidbits that I have heard or read about lately:

These are the from National Association of Realtors:

84% of all residential real estate sales begin on the Internet; 74% of Internet Buyers find their agent through a search engine

One in Four Foreign Buyers Buy in Florida

primary sources of business-referrals, repeat clients & their website

The Top 10 “Must-Have” features that homebuyers want in a house

1. Large kitchen   2. Energy efficiency which includes appliances, insulation & windows   3. Home office   4. Main floor master bedroom suite   5.

Outdoor living room   6. Ceiling fans   7. Master suite soaker tubs   8. Stone & brick exteriors (depends on where they live)   9. Community landscaping with walking paths & playgrounds   10. Two or three car garage

from Good Housekeeping Magazine’s What is your Energy-Efficiency IQ?  Heating your home typically uses 31% of your energy, AC uses 12%; leaving your computer in sleep mode uses very little electricity & no waiting for rebooting so no need to shut down for lunch breaks, using a coffee maker daily costs about $35/year if you leave it on for an hour to keep coffee warm-okay, interesting

The trend in gardening this year is going back to its 1980’s roots so to speak: integrating fruits & vegetables into general landscape giving beauty & food; including succulents & bromeliads which are easy to maintain but look exotic with their bright colors; adding colorful plants to each side of your driveway & not just to your entrance sidewalk; using semi-porous paths (stone or brick instead of concrete) which allow for better draining & therefore better for the surrounding plants & trees; and lastly, adding natural ec-friendly wood seating & dining spaces which are made of bamboo or eucalyptus.

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine, Home Trends, by Melissa Tracey

Color experts are already giving their forecasts for the hot hues for 2012. And next year, the inspiration for color is mostly being drawn from the great American outdoors.

“Native plants and flowers, oceans and lakes, and rocks and minerals are the sources of inspiration for the paint colors that will be ‘in’ next year,” says Debbie Zimmer, color expert at the Paint Quality Institute.

Here’s an overview of the 2012 color palette, according to the Paint Quality Institute.

Courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute

Bold Blue

“From sparkling sea-glass blue to colonial blue-grey, blues are suitable for all living spaces, being a naturally soothing color that is loved–in one iteration or another–by almost everyone,” says Zimmer.

Courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute

Vibrant Green

A variety of green shades are expected to make it into more interiors next year, from dining rooms and kitchens to family rooms and bedrooms.

Bringing the outside in, these greens range from celery and asparagus colors to fir and fern, Zimmer says.

Courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute

Majestic Violet

“A harmonious combination of patriotic blue and red hues, violet can add ‘punch’ to any room when used as an accent color, or serve as the dominant color in a bedroom,” says Zimmer.

This is a good article to read before starting that remodeling work on your home.

By: Oliver Marks     from HouseLogic NAR

Protect yourself against contractor scams that threaten to stick you with shoddy workmanship or take your money and run.

The vast majority of contractors are honest, hardworking professionals. Protecting yourself against the few bad apples requires checking references, having a solid contract, and being alert to the warning signs of these top five contractor scams.

Scam 1: I’ll need the money up front

This is the most common ruse reported to the Better Business Bureau. Your contractor explains that because he has to order materials and rent earthmoving equipment to get the job started, he needs, say, 30% to 50% of the project price up front. Once you’ve forked over the dough, one of two things happens: He disappears on you, or he starts doing slapdash work knowing that you can’t really fire him because he’s sitting on thousands of your dollars.

How to protect yourself: Never prepay more than $1,000 or 10% of the job total, whichever is less. That’s the legal maximum in some states, and enough to establish that you’re a serious customer so the contractor can work you into his schedule—the only valid purpose of an advance payment. As to the materials and backhoe rentals, if he’s a professional in good standing, his suppliers will provide them on credit.

Scam 2: Take my word for it

When you first meet with the contractor, he’s very agreeable about doing everything exactly to your specifications and even suggests his own extra touches and upgrades. Some of the details don’t make it into the contract, but you figure it doesn’t matter because you had such a clear verbal understanding.

Pretty soon, you notice that the extras you’d discussed aren’t being built. When you confront the contractor, he tells you that he didn’t include those features in his price, so you’ll have to live without them or pony up additional money to redo the work.

How to protect yourself: Unfortunately, you have no legal recourse because you signed a contract that didn’t include all the details. Next time, make sure everything you’ve agreed on is written into the project description. Add any items that are missing, put your initials next to each addition, and have the contractor initial it, too—all before you sign.

Scam 3: I don’t need to pull a permit

You’re legally required to get a building permit for any significant construction project. That allows building officials to visit the site periodically to confirm that the work meets safety codes.

On small interior jobs, an unlicensed contractor may try to skirt the rule by telling you that authorities won’t notice. On large jobs that can’t be hidden, the contractor may try another strategy and ask you to apply for a homeowner’s permit, an option available to do-it-yourselfers.

But taking out your own permit for a contractor job means lying to authorities about who’s doing the work. And it makes you responsible for monitoring all the inspections—since the contractor doesn’t answer to the inspector, you do.

How to protect yourself: Always demand that the contractor get a building permit. Yes, it informs the local tax assessor about your upgrade, but it weeds out unlicensed contractors and gives you the added protection of an independent assessment of the work.

Scam 4: We ran into unforeseen problems

The job is already under way, perhaps even complete, when this one hits. Suddenly your contractor informs you that the agreed-upon price has skyrocketed. He blames the discovery of structural problems, like a missing beam or termite damage, or design changes that you made after the job began.

The additional fees might very well be legit, but some unscrupulous contractors bid jobs low to get the work and then find excuses to jack up the price later. If you’re unsure whether your contractor is telling the truth about structural problems, you can get an impartial opinion from a home inspector, the local branch of the National Association of Home Builders, or even your local building department.

How to protect yourself: Before signing the contract, make sure it includes a procedure for change orders–mini-contracts containing a work description and a fixed price–for anything that gets added to the job in progress. The extra work, whether it’s related to unforeseen building issues or homeowner whims, can proceed only after the change order is signed by both homeowner and contractor.

Scam 5: I’ve got extra materials I can sell you cheap

This hoax is usually run by driveway paving companies, whose materials—hot-top asphalt and concrete—can’t be returned to the supplier. So the crew pulls up to your house with a load of leftover product and quotes a great price to resurface your driveway on the spot.

Even if it’s really a bargain (by no means a sure thing), taking them up on the offer is risky if you have no idea who they are and haven’t checked references. And if the driveway starts cracking next year, you can bet you won’t find this bunch again.

How to protect yourself: Never hire a contractor on the spot, whether it’s a driveway paver, an emergency repairman who shows up after a major storm, or a landscaper with surplus plantings. Take your time to check contractors out to make sure they have a good reputation and do quality work.

from HouseLogic  NAR


 Most homeowners opt to add some upgrades to a new home, with the cost rolled into the mortgage. But the choices of what flooring, lighting, or other upgrades to choose can be overwhelming.

Designer Candice Olson, author and host of HGTV’s “Candice Tells All,” says lighting and extra wiring are key upgrades new home buyers should consider.

“Adding lighting – or at least the wiring for it – means you’ll be able to have bathroom sconces instead of that one overhead light the builder gives you,” Olson says. “Your flat-screen TV can be where you want it. You’ll have a floor outlet for the lamp in middle of the open room. And you won’t be ripping out walls later to do all this.”

She says homeowners shouldn’t forget about the exterior lighting either. “Outside lighting, plus landscaping, will set apart your house from the others in the neighborhood where buyers chose from plans A, B and C,” Olson says.

As for flooring, Olson recommends hardwood floors for the main living areas, and cork floors in any areas where water leakage could be a problem.

She also says the addition of taller baseboards, chair rails, crown molding, coffered ceilings, built-ins or a banquette also are smart investments for upgrades.

Source: “Decisions, Decisions: Add Character to Your Home With a Few Choice Upgrades,” Chicago Tribune (2011)

© Copyright 2011 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD

Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

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