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tools on a workbenchSmart Home Improvements

Many Madison, WI homeowners are interested in making home improvements like renovations and updates but would like to do so without breaking the bank. There are many steps involved in making home improvements to  homes in Madison and at times it can get a little confusing. Here are 10 ways to keep your home improvements on track and most importantly—on budget!

1. Get More than One Bid on Your Home Improvements.

Just as all  contractors who do home improvements were not created equal, not all contractors charge the same for projects. Don’t just go with the first contractor who gives you a bid. You could be surprised. Sometimes small contractors with good references but not a lot of overhead can do home improvements for thousands less than the heavily advertising corporate outfits.

2. Try to Work when the Demand for Home Improvements isn’t as High.

Some trades are by their nature seasonal. For instance, it’s hard to build decks on in the snow. However, you may be able to reduce your cost of your home improvements if you work in the trade’s off-season.

3. Start with What You Have and Work with It.

There is seldom a need to completely replace everything even in reasonably comprehensive improvement projects. If something is still useful…use it. This may be anything from kitchen cabinets that can always be refaced to lighting that still fits with your new décor.

4. Don’t Move the Outlets and Drains.

Relocating electric services like outlets, switches and overhead lighting in can get expensive: avoid it if you can. Running new plumbing, like supply lines and drains can really add to the cost of home improvements. Just keep that in mind.

5. Don’t be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.

American_buffalo_gold_bullion_coin_frontIn the long run, it is still less expensive for Madison homeowners to buy quality first rather than replace “junk” later.  But keep in mind that many name brand items have smaller competitors who make equally good stuff and sell it for less. They sell for less because they want to compete for the business. Manufacturers who want to compete purely on price are rushing to the bottom and taking quality with them. Keep your eyes open for the little guys who do good work. Your homes deserve better.

6. Use Materials that are Prefinished by the Manufacturer.

You can find all kinds of materials for home improvements that come prefinished including flooring, cabinetry, windows and doors. Prefinishing saves time and energy and keeps home improvements simple.

7. Establish Priorities for Your Madison Home Improvements and Stick with Them!

Nothing busts a budget quicker than “mission creep.” You already know what I mean. It isn’t the one little thing you decided to upgrade mid project that kills you…it’s twenty little things and eventually gang-up and clobber your home improvements budget. If you are fixing up your home for sale, ask your REALTOR where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.

8. Change Orders = Big Bucks.

If you want to keep home improvements on target, resist the temptation of change orders. There’s a reason the contractor’s eyes light up at the mere mention of a change order. He might as well be asking, “Would you like emeralds with that change?” It’s difficult, but try really hard to think through your entire project before the work begins. Change orders can cause delays, can idle workers and create re-work. Those are dollar-grinders to the max.

9. Try Not to Help.

I know this flies in the face of the “sweat equity” school of home improvements but have you ever seen the sign in a mechanic’s garage that says, “The hourly rate is $40/hour if you let me work and $55/hour if you want to help”? Contractors usually regard amateur assistance the same way. They have built their quote for your project based on professionals doing the work. Even talented amateurs seldom can work as quickly as professional craftsmen. If you want to help with your home improvements project, ask you contractor if there is something you can do but don’t be offended if nothing comes to mind beyond sweeping up and hauling stuff to the dumpster.

10. Don’t Pay Your Contractor in Full Up-Front.

It is customary to make progress payments on projects rather than lump sum payments either before or after the work is completed. Your contract should stipulate when the progress payments are due, with the final payment being made when the punch-list is completed and the job site is cleaned up.

Nelson & Associates can Advise You on Getting Your Home Ready for Sale.

Whether you are planning home improvements for your own enjoyment or to get ready to sell, I will be happy to help you decide what will have a good payback. Contact me today we can get started right away.

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