How to Avoid Home Improvement Horrors
Are you thinking about renovating your home? Make sure you’re prepared. Home Improvement projects can range from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands, depending on the project.
You can avoid the horrors by determining in advance how to pay for your project, by hiring the right person, and by asking thoughtful questions.
How do you plan to pay for your home improvement project?
- Home Equity Loan
A Home equity loan uses your home’s equity as collateral. You borrow a lump sum of money repayable over a fixed term, giving you the security of a locked-in rate and a consistent monthly payment.
- Home Equity Line of Credit
A home equity line of credit, HELOC, also uses your home’s equity as collateral. A HELOC is much like a credit card or any other type of open-ended credit. You can borrow money as needed, up to the credit limit your lender assigns. A HELOC is usually a variable-rate loan, so your monthly payments will change based on your outstanding balance and fluctuations in the prime rate.
- Home Improvement Loan
A home improvement loan is a fixed-rate loan, similar to that of a personal loan. There is no equity required for collateral, nor are there any closing costs. The interest rate is based on your credit score.
If you’re not sure which option may be best for you, an Atlantic Mortgage Loan Originator can help you decide.
What questions should you should ask yourself, your contractor, and references?
- Are we talking about the same thing? Make sure that you and your contractor are clear about cost estimates. Often, a contractor's concept of a "worst-case-scenario" cost can be different than yours. Always tell your contractor what your assumptions are.
- Did you experience cost overruns? Talking to references is the best way to learn whether a contractor routinely underestimates projects, either out of optimism or as a ploy to get the job. Ask them, "I’m concerned that the price of my remodel will change a lot during the job. Was your final cost much higher than the quote?"
- Did subcontractors view the job and provide estimates? A good contractor will get firm proposals from all the trade contractors. The trade contractors should visit the site with the general contractor before they provide their proposals and before the job starts.
- Can you put that in writing? When the contractor creates a written contract with firm quotes from subcontractors, the final cost should only vary from about 3% to 5%. The contract should specify that if things go wrong, the contractor will absorb any additional cost.
- What's happening? Asking questions throughout the project is part of the homeowner's job. By talking to the plumber, you may learn that it's possible to turn a large linen closet into a laundry area at minimal cost, compared with the total price of getting the laundry out of the basement. Asking questions can also clarify other choices, especially when problems occur.
There will be problems and surprises, so it's good to know ahead of time how your contractor to them.
Stay up to date and join our email list.
The Atlantic blog strives to deliver informative, relevant, and sometimes fun financial information. If you enjoyed this article, please forward it to a friend.