Home Improvements - Three Mistakes to Avoid

By: Steve Gillman

Home improvements are made for a variety of reasons. Sometimes those reasons are confused in the mind of the homeowner. That explains the first of the common mistakes listed below.

1. Not Being Clear About Your Purpose

With any home improvement, you should be clear about why you are doing it, so you can be clear about whether it is worth the cost. People often confuse their motivations, saying that a given project is not only to make the home more livable for them, but is an "investment" as well. The problem is, it may not be an investment that yields any return.

In a report recently in Remodeling Magazine, the average cost and added value of various home improvements was shown for different areas of the country. The worst remodeling projects, including creating a home office, only returned about half of the cost in added value. With the best, including a basement remodel, you get back about 90% of what you spend.

Let me do the math for you: every single one of the improvements in every area of the country was a money losing proposition on average. Now, it is true that some are better than others. The average attic bedroom addition only cost $13,000 more than it adds in value to the home, while you lose $30,000 on the average master bedroom suite project. It is also true that if you are knowledgeable and creative, you can add more in resale value than you spend.

Be clear about this. If you spend $68,000 creating a master bedroom suite, and it only adds $38,000 to the value of your home, this is not an "investment." The real cost in the long run is $30,000. That's what you pay for your personal enjoyment of it.

With that in mind, you may want to consider how long you will live in the house, and divide that costs into those months to decide if it is really worth it. If you move five years later, that nicer bedroom cost you $6,000 per year to enjoy, or $500 per month. If that seems reasonable, do the improvement. If an extra vacation or two annually, or $500 per month going into a retirement account, or any other way you could spend that $30,000 sounds better, drop the project or scale it down.

2. Not Being Clear In The Contract

If you don't know what you want, you are likely to pay a lot more than you think for home improvements. This is because whatever you agree with the contractor on, that's what you get for the price. Every little change will be extra, so know what you are trying to do in advance, and make sure it is included in the bid and the contract.

You may be wise enough to have a deadline in the contract, rather than just an "estimated date of completion." But a deadline alone may not be enough. You may also want to consider a clause that specifies penalties for not completing the job on time. A line saying that the price will be reduced by $100 for each day past the deadline is a "motivational clause." Also, never pay in full until the job is done.

3. Not Being Prepared For The Process

Large home improvements involve large messes. You may have to deal with dust and piles of construction materials for weeks or longer. Consider this when planning when to do the remodeling. Ask the contractor (before you sign the contract) if he will be completely cleaning up the mess in the end, and what you can expect during the process. Will they be providing a bathroom, or will the worker need access to yours? Will there be security issues, like walls that are open to the outside for days? Will you have to chain up your dog or warn the children about dangers?

The bottom line? Avoid these common mistakes and you will probably be happier than most with your home improvements.

Home Improvement
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