Top 10 Remodeling Tips


Tip 1. Compare The Cost Of Moving To Remodeling.  Moving is expensive, typically involving a 6% commission on the sale of your current home, plus another 2-4% for closing, moving, and other costs.  If you like your current neighborhood then look into what improvements you could make with 8-10% of your home's current value before you decide to move. Before beginning any remodeling project it's extremely important to identify a realistic budget. There's no sense starting a major remodeling project if you can't afford it. Be honest with yourself and how much you can actually afford and write down an actual budget. Once you've done that only allocate 90% of that money for the remodeling tasks and save the other 10% for a contingency.

Tip  2. Design Ahead.  You don't want to come up with an additional brilliant idea right once the job is complete.  You can reduce the risk by doing some advance research.  Read up on design, talk to friends with knowledge and experience with the type of remodeling you're considering, and get suggestions (and references from architects and remodelers while you're in the early stages of planning). There are hundreds of homes with remodeling projects to view, everything from remodeling a small bathroom to finishing an entire basement. If you live in the Twin Cities Metro area be sure to check out for resources for builders and remodelers as well as dates and times for the Parade of Homes tour.  The Builders Association of the Twin Cities is proud to present the Parade of Homes and the Remodelers Showcase during the Spring and Fall season.

Tip 3.
Don't Over Improve.   This may be of less concern if you plan to remain in the home for a long time, but it's very important if you're remodeling to sell your home.   Some remodeling jobs, such as an overhaul of a very dated bath or kitchen, or the addition of a second bath to a one bath home, can return more than 100% of the cost at the sale of the home, and help you sell it faster.  However, if you want a different look, you'll probably not recover the investment in a home that is already significantly more valuable than most of the others in the neighborhood. Consider consulting a Realtor to evaluate the home improvements you are considering on making in your home.

Tip 4.  Allow Plenty Of Time For The Job.   Murphy's law applies to remodeling.  If you expert a contractor to compress a six week job into four weeks, you're asking for trouble.  Also, you can save money and probably get the job done faster if you have the ability to schedule it in the off season when contractors have fewer jobs to bid on. Will your contractor be working on several jobs at the same time or will your remodel be the only project they are working on?

Tip 5. Check The Remodeler's Credentials- Carefully.   Are the contractors licensed and insured for workers compensation, property and personal liability?  If in doubt, ask to see their insurance certificate.  Do they belong to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council, and/or any of the more specific trade associations in the remodeling sector?  That's a true sign of commitment to the trade and to professionalism.   Most also offer certification and/or management training and keep their members up to date on the latest products and techniques.  Ask for recent references on similar jobs (employee and subcontractor turnover is often fairly high, so recent jobs are a reliable indicator of their current capability).  Check their record with the Better Business Bureau while you're at it.

Tip 6. Request A Comprehensive Bid.  It should detail as many of the specifications as possible.  Get bids from three remodelers.  If one of the bids is unusually low, make sure that they have included everything.  If they have, make sure you've thoroughly covered tip #5.

Tip 7. Consider Doing Some Of The Work Yourself.  If the bids are higher than expected and too much for you to afford, you might be surprised how much money you can save.  But make sure you're not getting into something you don't have time to do.  Things that come up near the end of the job, such as painting, finish carpentry, etc. are good bets since the other parts aren't dependent on their completion.   Some can even be done after the issuance of the final occupancy permit.

Tip 8. Get A Comprehensive Written Contract.  It will greatly reduce the likelihood of disputes with your remodeler.  Most disputes arise over issues that were not resolved in advance.  Make sure it covers the description of the project, timetable, payment schedule, etc., with general provisions defining the responsibility of the contractor and the subcontractors, defects and correction, change order procedures, warranties, right to termination, and alternative dispute settlement mechanisms (since more than half of the costs of lawsuits represent legal fees, homeowners and contractors will almost always be better off with mediation, conciliation, and/or binding arbitration clauses should a disagreement arise).

Tip 9. Consider Buying Certain Building Materials In Advance.   Styles for appliances and other building materials and suppliers are subject to change and are often heavily discounted when they go out of production.   If there's a style you like very much, it may not be available next year, so consider buying and storing them when you see a really good deal.  With the advent of the larger super discount home improvement stores, prices are down to the point that remodelers often can't get much better prices from other sources, even with their business discounts. B sure to check out your local home building supply warehouse such as BMO-Building Materials Outlet in Eagan MN. This "handyman's candy store" warehouses overruns on windows, doors, flooring-including tile, hardwood, carpeting etc., kitchen and bathroom cabinetry and more. 

Tip 10. Be Careful About Financing.  If you're financing the project, you want the lowest rate possible and you want the interest to be tax deductible.   Only certain types of loans will give you an interest deduction so check with an expert.  In some cases, refinancing your mortgage can be the best bet.

For more information and direct links to remodeling resources in your area go to:      and click on Remodeler.


As real estate professionals Sue and I work with homeowners on evaluating their homes. We will meet with you and tour your home and help you determine if building or remodeling makes more sense.

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