When someone comes to your house and
starts smashing down walls, tearing out appliances and
punching holes in ceilings, it's best to know exactly
who you are dealing with.
a smart homeowner, you've already used Bankrate to lock
in a low interest rate on a home
equity loan and to find out which
remodeling projects pay you back the most.
is no time to get nailed by a shoddy contractor.
According to the remodeling
activity indicator released Jan. 13 by Harvard's
Joint Center for Housing Studies, Americans spent $149.5
billion on home improvements last year, up 4.3 percent
from 2004's total.
Lots of work means lots of contractors
-- and lots of ways to get scammed.
In 2005, the Better
Business Bureau received 5,728 consumer complaints
regarding construction and remodeling services, ranking
relatively high at 22 out of 2,840 complaint classifications.
director of public affairs for the Council of Better
Business Bureaus, says there are three main reasons
for the flood of complaints:
- Homeowners don't get all the
details written into the contract before signing it.
- Homeowners select contractors
based on price alone without investigating their backgrounds.
get duped by outright scams.
These fly-by-night artists fall into three
There's the lowball artist, a shady operator
who intentionally bids below his legitimate competitors,
then makes costly changes or skimps on workmanship to
recoup a profit.
Then there's the slipshod businessman
whose intentions may be honorable but whose incompetent
estimates and overall poor judgment end up costing you
Last, there's the con man, an outright
criminal who promises anything at any price, demands
his money upfront and vanishes.
"These are the door-to-door home contractors
who claim to be doing a job at your neighbor's house,
they have leftover materials and would be happy to patch
your leaky basement, repave your driveway or check your
furnace," says Adkins.
against the con artist should be easy, she says.
local BBB and ask for a list of members in that industry.
That's just being a wise consumer," Adkins says. "If
you're spending several thousand dollars, I think you
want to make sure you're giving it to a reputable company."
OK, you've successfully avoided the outright scam artists.
But you're not out of the woods yet. There are plenty
of other ways your remodeling budget can head south,
the first and perhaps most important being the failure
to calculate an accurate budget.
To get a ballpark idea of what your project
will cost, check out the median national averages as
compiled by Remodeling magazine.
||Remodeling costs: national
|Kitchen (major remodel)
|Home office remodel
A number of other Internet sites can also help you arrive at a
more accurate budget for your remodeling project. One
of the best is ImproveNet,
which helps calculate the cost of labor based on the
size of your job, materials you might want to use and
the quality you desire.
Next, you need to determine which types
of home professionals you'll need to hire.
For minor work, an experienced general
contractor likely will be the most cost-effective. A
specialized contractor, however, may save money over
a general contractor by knowing the timesaving tricks
of the specialty.
If major work is involved, especially
if there are design, aesthetic or structural issues,
an architect may be needed to draw detailed plans and
obtain permits. To save on costly architectural fees,
consider instead a certified or licensed designer who
generally specializes in particular types of projects
(kitchens, interiors, baths, etc.). Or consider a design/build
contractor who specializes in seeing major renovations
through from start to finish.
Posted: April 12, 2006