real estate

Remodeling your home without home equity

Credit cards

Using plastic to buy paint or new carpeting, for example, might be tempting, but financial experts urge caution.

They suggest only using credit cards for remodeling when you can avoid paying interest. This means paying off your cards monthly, having a zero percent card offer for a limited time or buying that carpeting via a retailer's six- or 12-months-same-as-cash deal.

And Schreiber says, using a card with a cash-back reward then paying the entire balance with no interest is even better. She took her own advice this summer charging about $5,000 for electrical work, lighting and new carpeting in the living room of her five-bedroom Maryland home. One extra benefit of using plastic is you likely could have "consumer protections'' allowing you to return or replace damaged or faulty merchandise at no additional cost.

Hold a garage or yard sale

You might be surprised how much you can make selling the unwanted items in your garage or attic. If you want to skip setting up the sale, experts say sell your goods online or directly to friends and relatives.

Sarah M. Place, the president of Place Trade Financial, a brokerage and financial advisory firm in Raleigh, N.C., raised about half the $10,000 she spent this summer remodeling the master bathroom, replacing iron plumbing and refinishing a staircase, among other upgrades, by selling items on Craigslist.

"I had not intended it to work that way, but after selling everything from couches and treadmills to reams of fabric and an old car ... I had made so much money that I just kept working on the house,'' Place says of her three-bedroom Raleigh home.

Sweat equity

Doing some or all of the work yourself can save a lot. And you can learn how to do home projects by reading detailed instructions in a book or online. Place can attest this works.

"We probably ended up saving at least $5,000,'' she says. "I learned how to do most of it by researching it online.''

Borrowing from family

Although it doesn't work for every family, Schreiber says getting financial help from relatives remains an attractive option. An important thing to remember, she says, is to be sure to put the loan terms in writing. Then repay the money even if, say, your parents forgive the loan.

"A lot of parents really do need that money back,'' Schreiber says.

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