WATCH OUT FOR HIDDEN COSTS
- Include landscaping in a renovation budget. Get estimates on plants, sod, and other materials. Existing plants and grass are often damaged during construction, so plan for their replacement.
- Set up a budget for furniture and accessories, because your new space will need to be furnished. Even if you plan to use furniture you already have, you'll still need a few items: lamps, rugs, artwork, and window treatments.
- As the value of your house goes up, you can expect an increase in your annual property taxes. Check with your city and county tax assessors for an estimate of the increase.
- You should increase your homeowners' insurance coverage to reflect the new value of your renovated home. Your mortgage holder often pays home insurance premiums and property taxes. In that case, your monthly house payment will increase to cover the added tax and insurance expenses.
- A bigger house will usually cost more to maintain, so expect increases in your monthly utility bills.
TIPS FOR WORKING WITH A CONTRACTOR
- Spell out the schedule of payments in the contract. Don't pay for work that hasn't been done or for materials that haven't been delivered. Always check the work before writing the check.
- The contract should detail the starting date and estimated completion date. Penalties for late completion should be clearly spelled out, as should legitimate reasons for delay, such as bad weather.
- Before work begins, make sure your contractor has obtained the necessary building permits and that he has sufficient insurance coverage.
- Make sure that your contractor pays his suppliers and subcontractors for materials and labor. If the subcontractor is not paid, he can file a mechanics lien on your property. This lien will have to be satisfied before you regain clear title to your own property. Require lien releases or waivers from all the subs and suppliers before you make final payment to the contractor.
QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE ADDING ON
- Do you really like the neighborhood? Are real estate prices going up or at least remaining stable? Unless you are committed to the neighborhood, you may be able to find a house somewhere else that meets your family's needs for a lot less than adding on.
- Is your house in good structural shape? You may want to bring in an engineer or building inspector to check for any major defects. It isn't prudent to add on to a house that has major structural problems. Even if you decide to go ahead, it's helpful to know what you're facing.
- Are there rooms that you never use? If so, you may be able to reorder the space you have instead of adding on. Changing the usage of one or two rooms can make the whole house more livable. (For ideas, check out the renovation on page 172.)
- What about the yard? Will the addition leave enough usable outdoor space? Will some larger trees have to be taken down to make room for the addition? What about parking places?
LIVING THROUGH REMODELING
If living elsewhere during your remodeling isn't an option, use these tips--along with a sense of humor--to help you make it through.
- Discuss the following issues with your contractor before work begins: How much cleanup can be expected each day? What time will workers arrive and leave? What are your responsibilities for moving household items?
- Prepare your family for the expected disruptions. Living in a messy, mixed-up environment is stressful, but understanding the overall plan in advance can help even young children cope more easily.
- Make sure children and pets are kept away from dangerous chemicals, tools, and construction hazards. Post emergency numbers near each phone, and install smoke detectors in several key locations.
- Store irreplaceable valuables with family or friends for the duration of the job, or rent a safe-deposit box. Use discretion
when giving out keys to your home. Install secure locks on all doors and windows, and if you must be away for several days,
ask a neighbor or other family member to keep an eye on things.
This article is from the May 2005 issue of Southern Living.