Recipe for a Successful Remodeling Project

courtesy of American Homeowners Association

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If you wanted to bake a cake like a professional pastry chef, you would follow a good recipe, right? Why is it, then, that so many homeowners fail to follow the instructions recommended by consumer protection advocates, for achieving success with their remodeling projects?

"Complaints about home improvement contractors have become the number one homeowner complaint," says Richard Roll, president of the American Homeowners Association (AHA). "Homeowners could save themselves enormous amounts of money, wasted time, and frustration by becoming more equal partners in controlling the remodeling process."

It's not difficult to avoid the pitfalls, Roll says. "There are four fundamental steps to ensuring a smooth-running project from start to finish. Homeowners should take advantage of all available tools and resources designed to help protect their interests."

It all begins with a realistic selection of the type of remodeling project that's best for your situation.

If possible, Roll suggests, make improvements that qualify as "capital improvements" (projects that enhance the value or longevity of your home) because the costs for those improvements will help reduce capital gains taxes when you sell your house. Things as varied as a new heating and cooling system; built-in appliances, an addition, a new porch, additional insulation, even fencing or a swimming pool can qualify as capital improvements.

Setting a firm budget and getting your financing in place ahead of time is another important part of planning methodically for a smooth-running remodel.

Budget-busting cost overruns are often the result of not having firm design plans before accepting estimates, so give yourself plenty of time during the planning stage. If, for example, you know in advance that there is a special feature or an expensive material you consider a "must-have," be prepared to cut corners in other places, or to reduce the overall scope of the project in order to stay within your budget.

Don't over-improve for the neighborhood, either, Roll advises. By keeping your improvements consistent with other homes in your area, you'll be likely to recoup more of your remodeling costs at re-sale time.

Failing to choose a properly licensed and insured, experienced, and financially stable contracting firm or by not working closely enough with your chosen contractor to create a clear, equitable contract is where many homeowners relinquish control of their remodeling projects, right from the start, Roll warns.

"Homeowners can easily learn the steps to create a level playing field when hiring and working with home improvement contractors. Then they simply have to follow those steps. Too many just cross their fingers and hope for the best, which is an invitation to trouble."

"There's no excuse for homeowners to become victims of remodeling mishaps," says Roll. "Remodeling resources abound for all homeowners who want to educate themselves or become actively engaged consumers."

Model and sample contracts, pre-screened contractors or contractor reference checks, legal and contract review services, and links to tools that can help homeowners choose remodeling projects wisely are collected in one convenient location on the AHA website.

For further useful information on any aspect of buying and owning a home, go to, the website of the American Homeowners Association (AHA)(r). America's #1 Homeowner Organization Since 1994

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