Top 5 in Real Estate Network® Members are dedicated to providing you with the most up-to-date, helpful real estate information. This monthly newsletter, "Real Estate Matters," offers articles on a range of topics that will inform you in your real estate pursuits.

Remodeling Headaches to Avoid

Whether you’re adding a room to accommodate an expanding family or remodeling to increase value, home renovations can be one of the best investments you make, especially in today’s economy. The key to a successful remodel, however, is knowing what mistakes to avoid.
As a member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I have advised many clients on what renovations will offer the best return on their investment and pay dividends when the time comes to sell their home.
According to a Consumer Reports poll, the most popular remodeling projects for homeowners are kitchens (19%) and bathrooms (17%). In another survey, however, Consumer Reports asked 6,000 readers to reveal what went wrong when they remodeled their kitchens and baths and how much those mistakes added to the overall cost of their projects. Here's how to avoid their mistakes and save:
1. Don't rush in. Changing plans is the most common, but costliest remodeling gaffe. Be sure to leave time for research and create a comprehensive plan, listing every product.
2. Prepare for the unexpected. There's a lot going on behind the walls. Unexpected water damage was an issue with 17% of bathroom remodels, while structural problems caused headaches for 10% of kitchen projects. A good contractor will be able to anticipate such problems, allowing the homeowner to budget accordingly.
3. Don't chase the “low ball.” Contractors are lowering their profit margins due to the tight market, but they often make up their costs in labor or other areas. Readers who went for “low-ball” pricing ended up spending a median of $1,500 extra for labor on their kitchens and $1,000 extra on their bathrooms. Don't sign a contract with a lot of open-ended amounts for products and materials—these are called "allowances," in contractor speak.
4. Get the paperwork in order. Have the contractor attach copies of his or her up-to-date license, insurance and workers' compensation policies to the written contract. He or she should also get permits and provide a lien waiver when the job is done; this will keep suppliers from contacting the homeowner for unpaid bills.
5. Focus on the boring bits. Specifying lighting and placement of trash cans are not much fun, but are critical to the process. For example, the proper exhaust fan will prevent mildew in baths and vent odors in kitchens.

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