Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Home Remodel Returns on Investment


Many a homeowner spends thousands of dollars on a home remodel only to find out that in reality it has not changed the value to their house. Unless the remodeling project is designed to fix a structural problem or flaw it is often unlikely that the homeowner will make a profit aside from the pleasure in having the house enhanced to fit their liking.

Most of the time projects such as a kitchen, bathroom, window or deck remodel have shown the greatest return of value. If cost recovery is an important consideration then homeowners should think about their remodel from the perspective of a potential buyer.

If you are a first time home buyer looking to enhance your house and then move to a bigger home, or someone who is considering downsizing from a single family to a smaller condo or apartment here are three things to consider when remodeling your home.

1. Location
A common mistake among homeowners is to improve their house more than that of the neighborhood it is located in. While the more improved house might possibly receive more interest than others in the area marketed it is unlikely to command a premium well above the average selling price of homes in the neighborhood. A little known fact is that market price is held in check by the lowest-priced homes in your neighborhood and not the other way around.

The physical geographic location of your home will also have an impact on which projects will have the quickest or greatest payback. The cost of a swimming pool makes it difficult to recover the cost of installation. Some times, it can even reduce the overall value of a house. However, if you live in the southeast or southwest of the United States, a swimming pool can be a valuable addition to a home especially during the hot summer months.

2. Time
While you may not be planning on moving houses immediately after a remodel, time does impact the ability of a remodel to increase a houses value. Structural or design improvements such as an addition or completed basement will add value for a longer period of time than updates to a kitchen or bathroom or even technological improvements such as a new furnace or air conditioning system.

Knocking out a dining room wall and opening up the space for both cooking and entertaining might give you the kitchen of your dreams but this remodel does not increase the square footage of your home. Likewise a kitchen overhaul with new glass tiles and an island space might bring you much enjoyment but following whatever the newest trend is risky given that the trend might be obsolete when you choose to sell.

The water purifying system that you spent $1500 on might be an eco friendly upgrade that you think is significant but it will typically not bring any added value to a potential buyer and also runs the risk of not being the latest and greatest a few years after installation.

3. Consider the cost – and the return of your investment
Did you know that there are several sources that can give you insight into the expected payback for home improvement projects? Realtor magazine publishes an annual “Cost vs. Value” report that compares the cost of common remodeling projects and shows the payback that homeowners can expect. The report for 2009 can be found at: http://www.realtor.org/rmohome_and_design/Articles/1001_costvsvalue_2009

Remodeling magazine publishes a yearly report that compares the national and regional averages for 33 popular remodeling projects. To look at the current 2009-2010 report click on http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2009/costvsvalue/national.aspx
Another tip to consider is that when contemplating two equally useful changes, homeowners should research local real estate guides to determine which of the projects will most likely pay for itself. Home prices are always reflected in the taste of the local property buyers and the price that the buyers are willing to pay for the given neighborhood.

As with most projects a little bit of homework will go a long way in helping you determine what will pay off and what will not. However it is always important to consider the value that you as the homeowner will receive from the remodel project over any cost recovery that comes with resale. Ultimately it is your home and your satisfaction that makes the remodel worthwhile.

Monday, December 13, 2010

5 Things To “DO” When Selecting a Bathroom Remodel Contractor


You finally have the money to do it! A complete bathroom remodel. Where do you start? Who do you call? The following steps will make a difference between remodel nightmares and luxurious fantasy.


1.  DO your homework
Before bringing in contractors and collecting estimates spend some time researching your dream bathroom remodel. Then make some decisions that you will not waver on to help narrow down and mainstream your project. This will also guard against contractor bids that are overpriced or not in keeping with your requirements.

1. Know how much you want to spend – one of the biggest pitfalls is having your remodel price escalate out of control leaving you with an unfinished nightmare or compromised hasty decisions.

2.  Decide on the important features that are essential to you – a resurfaced tub costs less than a new tiled shower. You might want to skimp on the high-end toilet bowl and utilize that money towards a granite vanity top.

3. Know your style preference – it is easy to get swept away in design books and concepts. If you are more of a country girl at heart, a modern sleek bathroom with stainless steel accents maybe too harsh for you and contrast sharply from the style of your home.

2. DO ask for referrals
Speak with family and friends to find out which contractors they have had good experiences with and just as importantly contractors they would never hire again. Find out what made it a positive experience, how the contractor handled problems and if the job was finished within budget and time frame. If possible look at the work a contractor has completed. It will give you the best idea of what their work is like.

Search engines have advanced methods of ranking websites. If using Google or Bing to find a contractor in your area start by typing your area bathroom remodeling company and read the websites of the construction companies that represent the style and workmanship you are looking for. Be sure to read reviews by former clients, as it will give you a feel for the company.

3. DO interview potential contractors
Set up meetings with a minimum of three contractors maximum of five. It can become overwhelming and confusing to interview more than five so try and narrow down the search to the top contenders. Estimates should be free. Regardless of whether you use the contractor interviewed it is possible for you to come away with many good ideas to implement during your bathroom remodel.
Other points to consider during this meeting are:

1. Make sure the contractor holds all the required licenses from the state and local municipalities
2. Look for credentials - designations from professional associations such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, certifications of tests completed etc. Be aware that not all certifications are created equal.
3. Check for proof of workers compensation insurance
4. Ask for references of jobs completed
If they are unwilling to give any of the above information it is a possible red flag.

Something to consider is that a remodeling job is different to construction. A remodel takes construction to the next level and requires a great deal of routing and working with existing infrastructure. Be sure to question the contractor specifically on if he or she has lots of experience in remodeling.

4. DO conduct a background check
Once you have narrowed the search be sure to follow up on references given to you. This contractor and his crew will be coming in and out of your home not to mention be responsible for the execution of a large sum of your money.

Call the contractors' former customers and ask about the job execution.  Were they on time and on budget? Were the customers pleased with the outcome? Was there anything that could have been done differently? How did the contractor handle setbacks? How flexible were they if plans changed during the course of the project? What was the crew like? Did they clean up after themselves? Were they respectful of your property?

Check with the local Better Business Bureau website to see if the company is BBB accredited and if there are any complaints against them.

As tempting as it is to choose the contractor on the basis of price, take care to look at the details of the bid presented. Take care to note the work to be done and the materials to be used.

5. DO have a written agreement
Once you have selected the contractor be sure to scrutinize the contract that is given to you. Make sure the legal agreement includes the following items:

1.  Bid price and a payment schedule
2.  Detailed description of the scope of work to take place
3.  A schedule of tasks including a detailed timetable – A bathroom remodel can completely disrupt your daily life so it is vital to have a timetable. This will cause you and your family the least amount of stress.
4.  A change-order clause – make sure that the contract stipulates that you must approve, in writing, all additional work that is done beyond the original scope of the remodel.
5.  Clause about dispute resolution and any warranty information

When the job is finished do not hand over the final payment until the work has been inspected and approved.

A bathroom remodel can return 80-90% of your investment at resale and provide years of enjoyment. While it takes time to follow through the initial stages of this process, the time spent is well worth the end result.

Contact us for more information or questions!
Unique Home Construction
11300 N. Central Expressway, Dallas, TX 75243
214-533-0716

Saturday, December 11, 2010

6 Remodel Scams that Meet the Eye


Times are hard and there are many scam artists out and about trying to make a quick buck off unsuspecting individuals. One sure way for scam artists to score is in the area of home improvement. While any part of your home can be a target, many scams tend to center around what is visible to someone who might be eyeballing your house from the street. Roofs, chimneys, driveways and furnaces are four key areas that common home improvement scams revolve around.

1. New Roofing System - Hot Tar Roofing or Torch Down
They come to your door, send you mailings and even get you with a persuasive telemarketing call. Most often homeowner cannot determine the quality of the work done until the rains cause the roof to leak and time has passed after the initial installation of the roof.

2. Chimney Repair
In this scam the homeowner is usually enticed by an advertisement in a local newspaper or mailing offering gutter cleaning at a low price. Once the gutters are cleaned, they claim the chimney is in need of structural repair. It is easy to give a chimney the appearance of decay by removing bricks and mortar from the chimney.
A more serious chimney scam is when the scam artist sites the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning if the chimney is not repaired soon.
Regardless of the claim, when in doubt it is always better to obtain a second opinion from a known and reputable contractor.

3. Furnace Repair
Once they inspect your furnace they claim it is leaking dangerous gases or about to explode. Your first call on hearing this would be to your utility company as they will come and inspect your system.  Other red flags to be wary of would be if the supposed contractor tells you that the unit is too small or needs a complete overhaul.

4.  Duct Cleaning
This scheme is called a "blow and go" because the scam artist will use a small vacuum cleaner with no special filters to stir up the dust, pollen, mold and other contaminants instead of removing them. Duct cleaning can be necessary if there is mold in the house or if the heating or air conditioning has been running with inadequate or nonexistent filtering. If you change filters regularly, your ducts don't need to be cleaned.

5. Driveway Sealant
Once again popular in the door to door pressure sell, a company come to your door offering to seal your driveway at a heavily discounted price. The brick walkways and stone edgings look far nicer than your existing concrete. Check the materials they are using before signing on the dotted line, as substandard materials will wear off with time leaving you wishing for your old and simple concrete.

6. Paint Job
They offer a below market rate to paint your home. Be sure to check the contract to determine time line and areas to be covered. Often times, it costs extra for trim to be painted or you are asked for more money as your house has more work than meets the eye and they need to hire extra workers to complete the job on time.

Here are four tips to help you guard against any scam artist that might cross your path.
1. If the price sounds too good to be true it probably is a scam.
2. Check into the materials that are being used. Substandard materials and inferior products may look great initially but will wear off in three months
3. When choosing a contractor, always get several estimates on the needed repair.
4. When having major work done, ensure that your contract has a hold-back clause where you can withhold the final payment until 30 days after completion of a project. This will help you guard against things like a roof that might leak after it has been repaired.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bathroom Remodeling = Less Water & Money Down The Drain


Did you know that a remodeled bathroom could return 80-90% of your investment at resale? (Source: Reliable Remodeler http://www.reliableremodeler.com/estimates/bathrooms/) Updating or adding bathrooms will add considerable value to your house. Half baths can be created out of small closest or under eaves. Knocking down a wall can create a master suite. Master suites complete with his and her sinks, spacious shower or tub and plenty of room to pad about in will always create atmosphere and value to a home. Water and money can be saved with green, low-flow toilets and tank-less water heaters. Skylights are a great alternative to energy consuming light fixtures.

Amenities such as steam showers, heated floors, and whirlpool tubs are always a welcome addition. An often-overlooked item is ample storage space.  Don’t compromise on functionality when opting for a vanity or medicine cabinet. You can be functional and fashionable when it comes to storage. Ceramic tile floors are usually better than wood or linoleum flooring because they handle water better.

Take time to research ideas and different options for your bathroom remodel. A great place to start is the Internet. Speaking with family and friends will also help with making decisions and be a great resource for choosing contractors and suppliers. Consider your budget and make decisions accordingly.

The bathroom is one of the most visited rooms in any home. An updated bathroom will not only add value to your house but if done well can also be a welcome retreat any time of day.

Please contact us with any questions!
Unique Home Construction
11300 N. Central Expressway, Dallas, TX 75243
214-533-0716
 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

5 tips to gaurd against a bad contractor!


Contractors have bad reputations. The construction industry consistently ranks first or second for the most complaints in the annual Better Business Bureau report. It should not be this way. There are many ways to guard yourself against shoddy workmanship or a scam artist in the guise of a contractor.  Here are five tips.

1.  Background Check – as cumbersome and time consuming as it might be, it is always a good idea to follow through on references, certifications, proof of workers compensation and required licenses from state and local municipalities.

2. Estimates - When choosing a contractor, always get several estimates on the needed repair.

3.  Price - If the price sounds too good to be true it probably is a scam.  There are lots of hidden clauses and fine print when it comes to low pricing. Consider

4. Materials – it is important that the materials that are being used are industry standard. Substandard materials and inferior products may look great initially but will wear off with time. As the homeowner you can buy the materials yourself or accompany your contractor to the warehouse he is purchasing the bigger items from.

5. Hold Back Clause -- When having major work done, ensure that your contract has a hold-back clause where you can withhold the final payment until 30 days after completion of a project. This will help you guard against things like a roof that might leak after it has been repaired.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brighten Up That Old Bathroom Mirror – Three Quick & Easy DIY Tips


Are you are tired of the way your bathroom looks? But you don’t have the funds for a complete overhaul? Consider your bathroom mirror. It takes up a wall and other than for functionality adds no pizzazz to your bathroom.  Here are three quick and easy do it yourself ideas that you can do in a weekend that will liven up your space and add some characted.

1. Frame the mirror with glass, porcelain, stainless steel or stone tiles
A trip to a tile shop can produce many different kinds of materials at relatively inexpensive prices. From glass tiles to stainless steel pieces you have your selection. If it is color you need to spice up your bathroom look for contrasting colored glass or porcelain tiles; if you would rather give it a sleek and more modern look consider stainless steel.  You could make a mosaic frame using colorful broken glass, or seashells or both! All you have to do is get a tube of calk and glue them in place. Use a wet finger to smooth the calk after it has set some. Alternately you can also use tile grout

2. Frame it with wood or faux wood (no one will even know the difference!)
You can do this yourself with a trip to Lowes or Home Depot where you can find wooden moldings that you would cut with mitered corners and frame around your mirror. These home improvement stores also would introduce you to a framing system such as Mirr.Edge, (www.mirredge.com) a framing system of Mirror Acrylic or Woodgrain Finished Polymer Strips and Corner Plates easily applied around the perimeter of your mirror to give it a finished look. Or you could hunt around at thrift stores or flea markets and look for a mirror the size of yours and swap the frames out or buy a beautiful frame from a company such as Reflected Design (www.ReflectedDesign.com). Be sure to seal the wood to prevent warping. Bathrooms produce a lot of moisture so look for ways to protect your newly created art piece.

3. Frame it with Wallpaper (yes you really can!)
Buy a wallpaper border that matches your bathroom d├ęcor.  You can even try to introduce a theme (sea shells, animals, flowers) with wallpaper.  Cut it to fit the mirror as a border. Just wet it the same as when you apply it to the walls and apply it on. Voila! a completely different and unique look to your bathroom mirror.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tips to Remodel Your Bathroom. Three Crucial Steps to Follow.


 A Dallas Bathroom Remodel Can be Fun and Rewarding or a Disaster. 

You've heard the stories from friends, relatives, or neighbors.  Maybe you've lived it yourself on an earlier bathroom remodel.  Maybe you've never remodeled a bathroom, but your kitchen remodel came in two months late at double the cost, and it wasn't like the picture the nice lady showed you. 

Sadly, even in the 21st Century and with all the internet information available, there are still handymen who don't know what they're doing, builders who can build, but can't design, and just pure scam artists.  There are also companies that are underfunded, and take your money up front, then never finish the job.  They may have meant well, but they just aren't good at the business side.

You might also have someone do the kitchen remodel who is ok at part of the job, but not at another part.  For instance, they know how to work with wood, but aren't so good at the electrical.  Or they do a great job on the plumbing, but the tile work is uneven and the grout is already chipping.  

How does a person figure out the basics before they get started.  Here are three basic steps you can take that should help a lot.  Then check the bonus step at the end. 
 
1. Cost Estimate
Start by visiting ImproveNet.com. As with any home improvement project costs and estimates are critical to the project plan. You can use the online bathroom remodel cost estimator. Plug in the size of the bathroom, type of finish etc and it will give you a rough estimate of cost and outline what components will be changed, the types of materials used etc.

2. Flooring, Fixtures, Baths & Toilets
Cannot decide between stone and porcelain, a refinished tub or a glass shower? You can experiment with a sample bathroom design online by visiting WarmlyYours.com. This site has an interactive design program that allows you to lay out the blueprint of the bathroom according to your dimensions and then add windows, doors, showers, tubs, vanities to see how things git in the room. You can even get an instant quote on the project. HGTV.com and ABathroomGuide.com have great ideas on bathroom design and remodel including information on new products and trends.

3. Choose a Good Contractor
When hiring a contractor it is best to use someone who has completed a job and is highly recommended by a friend or family.  Check with the local Better Business Bureau.  The builder should be rated A or better and have no unresolved claims.  Be sure to read reviews by former clients, as it will give you a feel for the company.  You will still want to confirm licenses and insurance, and get references and multiple estimates before locking into an agreement with a contractor.

BONUS!  We would not have written this post if we didn't know we would be able to pass every test!
You can skip all the steps above and give us a call. 

  1. We are rated with the Dallas BBB
  2. We do have over a decade of experience in Dallas
  3. We are excellent designers
  4. We have outstanding associates for every part of the job, experts in each field.
  5. We can provide you with as many references as you'd like. 
  6. We are a licensed general contractor, and have all insurance to protect you
Contact Unique Home Construction today with any questions!  
11300 N. Central Expressway, Dallas, TX 75243
214-533-0716