If you're considering a little home remodeling, your timing couldn't be better. The building business is down 15%, which means contractors and craftsmen are taking smaller job, lowering their prices, and actually returning your calls. So, here's what you need to know before you jump into a renovation:

  • First, focus on projects that'll improve your home's marketability, like upgrading your kitchen and bathrooms. Be careful not to over-improve. Home values are wobbly these days. So, check out local trends in the "Cost versus Value" report at Remodeling.HW.net.
  • Be sure to triple-check your financing before you start - especially if you need a loan. You don't want to run out of money mid-project because your lender decided to lower your home equity line of credit, or eliminate it altogether.
  • Thoroughly check out the contractor you want hire. For example, just because they build new houses or commercial projects doesn't mean they have great remodeling skills. So, look at examples of their work from the past 12 months, that have budgets similar to yours. You might even want to "audition" a contractor on a smaller project first.
  • Also, check with your local contractors licensing board to make sure they have a valid license, and that there aren't any lawsuits or complaints against them. You can find a list at CutRedTape.com.
  • Check directly with their insurance company to make sure they're covered. Just in case your property is damaged during renovations, or any workers get injured.
  • Finally, before you start a home remodel, spell out everything you want in writing. For example, do you want the walls primed before they're painted? Or the closet shelf and rod installed by a carpenter? Remember: If it's not in writing, they're not required to do it.