Climb over Home Improvement Obstacles

Physician's Money Digest, August15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 15

You may have glorious dreams aboutan upcoming home improvementproject, but unfortunately those dreamscan turn into a nightmare once theexcitement wears off. The truth is, homeimprovement projects can be stressful.For those physicians pondering majorhome renovations or additions, considerthe following survival points (down theroad, they could save you a little aggravationand a lot of money):

Word power:

• Never base your contractor decisionon a single recommendation. Justbecause a contractor has completed ajob successfully for someone else doesn'tnecessarily mean they're right for you.Before handing over your house to acontractor, designate yourself the projectdetective and research your prospectivecontractor. Make sureyou get everything in writing.


• Don't hire a contractor just becausethey're cheap. There's nothing wrongwith being frugal; you never want tooverpay. But if a contractor is chargingconsiderably less than other contractorsin your area, it may be a sign that they'renot capable of the same quality of workas other contractors who charge a littlemore. If you have to paysomeone else to correct your initial contractor'smistakes, you'll end up payingeven more. Don't cut corners when itcomes to hiring a contractor.

• Consider leaving the prep work tothe professionals. Once again, there'snothing wrong with trying to savemoney. And a demolition job may soundlike a great way to take out your frustrations.However, be very careful not to domore harm than good by improperlypreparing the work area. If the contractorhas to correct your mistakes, it'sgoing to cost you extra down the road.

• Share all your ideas with your contractor.Never make the assumption thatthe contractor knows exactly what youwant. If you do assume your contractorwill instinctively know what you want,you'll be disappointed. Contractors arenot mind readers. If you want a specifictile or an extra sink added to your newlydesigned kitchen or bathroom, you'regoing to have to ask for it. If you don'ttell your contractor exactly what youwant, it's fair to assume that you aren'tgoing to get it.

• Be prepared to pay extra for extras."Contractor" is not another word for"philanthropist." If you ask your contractorto perform additional jobs aroundthe house, more than likely they'll acquiesce.However, at the end of the renovation,each addition to the original workloadwill turn up on your bill. When youhire a contractor, you're retaining themfor a specific job. If you want more,you'll have to pay more.


• Make sure your contractor has apermit before they begin construction.Most municipal building offices requirecontractors to file for permits to ensurethat any renovations being completedcomply with local ordinances. A permit isneeded regardless of the job's size.Never trust a contractor whosays you don't need a permit.

• Keep the future in mind. If you'replanning to eventually sell your home,you may want to avoid adding toomany personal touches to the interior.While pink carpeting, bright yellowwalls, and mirrors on the ceiling mayappeal to your tastes, future potentialbuyers may not find your additionsattractive. Before you create your interiormasterpiece, you may want to considerwhat prospective buyers will think.Remember, thoughtful repair work canincrease the value of your home, butunusual indulgences may have theopposite effect.