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10 Tips for Hiring a Home Remodeling Contractor

by The Mike Parker Team

 

Given the economic difficulties that still exist, it's not surprising that many homeowners are looking to home improvement and renovation, rather than buying a new home.

When deciding to undertake a remodeling project, however, there are several invaluable tips to keep in mind as you discuss your home makeover with potential contractors.

Thanks to my network of leading real estate professionals, the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I can offer tips to make your home renovation a more streamlined, more palatable experience, courtesy of Stageoflife.com:

Tip #1: Does Your Contractor Have Proof of Insurance?
Ask the contractor to have his insurance company mail or fax a copy of his current contractor insurance card to you. If the contractor can't do this, stay away. Why? If there is an accident at your home, you are then liable. This also applies to any sub-contractor or employee that the contractor may use; those individuals should have active insurance cards faxed or mailed to you as well.

Tip #2: Did You Check References and See Photos?
Ask for at least three references — with two of them being for the same type of project you are planning — and then call the references. Additionally, ask the contractor to provide photos of previous work, especially for the same type of project. If he produces lawn and garden photos and you're planning a bathroom remodel, you may want to check out another contractor.

Tip #3: Does Your Contractor Take Debit or Credit Cards?
Besides your ability to earn a few points, bonus miles or cash back on your project, a good sign that a contractor is financially savvy and has a bank behind his business is his ability to take debit and credit cards. This doesn't just apply to big contracting companies. Many small, one-man shops will take cards if they have a good relationship with their business bank or credit union.

Tip #4: Manners and Appearance?
If the contractor drove his vehicle to your home to give you an estimate, take a look at the way he keeps the equipment and vehicle. Are things clean? Neatly arranged? If not, that's a big warning. The way a contractor treats his tools is a direct connection to how he'll treat your home. During the initial meeting, does the contractor present himself in a professional way? Do you feel comfortable around him or his employees? They will be working in your home after all.

Tip #5: Clean-Up Policy?
Ask about the clean-up policy. For example, if your home improvement is a multi-day project, will the contractor be cleaning up at the end of every day or will he leave the dust, wood chips, and other mess laying there for day two? The more mess in your home ... the more it gets tracked around. Many homeowners find themselves with mouths gaping wide after the contractor has left for the day and their floors and home are dirty and messy around the project area.

Tip #6: Will the Contractor Put It In Writing?
Is your contractor willing to put both his bid and the scope of work in writing? If not, walk away immediately. You'll be surprised how many homeowners have been duped by contractors who verbally tell you what's included in their scope of work, but will then, in the middle of everything, require extra money to finish the remodel, thus holding you hostage with an uncompleted home project.

Tip #7: Availability?
Can the contractor get the job done in your timeline rather than his? There's nothing more frustrating than if a contractor tells you that a job will be done by a certain date and then it isn't. On the flip side, if you can't find a good contractor that's willing to commit to your timeline, your expectations may be too high and you may need to adjust your timeline.

Tip #8: Does Your Contractor Use "Subs?"
Does your contractor plan on doing everything himself? Or will he "sub out" work to the "trades?" For example, if you are remodeling a bathroom, you may need a plumber, electrician and carpenter. It's okay if the contractor subs work out to these specific trades — it shows he wants the work done right.

Tip #9: Quoting & Billing Procedure?
Ask the contractor about his quoting procedure. Will it contain general information, or will it be specific? For example, most contractors will charge you for a fuel surcharge, material up-charges, waste removal, labor, etc. Some will show you these exact costs in a line item invoice, but others roll it up into one big bill. How much detail do you want? You should clarify that with your contractor upfront.

Also, what is the payment or billing policy? Is money required upfront? If so, go back to #1 and #2 above to make sure you have the contractor's references checked and have a copy of his contractor's insurance.

Tip #10: Did Your Contractor Get the Permits?
Ask your contractor to take care of the permits. Although permits cost you money, the inspection process is meant to protect you from poor workmanship and to make sure that everything is being built to code.

For more information on home improvement and renovation, please e-mail me and please feel free to forward these tips to any family and friends.

Top 5 Ways to Maximize Your Open House

by The Mike Parker Team

 

If your home is currently on the market, you may be considering whether or not to work with your real estate agent to host an open house. You may have heard that open houses are ineffective or "old fashioned" in today's world of online marketing.

As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, however, I know first-hand that it takes a combination of different marketing strategies to sell your home quickly and for the best possible price. While online marketing and mobile technology are certainly critical parts of the equation, an open house can have a tremendous impact on a successful sale -- when done correctly, that is. Here are my Top 5 tactics for a successful open house. Make sure your agent is incorporating all — or at least some — of these strategies for your home's open house:

  1. Staging well in advance - Don't bother having an open house if your home is not properly staged both inside and outside. Now is the time to work with a professional landscaper because curb appeal will never be more important -- prospective buyers won't bother coming in if they don't like what they see from the outside.
  2. Proper advertising - These days, people are so inundated by life and media that unless your open house is promoted far and wide — and frequently — they will never even know about. Your agent should be: advertising in newspapers; using social media to promote your open house; networking with other agents in the area to make them aware; circulating direct mail to neighbors and nearby communities; and personally inviting key prospects.
  3. Enlist the neighbors - Start polling your neighbors on what they like best about your neighborhood: the schools, the convenience, the community services, the people, etc. Compile this into a handout for your agent to distribute at your open house. After all, what better testimonial could you ask for than the next-door neighbor?
  4. Consider a theme - Some of my fellow members in the Top 5 Network have hosted some unbelievably creative open houses. Consider inviting local restaurants to set up food stations so visitors can experience a "taste" of the community; ask a local antiques shop to stage the home with their showcase items; invite a local gallery to create an art exhibit throughout the home; or highlight something of interest about your home. One Top 5 member, for example, listed the home of an antique car collector and put all the owner’s cars on display and invited car enthusiasts.
  5. Have the right materials on hand - Your open house will be for naught if you don't have the proper materials on hand, such as: a guest directory that asks for names and e-mails (find a creative incentive for guests to leave their e-mail addresses, such as entry into a drawing for a local restaurant gift certificate); professionally done photo brochures of your home or even a DVD of a video tour; payment and financing information.

Be sure to ask your agent how he or she intends to follow up with open house visitors -- this is the most important factor of all. Without a quick and effective follow-up system in place, you could very well pass over a potential buyer.

If you'd like more information on creating an effective open house, please e-mail me. Feel free to forward this e-mail on to any friends and family who might be planning an open house in the near future.

Buying a Foreclosed Home? Top Problem Areas to Look Out For

by The Mike Parker Team

 

Today's real estate landscape offers some great buys for savvy real estate consumers, especially when it comes to foreclosure properties. Unfortunately, even though there are already a large number of foreclosures on the market, analysts are predicting that yet another wave of distressed properties will crop up in the coming months.

As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I've consulted with many clients seeking to capitalize on a foreclosure purchase. I always advise them, however, to weigh the pros and cons. While a foreclosure could represent your best chance to get a great deal, make sure you educate yourself about the potential pitfalls of purchasing a distressed property in advance - and what correcting those pitfalls might cost. In most cases, it's not so much about what damage occurred but rather the source of the damage and how long before the problem was addressed.

Here are the top 10 signs that may indicate trouble in a foreclosed home:

  1. Unheated house in winter months. If the home has been properly winterized, there's no need for heat. But if the home has not been properly winterized, pipes will burst and cause water damage.
  2. Missing sinks, toilets and other fixtures. Make sure they've been properly removed and not ripped from walls and floors.
  3. Peeling, bubbling and discolored paint; swelling in walls or ceilings (especially around kitchens and bathrooms), or a musty odor all indicate water damage and, potentially, the presence of moisture and mold.
  4. Fungus growth inside cabinets, behind drawers and built-ins. Fungus could mean that there has been water damage. Since water falls down, look for the source above the mold.
  5. Blocked drains or pipes will cause future problems and may have already created sewage backups.
  6. Black cobwebs, greasy gray residue on walls and/or a strong oily odor. This could point to potential soot damage or a malfunctioning furnace.
  7. An older home with extensive renovations. Check with the city for pulled permits in order to get remolding details. If asbestos is present and has been disturbed, be sure it's been remediated by a certified specialist.
  8. Excessive painting of every nook, cranny, door and floor may mean that the seller is covering up mold.
  9. Discolored subflooring. From the basement, check the subflooring above for stains and small holes, both caused by mold.
  10. Air quality. The air quality within a home tells a lot about the home's condition. Be sure to include air and surface testing in your home inspection. It's a few hundred dollars well spent.

There are indeed many great opportunities in today's market, but proper education and preparation are essential to making the right investment. Please e-mail me for further information and be sure to forward this article to others who might be considering a foreclosure purchase.

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Photo of Mike Parker - CRS Real Estate
Mike Parker - CRS
HUFF Realty
60 Cavalier Blvd.
Florence KY 41042
859-647-0700