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Our beaded fringe trims
are 1st quality and exceptional in craftsmanship and detail.
This Life Advice section
about Home Improvement was produced by
the MetLife Consumer Education
Center with assistance from the
National Association of
the Remodeling Industry.
Editorial services provided
by Meredith Custom Publishing.
- Buying a home may be the American Dream, but the initial purchase
is only the introduction to that dream. There's always something about your house that could be a little better, a little closer
to perfect. Now, with a little planning, you can bring your home
closer to your dream of perfection.
- Many home improvement projects begin with someone in the household
saying, "Wouldn't it be nice ...?" What follows may be a wish for a remodeled kitchen or a room addition with space to accommodate
every family member's needs. However, reality usually intrudes upon this daydream: There's only so much money and so much space.
The trick is turning your dreams into reality. Start by evaluating your needs. Most homeowners consider home improvements for one
of these reasons.
- You need to update the out-of-date. If your kitchen still sports
appliances and decor from decades past, now may be the time to make it current. You need to replace fixtures or appliances. Sometimes a home
improvement project grows out of an immediate need to replace broken or inefficient fixtures. If the sink, tub or toilet has
to be replaced, many people take the opportunity to refurbish
the entire bathroom.
You're selling your home. You want to be sure you'll get top
dollar from the sale of your home, and that may be the rallying
cry for some home improvement projects.
You're staying put. You thought about moving, but now you realize
that improving your present home is a better option. Your family has grown and you need more space.
Improving to Move or Improving to
- You need to evaluate your plans carefully if you're improving
your home to put it on the market. Cutting corners could hurt
rather than help your prospects, but you don't want to go overboard either.
Potential buyers may not want to pay for the extras you have included, so keep changes simple.
- Also keep in mind that people viewing your house may not share
your tastes and therefore won't necessarily appreciate the time
- effort you put into finding just the right shade of green paint
for the walls.
- Improving to sell is easier if you mentally put yourself on
the other side of the proverbial fence: What is important to the
- Here's a list of remodeling projects that buyers are likely
to find valuable:
- Adding or remodeling a bath
- Improving the kitchen
- Adding a new room
- If you're remodeling in order to stay in your home, you still
need to avoid over-improving it. You'll probably sell someday,
and even if your house is the best on the block, you may have
a hard time convincing buyers to pay extra for the things you
found so important. Keep the value of other homes in the area
in mind whenever you consider improvements. Your home's value
should be no more than 20% above the average. That means a $10,000
kitchen improvement project might be a better idea than a $30,000
pool, especially if no other homes in your area have pools.
- Unfortunately, some home improvement projects get started because
something is broken. A leaky plumbing fixture may be the first step to a major bath remodeling. After all, if the tub has to
be replaced, why not do the whole room? While that's certainly
one reason to remodel, you'll generally want to avoid basing your home
improvement projects on immediate need. Proper maintenance will
help to minimize problems. Go over every part of your home at least
once a year. Check out the roof, plumbing, electrical wiring,
etc. As soon as you notice a problem, fix it. Early attention to repairs
will help you avoid a larger expense later on.
- Let's face it, home projects can be expensive. You may be tempted
to tackle them yourself as a way to save money. For small projects, that may be a smart move. You don't have to wait for someone
else to fit your house into their schedule, and you can take pride
in doing the work yourself. Unless you're particularly handy, however,
large home improvement projects are better left to the pros. If you're remodeling the kitchen, ask yourself if you can handle
the plumbing, electrical and carpentry work. And don't forget
that you need to finish it all quickly, because in the meantime you'll
be without a kitchen.
- Hiring people who have experience can save you money and time,
too. For example, these professionals can help you get a custom look using stock products, and that can be a significant savings.
Getting something done right--the first time--will give you value
that lasts for years.
- Word-of-mouth is a good way to start looking for home improvement
specialists. Check with friends, business associates and neighbors for recommendations. Always ask for at least three
references - and check them out. Check, too, with your local chapter
of the Better Business Bureau. You can find the number in the community
services section of your telephone book. Make sure everyone is in agreement about design, schedule and budget. Get the details
down in writing in a signed contract. You'd also be wise to check
on professional certifications and state licenses, where required,
and insist that any contractors you hire are fully insured and
- Contact your town or city Building Department for information.
In particular, make sure contractors carry workers' compensation insurance so that if any workers are injured on the job, you
won't be held liable. Ask for a copy of their insurance certificates.
Also make sure that you or the contractor secure any necessary permits
before beginning the work. Contact your local Planning and Zoning
- Commission for information.
- Here's a quick overview of some of the pros you may
work with in remodeling your home:
These professionals design homes or additions from
the foundation to the roof. If you're planning structural changes--adding
or taking out walls, for example--or anticipate a complex design,
you'll probably want an architect. You may pay an hourly fee
or a flat fee. Be sure to get an estimate of the total cost:
It can take 80 hours or more to draw up plans for a major remodeling
- To find a certified architect in your area, write to:
Institute of Architects, 11735 New York Ave., NW, Washington,
This person oversees the nuts-and-bolts aspects
of your home improvement project, such as hiring and supervising
workers, getting permits, making sure inspections are done as
needed and providing insurance for work crews. You may wish to
get proposals from one or more reputable contractors, based on
specific details of your project. Be sure each contractor bids
on exactly the same plan for comparison purposes.
chosen a contractor, make sure your contract specifies that you
will pay in several stages. It's customary to pay one third when
the contract is signed so that the contractor can buy supplies.
The number and timing of other payments depends on the size of
the job, but do not make final payment until all work is successfully
completed, inspected and approved.
Call the National Association
of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Homeowner Hotline at 1-800-440-NARI
for a free copy of the brochure Select a Professional Remodeling
Contractor and a list of NARI remodeler members in your area.
- Interior Designers.
These specialists offer advice on furnishings,
wall coverings, colors, styles and more. They can help save you
time (by narrowing down selections) and money (from the professional
discounts they might receive). When meeting with an interior designer,
be sure to talk about your personal style and preferences. Expect
to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour, or you may negotiate
a flat fee of perhaps 25% of the total project cost. For a referral
to local interior designers, phone the American Society of Interior
Design at 1-800-775-ASID. Depending on the scope of your home
improvement plans, finding funding may be a projeitself. If the
project is small, you may be able to save for it from your regular
household budget. For larger projects, you'll probably need to
If you participate in a 401(k) or 403(b)
plan at work, you may be able to get a short-term loan from your
account. To find out if this option is available to you and to
learn about any tax implications, talk to your benefits administrator.
Another possibility is borrowing against the cash value of your
life insurance policy. If you're interested in finding out more
about this type of loan, talk to your life insurance agent. To
take out other types of home improvement loans, head to your local
bank, savings and loan, or credit union. Compare interest rates,
repayment options and penalties from lending institutions before
deciding on one of the following options:
- Second mortgage.
This is a loan against the equity in your home. It is, in essence,
an additional mortgage. Typically, financial institutions will
let you borrow up to 80 percent of the appraised value of your
home, minus the balance on your original mortgage. For example,
if your home is appraised at $100,000 and your current mortgage
balance is $70,000, you may be able to borrow $10,000 by way of
a second mortgage. You may also incur all the fees normally associated
with a mortgage - closing costs, title insurance and processing
fees. Talk to your tax advisor about whether the interest on a
second mortgage may be tax-deductible.
This involves paying off your old loan and taking
out a new mortgage on your home. To refinance, generally you'll
need to have equity in your home, a solid credit rating and a
steady income. You'll incur all the closing costs that go along
with getting a new mortgage, so unless you're doing extensive
remodeling and can get a mortgage interest rate at least two points
less than you're currently paying, this type of loan may not be
Equity Line of Credit.
Like a second mortgage, a home equity
loan lets you tap up to about 80 percent of the appraised value
- of your home, minus your current mortgage balance. Since it's
set up as a line of credit, you won't be charged interest until
you make a withdrawal, but you will have to pay closing costs.
You can make withdrawals gradually as you start paying contractors
and suppliers. The interest rate charged is usually variable and
may be based on the outstanding balance. Make sure you understand
the terms of the loan. If, for example, your loan stipulates that
you need to pay interest only for the life of the loan, you'll
have to pay back the full amount borrowed at the end of the loan
period or you could lose your home. The interest on home equity
loans may be deductible; talk to your tax advisor.
- Unsecured Loan.
Although the interest rates charged are often
higher and you generally will not be able to get a tax deduction
for the interest paid, the costs of obtaining an unsecured loan
are usually lower. The relative ease of obtaining this type of
loan makes it popular for small projects costing $10,000 or less.
The lender will evaluate your application based on credit history
- Be House Smart
- You'll be happiest with the outcome of a home improvement project
if you plan carefully and do your homework. Armed with the information
in this brochure and a realistic idea of your needs and budget,
you'll find your home getting closer to your dream of perfection.