Remodeling
Buying a House and Making it a Home
While house hunting in Los Angeles, you and your spouse found the perfect home—it’s well-situated close to a high-rated school district, it’s within a decent commute to your work and it has a nice pool and landscaped backyard that really made a lasting impression. The home will require some remodeling but not enough to stop you from moving in, and the home is available for immediate occupancy versus other model homes you liked in outlying communities. Find out more in this section about the best ways to find a remodeling contractor, the questions to ask when interviewing a contractor and what to include in the remodeling contract. Also find out what remodeling projects in Los Angeles provide the best return on investment.

According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) (www.nari.org), the remodeling market is a $246 billion industry and is expected to pick up in 2012. It is estimated that more than 1 million homes per year undergo major renovation or remodeling.

SELECT A PROFESSIONAL, RELIABLE, REMODELING CONTRACTOR
Finding a qualified professional remodeling contractor for your home-improvement project doesn’t have to be a difficult task. By following these guidelines recommended and prepared by NARI, you will be better prepared to make an informed decision that best suits your needs.
  • Employ a home-improvement contractor with an established business in your area. Local firms can be checked through references from past customers in your community or through your local better business bureau (www.bbb.org). Local remodelers are compelled to perform quality work that satisfies their customers for their business to survive.
  • Ask the remodeling contractor for a current copy of their license.
  • Check with the government Consumer Affairs Office and the Better Business Bureau to ensure there are no complaints on record for the contractor. In Los Angeles, Better Business Bureau can be reached at (909) 825-7280.
  • Ask to see a copy of the remodeling contractor’s certification of insurance for the name of his or her insurance agency to verify coverage. Most states require a contractor to carry workers compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance. Make sure the contractor’s insurance coverage meets all the minimum requirements.
  • If you solicit bids from several different home improvement contractors, be sure they are bidding on the same scope and quality of work. Discuss variations in bids and beware of any bid that is substantially lower than the others.

Questions to Ask Potential Contractors
Timing and money are the most common questions a home improvement contractor hears, but during an interview, homeowners should be asking about credentials and verifying business practices. Instead, what is often heard is, “When can you start? When will it be finished? How much will it cost?” These simply aren’t enough. If you are going to have a successful remodeling project, you need to learn the right questions to ask and how to ask them.

Start by asking questions about a company’s business practices and experience in a similar type of project. If you decide you want to hire a particular remodeling contractor, you can discuss when he or she can start, what time he or she can knock on your door each morning and when you will have your home to yourselves again.

Here are more questions:
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
  • Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
  • What is your approach to a project such as this?
  • Do you have a Web site that shows photographs of completed projects as well as projects under construction?
  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
  • Can you provide a list of references from those projects?
  • Can you provide a list of business referrals or suppliers?
  • What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
  • What is a typical remodeling budget for your company?
  • Are you a member of a national trade association?
  • Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education, such as earning a Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS) or Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC) or Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR) designation?

It’s also important to realize that sometimes it’s not the answers you get that are significant but what you don’t get. Asking the right questions is not enough. You need to pay attention to your instincts and to what information is missing.

Unlike your accountant or stockbroker, your remodeler will be a part of your daily life and available for some on-the-job education. He or she will be privy to your personal life, more so than your doctor or lawyer. Your contractor will know how you look early in the morning and how well behaved your dog is. It makes sense that you should take some time to carefully select this person and make sure that it is someone to whom you can ask questions.

PROPER PLANNING IS IMPORTANT
For considerably less than a new home, careful planning of your home improvement projects will enable you to update your home, increase the value of your investment and customize your living space. As part of the planning process, look over your property carefully. What repairs are needed? What improvements would you like to make? Think ahead and determine your future needs. Professional remodeling contractors can help your planning by outlining options and discussing the improvements you can make within your budget. Be sure to review your homeowners insurance policy and make adjustments for the added value of the work being done.

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