Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners — money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc. Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.
Fixing Up Your Home: Protect Your Housing Investment
Your home is an investment in living as well as in savings. If neglected, it will pay no dividends. If properly maintained and improved, it will pay a high yield in comfort and usefulness for your family and in avoidance of costly repair bills. Home improvements also tend to raise neighborhood standards and, as a result, property values. From an economic standpoint, home improvements mean higher employment, increased markets for materials and home products–and therefore a more flourishing community.
If You Do It Yourself
If you are handy with tools and have the experience, you can save money by doing many jobs yourself. But unless you are skilled in wiring, plumbing, installing heat systems, and cutting through walls, you should rely on professionals for such work.
When you buy the required materials, it pays not to skimp. Good materials are not necessarily the most expensive. What you need are products that look good, are easy to maintain, and last a long time. Buy only from reliable dealers.
If You Use a Contractor
If you plan to use the services of a dealer or contractor, take care to choose one with a reputation for honesty and good workmanship. There are several ways to check on a contractor:
- Consult your local Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, or Local Consumer Protection Agency.
- Talk with people for whom he has done work.
- Ask your lender about him, if you plan to finance the project with a loan.
- Check his place of business to see that he is not a fly-by-night operator.
- Find out, if you can, how he rates with known building-product distributors and wholesale suppliers.
- Ask friends and relatives for names of firms that they could recommend.
Compare Contractor Offers
Before deciding on a contractor, you may want to get bids from two or three different firms. Make sure that each bid is based on the same specifications and the same grade of materials. If these bids vary widely, find out why.
Many contractors offer package plans that cover the whole transaction. Under such a plan the contractor provides all materials used, takes care of all work involved, and arranges for your loan.
Your contractor can make the loan application for you, but you are the one who must repay the loan, so you should see that the work is done correctly.
Understand What You Sign
The contract that both you and the contractor sign should state clearly the type and extent of improvements to be made and the materials to be used. Before you sign, get the contractor to spell out for you in exact terms:
- How much the entire job will cost you.
- How much interest you will pay on the loan.
- How much you will pay in service charges.
- How many payments you must make to pay off the loan, and how much each of these payments will be.
After the entire job is finished in the manner set forth in your contract, you sign a completion certificate. By signing this paper you certify that you approve the work and materials and you authorize the lender to pay the contractor the money you borrowed.
Beware of Fraud
Most dealers and contractors conscientiously try to give their customers service equivalent to the full value of their money. Unfortunately, home improvement rackets do exist. Here are a few common sense rules to follow:
- Read and understand every word of any contract or other paper before you sign it.
- Never sign a contract with anyone who makes fantastic promises. Reputable dealers are not running give-away businesses.
- Avoid wild bargains. The best bargain is a good job.
- Never consolidate existing loans through a home improvement contractor.
- Do not let salespeople high-pressure you into signing up to buy their materials or services.
- Be wary of salespeople who try to scare you into signing for repairs that they say are urgent. Seek the advice of an expert as to how urgent such repairs are. High-pressure and scare tactics are often the mark of a phony deal.
- Avoid salespeople who offer you trial purchases or some form of bonus, such as cash, for allowing them to use your house as a model for any purpose. Such offers are well-known gimmicks of swindlers.
- Never sign a completion certificate until all the work called for in the contract has been completed to your satisfaction. Be careful not to sign a completion certificate along with a sales order.
- Proceed cautiously when the lender or contractor demands a lien on your property.
Why It Is So Important That Your Home Is Correctly Priced and Marketed Properly
“…you need to beware of agents who set the list price on homes at unrealistically high levels simply to get listings…”
While many agents may promise to sell your home for the money you want, the reality of the real estate market today is that this simply doesn’t always happen. The fact of the matter is, the majority of homes sell for a price which falls short of what sellers may have been lead to believe.
There are two factors at play here. On the one hand, you need to beware of agents who set the list price on homes at unrealistically high levels simply to get listings. This is really unfair because it can set homeowners up for disappointment and failure.
On the other hand, you have homes that are priced correctly, but are marketed ineffectively. Without a proper marketing program in place to ensure a home is exposed to the highest number of qualified buyers, many homesellers feel forced to accept a lower offer.
There’s nothing worse to a homeseller than to have their home sit unsold for many months because of improper pricing and/or marketing techniques. Needless to say, either of these situations is highly frustrating to any homeseller. But more than that, it can be financially crushing if you’re counting on the full proceeds of the sale of your home to fulfill some other obligation.
To prevent this scenario when selling your home here are some points to consider before choosing the agent you want to represent you.
Deciding Upon an Agent
A good agent knows the market and has information on past sales, current listings, a marketing plan, and will provide their background and references. Evaluate each candidate carefully on the basis of their experience and qualifications.
Are they pricing your home correctly?
Home prices are determined by the marketplace not by your emotional attachment or by what you feel your home is worth. You should work closely with an agent who will suggest establishing a realistic price for your home. They will help you to objectively compare the price, features and condition of all similar homes in both your neighborhood and other similar ones which have sold in recent months. It is also important to be familiar with the terms of each potential sale. Terms are often as important as price in today’s market.
Do they set themselves apart from the others by offering innovative marketing plans to sell your home fast and for top dollar?
Will they set up an aggressive marketing program to ensure your home is exposed to hundreds of qualified buyers? How much money does this agent spend in advertising the homes s/he lists versus other agents. In what media do they advertise, (newspaper, magazine, TV. etc.) Do they use a 24 hour hotline, “For Sale” signs, lock boxes, a Tour of Homes program, and Talking House signs and transmitters? What does this agent know about the effectiveness of one medium over the other?
How To Protect Your Home While Away
With a steady increase of crime in North America, home safety is a big issue these days. When leaving your home, practice the following advice – it could pay big, big dividends.
Going to the Market or out to Dinner?
A residence which presents a “lived-in” appearance is a deterrent to burglars. Never leave notes that can inform a burglar that your house is unoccupied. Make certain all windows and doors are secured before departing. An empty garage advertises your absence, so close the doors.
When going out at night, leave one or more interior lights on and perhaps have a radio playing (TV sets should not be left unattended). Timers may be purchased that will turn lights on and off during your absence.
Do not leave door keys under flower pots or doormats, inside an unlocked mailbox, over the doorway, or in other obvious places.
When Planning Vacations or Prolonged Absence
Discontinue milk, newspaper, and other deliveries by phone or in person ahead of time. Do not leave notes. Arrange for lawn care and have someone remove advertising circulars and other debris regularly. On the other hand, several toys scattered about will create an impression of occupancy.
Notify the post office to forward your mail or have a trustworthy person pick it up daily. Apartment house tenants should also heed this hint since stuffed mail receptacles are a give away when no one is home.
Inform neighbours of your absence so they can be extra alert for suspicious persons. Leave a key with them so your place may be periodically inspected. Ask them to vary the positions of your shades and blinds.
When you leave, do not publicize your plans. Some burglars specialize in reading newspaper accounts of other people’s vacation activities.
If you find a door or window has been forced or broken while you were away, DO NOT ENTER. The criminal may still be inside. Use a neighbour’s phone immediately to summon police.
Do not touch anything or clean up if a crime has occurred. Preserve the scene until police inspect for evidence.
Always Remember to:
- Lock before you leave.
- Trust a neighbour with a key.
- Be a concerned neighbour – yourself.
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