DIY Do's And Don'ts

How to Get the Best Prices on Home Improvements

how to get the best prices on home improvementsNow more than ever, people want to get the most for their home improvement dollar. There are definitely great deals to be had, but to get the best prices, you have to know where to look.

Some of the surprises on this journey? It isn't always cheaper to do it yourself, and some bigger-ticket products can actually pay for themselves before you know it. Get ready to save money with these tips on how to get the best prices on home improvements.

Plan, plan, plan: No matter what the size or scale of your renovation, an up-front investment in product research and project planning will save money later. Take time to comparison shop for the best deals on fixtures, find out what finishes will look great and actually make sense for your lifestyle, and source everything you'll need well before you actually need it.

Search Homes for Sale Find a local expert contractor who has been pre-screened by ServiceMagic Be honest about your own project abilities: While tackling a project yourself can sometimes be a money-saver, DIY isn't always the most cost-effective way to go. Ask yourself if you really have the experience, the tools and the time to do the work at hand, because that choice can impact far more than the success of one project.

"For homeowners, their home is typically their biggest investment," says Jeff Kaliner of Power Home Remodeling Group in Chester, PA. "Projects that change a home's structural integrity, energy efficiency and even visual appeal can drastically change its value. Before investing time and money in trial and error, homeowners should consider calling a professional to guarantee a high-quality result."

Find the right help for the job: If professional home improvement help is what you need, eliminate the possibilities of wasted money and never-ending work by hiring a contractor who's licensed, insured and highly recommended by people you trust. You'll also save by choosing a specialist for the job when specialized skills and craftsmanship are what your project requires.

Get apples-to-apples estimates: There's often a huge gulf between what a contractor thinks they've heard you say and what you've actually asked for, so save everyone time and secure realistic project estimates by preparing detailed specs for the pro. That includes everything from the space to be renovated to the finish colors and fixture models to be used. This is one point where early research pays off, and you'll have apples-to-apples estimates to review if you give the same information to each contractor bidding on the job.

Also be ready with the details when bidding out smaller projects. Services like Mr. Handyman provide customers with checklists to be completed for project estimation, and occasionally, the customer will also need to supply selected fixtures or finishes. So it's smart to have the pricing information for these ready to go so you can calculate the real bottom line after the labor estimate arrives.

Choose quality products: You definitely get what you pay for, and when you invest in quality, you'll also get better returns in terms of product life, integrity and appearance. You'll also spend less by installing the best the first time versus improving on the cheap and having to do it all over again in a few years. Before you dive into the bargain bin, realize that whatever price-slashed item you've spotted is probably discontinued for a reason.

Make the most of reclaimed building materials: Recycling saves unique, usable goods from landfills and can also save you money. Hunt down reclaimed lumber and other reusable building materials to add interest and provide a fresh look with yesterday's resources.

Invest in energy efficiency: Improvements that provide energy efficiency pay for themselves before you know it. Go green by installing WaterSense fixtures, Energy Star rated windows and appliances, and insulation products that don't require too much time or effort but offer big rewards. You'll thank yourself as your utility bills dip downward and the tax incentives and rebates come rolling in.

Tom Kraeutler is a home improvement expert for AOL Real Estate and host of "The Money Pit," a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program offering home improvement tips and ideas.

Thinking about adding value with home improvements? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides to help you, whether you're selling or staying.
More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to
calculate mortgage payments.
Find
homes for sale in your area.
Find
foreclosures in your area.
Get
property tax help from our experts.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

26 Comments

Filter by:
Trent

By the way, I'm about to build an apartment over an existing garage for roughly 75,000 dollars. It will be 1/1 with complete kitchen and laundry. I will have to work an extra 2 hours per day basically free to compete with people who aren't here legally. That time away from my family every evening that I will never get back.

March 29 2011 at 8:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Trent

In 1957 a loaf of bread was a quarter if that. Today it cost 8 times that. Gas was about the 40 cents. Inflation is a fact of life. However, I have to charge 1980 price to compete in reomdeling. For exmple my father charged 40 dollars per square to install siding in 1980, today I have to charge the same thing while paying 5 times as much for gas.

March 29 2011 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gmini10

One of my family member's built a house back in 1957, total cost was $100,000 that was a real house, now a day's if you can get a garage for that kind of money your Damn lucky. Everything is crazy now a day's.

March 29 2011 at 8:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Trent

I understand the need for some type of regulation and testing. There are alot of people out there who lost thier office job and think they can become a remodeler by buying a truck and some tools. I have been in this business since 1988 and I know alot more than most about home construction, yet I have never taken a single test. I have had certified electricians ask me what amp breaker and "what size wire do I run for a 30 gallon water heater lessw than 25 feet from the panel?". In fact two of them were standing there and niether of them knew. I replied "10-2 w/g on a double 30 and by the way load you truck your fired".
The point is licensing and test are all great but a home owner has to be able to read people and see past a smooth talker with a nice truck. Ask specific questions if there is too much hesitation then you had better watch out.
On a side note illegal immigration is destroying our construction businesses(atleast those that are legitamate). So many contractors want cheap, fast labor. All of these "illegals" have built so many house so fast and now we have excess inventory and that is why your house is not worth squat. Construction is a MAJOR part of our economy and it has been hi-jacked. Worst of all our government expects legitimate construction business to pay 28% federal taxes so that they can sit on thier a**** and not protect our borders, while illegals come over and cut our throats on every job they can. Ok I've said enough.

March 29 2011 at 7:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cssimmons01

the bottom line is you get what you pay for,true in this economy I find I work harder for less ,but there is a bottom line when it becomes not worth it to put your name out ,as a contractor myself i believe in personal as well as professional conduct to sell my work .so if you pay for shoddy work up front its on you ,at least do progressive billing to protect yourself

March 29 2011 at 7:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rogerl

THEY TALK ABOUT PEOPLE BEING RIPPED OFF BYE REMODLING CONTRACTORS TRUE THEY CAN BE IF THEY HIRE A JACK LEG . BUT MOST PEOPLE WANT A PERFECT JOB AND DONT WANT TO SPEND THE MONEY TO GET IT .THAT IS WHEN THIS HAPPENS . I HAVE REMODLED OVER THE PAST 30 YEARS . YOU HAVE SOME THAT WILL SPEND THE MONEY FOR A GREAT JOB BUT MOST WANT TO GET IT FIXED AS CHEAP AS POSSIBLE. THEY DO CARE ABOUT THE CONTRACTOR AND WHAT HE HAS TO PAY FOR THEIR QUALITY JOB . ALL I CAN SAY AND I TELL THEM IS THIS . YOU LOAD UP A TRUCK FULL OF TOOLS PAY YOURE TAXES AND EMPLOYEES AND OTHER OBLIGATIONS I WANT TO SEE WHAT YOU CHARGE FOR THIS PERFECT JOB . PEOPLE THINK ITS SO EASY BUY A TRUCK GET OUT THERE AND LETS SEE WHAT YOU DO . SO THEY GUY THAT WROTE THIS ARTICAL IS FULL OF CRAP . IM THE GUY THAT GOES IN A PERSONS HOME AND CLEANS UP THE MESS THAT THEY WANT OR SOMEONE ELSE HAS DONE .

March 29 2011 at 5:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Les Alan Errett

Beware of MD Homes of Southern Nevada, i.e.Marty Davisson ! When asked if he had references, he replied; " I do not have any"....."You know how things go at the end of a project. " Wow ! Interesting comment !

March 28 2011 at 10:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vinny

Forget about hiring 'experienced' people to do home repair. I hired based on the contractors experience and what I got was a contractors lacky with no experience and no skills, but I was billed the same as if a REAL tradesperson did the job. Contractors sub-contract some of their work to non-licensed morons who may have no experience at all. Don't believe the sales pitch before the job starts, and always ask if the persons actually doing the work are employed direct;y by the bidder and are not 'day labor' picked up off the street that have no skills but will work for next to nothing. Its easy to get burned and just because the van or truck says, 'Licensed and Insured' doesn't mean a thing if both have expired. Ask to see a dated copy of the license and insurance or you will be burned if things don't work out. Sure there are many honest and skilled contractors, but there are also many who are rip-off artists. Don't ever rely on the Better Business Report. Guess who keeps them in business ? Its the people they report on, so figure out for yourself what that 'report' is worth.

March 28 2011 at 9:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1040advocate

Home improvement contractors have a bad rap..fortunatley..Not all are bad..alot of people were scammed by wannabe contractors...the homeowner has no idea what their getting for the money...so he or she will always take a lower price for the job...gettin a bad surprise before during or after the job is done...kinda like buyin a car..they see cars the same model..different prices...right? They think contractors are all the same too. But we are not. Pickin a good contractor is not hard. All you have to do is..do a little homework about your project before you hire a contractor. If you have some idea of what needs to be done..an how their suppose to go about doing it...you have some clue as to what you SHOULD hear from the guy bidding your job. Most information is readily available right here on the internet or most hardware stores...
Heck..I been a contractor since 1982..email me..I'll help you pick a good contractor

March 28 2011 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cobleremodels

The better business breau is a paid service we companies buy into to rate ourselves. They are not a real compass for the pros. I have been with the BBB and they just take my money. They do a back ground search and that is all.

March 28 2011 at 8:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply