Doing home projects and improvements yourself may seem more cost efficient than ever. But how do you know when to tackle home improvement projects yourself or when hiring a professional contractor is best?
Budgets are tighter these days, and with home values in flux, you need to be extra selective about the projects you plan. Sometimes doing a home improvement project yourself saves money and time, but in other cases it can end up costing you more all the way around. Thinking things through and selecting the right contractor for the project will set you up for home improvement success.
Eyes on the prize
Before you start stocking up on tools or choosing paint colors, your first do it yourself project is to think about the exact result you’re after. What kind of overall change are you expecting to make, and what degrees of craftsmanship, care and design savvy should be present in the result? Now work your way back through all of the knowledge, techniques and elbow grease involved, doing whatever research is required to fill in the blanks.
Consider whether your end goal is achievable and if it’s practical. Keep in mind that if you have an unrealistic idea of how it will turn out from the start, you’ll likely never be satisfied with the end result. Research contractors and talk to long-time homeowners to hear about common home improvement mistakes so you can best prevent any physical or financial catastrophes. Finally, it’s critical to do your research and discover whether the desired project will add value to your home. Unnecessary projects that aren’t favorable for potential homebuyers in the surrounding area can be deemed unproductive and unprofitable when you go to resell the home later on.
Assess your abilities
When trying to decide if you should hire a contractor or do it yourself, the first step should be an honest evaluation of whether or not you’re the best person for the job.
Understand that every project requires a certain amount of preparation and a sliding scale of time to accomplish, neither of which is obvious in the many popular home improvement TV shows that edit days, weeks and months of hard work down to a few minutes of home improvement bliss.
In fact, experts say it can take anywhere from 1-3 months to simply prepare for a home improvement project, not to mention the 2-6 months the actual renovation itself can take to finish.
How much time do you realistically have available to devote to this project? Midstream mistakes add dollars and hours, and can wipe out any savings expected from going the DIY route. So be honest about your do it yourself abilities before work even begins, and you’ll have a much greater chance of hitting targets where quality, safety and price are concerned.
Build a budget
Before your begin the hiring search for a contractor, compile the best possible estimate of potential costs. This’ll take a little research, but needs to be done so that you’re well acquainted with what’s involved and can determine your financial limitations before bids start rolling in. Include a reserve of about 20 percent to cover inevitable project surprises and additions, and line up your financing.
Determine how you’re going to pay
We know that completing projects on your own can often be cheaper than hiring a professional. But, the important question to ask yourself is whether hiring externally is affordable. With a little bit of budgeting or financial assistance, you might find that appointing a licensed expert to build a deck or paint your interior walls is actually doable.
Some of the most common home improvement projects, like a bathroom remodel, can potentially cost up to $5,000. It’s safe to say that many of us don’t have that kind of cash on hand, which is why it’s helpful to look into ways to gain access to money using your hard-earned homeownership. Refinancing your home loans is a good way to use your existing mortgage to acquire cash to pay for these projects, especially a cash-out refinance. Or, if you haven’t built up enough equity in your home, adjusting your spending habits to account for additional savings can help you accumulate some money to fund your next project.
Get the help you need
Whether you’re looking for a handyman or remodeling contractor to hire, personal recommendations from family members and friends are critical to finding the right match. Services like Home Advisor can provide a great online resource for local pros and candid customer reviews of their work, and check in with trade associations, the folks at the local hardware store, and local building inspectors.
Invest proper time in due diligence
That means interviewing both the contractors and their past customers, scrutinizing competitive bids, and carefully reviewing project timetables before making precious commitments of time and money.
Deciding whether hiring a contractor or doing it yourself takes assessment of the complexity of the home improvement project, your own skills and the time you’ll need to get things done. Think it all through before you pick up a hammer and you’ll get the best possible result.