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Insurance Co. Vs. Mortgage Co.

Filing a claim with your insurance company can be the least of your problems. Because my claim was a significant amount due to April 2011 tornado damage, the insurance check was made out to myself and the mortgage company. It's been nearly 2 months and the mortgage company is STILL holding my money hostage. After repeatedly faxing a materials list that they "approved" (& finally admitted to receiving), I was to get 20% of my insurance money to initiate repairs. Well....that was 3 weeks ago. Still no money!

Who, besides the Better Business Bureau, can I file a complaint to?

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Finance

I want to know what my rights are with bill collectors, one in particular. My car payment. I'm behind by two months, but I made arrangements to make 1/2 payments twice a month with one of the reps a couple of months ago. This way I will be able to get caught up.

Meanwhile, I had was out sick with the flu and pneumonia for almost 2 1/2 weeks with not enough sick leave, so my paycheck was very slim on that payday so I wasn't able to make a payment on that schedule date. I probably should have wrote them or called them to explain what happened but I'm so overwhelmed with family issues, my sister is struggling and fighting for her life with Ovarian Cancer.

I have continued to get back on my payment plan schedule with them. I've told them (Ally)to remove my home telephone # from my file. I live with my 92 yr old mom who cannot tolerate these early morning (8:20 am) calls everyday and afternoon calls to our home #, even after I told them to stop calling that # they ignored me and continue to call it.

Then I found out my neighbor got a call from Ally asking if she knew of my whereabouts. Once my neighbor realized who was calling her she told them in a very firm voice "don't you ever call my # ever again". What is strange is "how did they get my neighbor's home tel. #?

I haven't returned Ally's phone calls because I'm so furious with them for harassing me and for harassing my next door neighbor.

My question is "what are my rights from these harassing phone calls". I heard on a radio station once that if you want "them" to stop calling all you need to do is tell them to stop calling and to take my phone #'s out of my file. Alley did not honor my request and now is continuing to call both my home phone and my cell phone.

I want to call Ally and tell them to stop harassing me and or I will report them. But I'm not sure what I really need to say about her I will be reporting them to? They can communicate with me via post office mail. I plan on writing them a letter as well, but I need your help in what I can say that is professional and correct for my rights.

Thank you,
Kathy Elliott

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Service Contracts and Extended Warranties: Are extended warranties on your purchases ever worth the extra cost?

Every time I go to buy something these days, I end up getting offered an extended warranty or service contract.  When it comes to repair issues, are service contracts or extended warranties ever a good thing to consider?

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Product service contracts or an extended warranty might make sense to have if the products are expensive to repair, like electronics. It also might be smart if you have a very low tolerance for unexpected repair expenses. For most new household appliances however, service contracts are not the best investment. The repair incidence is low and the cost of repair not likely to break the bank. 
Keep in mind that some credit card companies, have programs that will double a manufacturer's warranty simply for using this company's credit card to purchase a product. This is like getting a free extended warranty simply for making the purchase through your credit card. In this case, it is unnecessary to take out a product service contract.

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Returning Product Warranty Cards

What if I don't get a written warranty with my product? Do I have to send in my warranty card with every product, or fill out all the personal information on the warranty card?

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Written warranty are provided by the manufacturer with most new products.  If your warranty is missing, you should contact the manufacturer for a replacement, or check their web site to see if the warranty has been published.  During home improvement projects, it is easy to lose or misplace warranties shipped with each product.  It's important to keep a warranty file on each project so you'll have an easy place to retain these important warranty documents.
Warranties should be valid whether or not you return the warranty card.  However, there is an important safety benefit to returning those warranty cards.  If the product is ever included in a recall, the manufacturer will know how to contact you, thanks to the information you provided on the warranty card.  As for personal information which is often requestedon the warranty card, you are under no obligation to provide this on the warranty card. You may also want to check the box on the warranty card that tells the manufacturer to not sell your name or include you in promotions other than product recalls.

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Home Improvement Project Contracts

I'm about to hire a contrator to install new kitchen cabinets. To protect myself , do I need a lawyer for my home improvement project contract? Are verbal contracts ever valid, or should I go with a written project contract?

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Having an attorney review the home improvement project contract is a good idea, especially If the home improvement project is sizeable.  The basis of most disputes is a lack of communication.  An attorney can make sure the project contract is clear and both parties expectations are spelled out.  In any event, it is extremely important that you have a written agreement between yourself and the contractor for any size job.  Spelling out the scope of the project with a project contract is the best way to assure the finished project is what you expect.
While verbal contracts are valid, they are very difficult to enforce.  Disputes over verbal agreements often deteriorate into a he said - she said match where neither party can prove what was agreed to.  Therefore, a written home improvement projects cntract, along with written change orders and punch lists is the best way to make sure your home improvement project comes out as expected.

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Empty Nest Home Renovation: Best improvements for the money

My oldest child has recently moved out and my wife and I find ourselves alone in our empty nest after almost thirty years in this house! We'd eventually like to move to a smaller home but for the next few years, the plan to stay here and improve the home to both enjoy and eventually resell. 
 
With that in mind, can you advise us as to which empty nest home renovation projects will hold their value when it come time to sell?

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It definitely pays to consider projects carefully and invest in those that'll deliver immediate enjoyment as well as a strong return on investment down the line. 
 
Before entertaining design dreams or making a move toward the local home improvement center, wise empty-nesters should browse Remodeling Online's Cost vs. Value Report, which provides recent data on popular improvements and corresponding costs recouped, according to U.S. region. Project scales, elements and costs are included among the categories, and can help you judge just how far to go with your plans.
 
For instance, a Major Kitchen Remodel may be a tempting empty nest home renovation project, especially when you see that 78.1 percent of the cost could be recouped at selling time, but the less-is-more route of a Minor Kitchen Remodel actually nets a higher return on investment at 83 percent.
 
Whether a master suite, spa-like bath or home theater is in the works, keep future needs and a future sale in mind. In other words, avoid anything that's too dramatic design-wise, too personalized to appeal to the general home-buying public, or reconfigurations that subtract precious living or storage space. Neutral color schemes maintain home value and help make sure that your empty nest home renovations are appreciated by any potential future home buyers.

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Roof Layers: Three layers of roof shingles too many for an insurance company

I was told by my insurance company that they don't cover a roof that has three layers of roof shingles on it, so I've gone to another carrier for an estimate. This other carrier would charge me quite a bit because I'd only have homeowners insurance with them and they're supposedly the only ones who will deal with me concerning the roof. Can you tell me if this is accurate? I'm on a fixed income and can't afford to replace any of the roof at this time.  

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Your three-layer roof is definitely a potential structural concern, and homeowners insurance companies might consider three layers of roof shingles. According to the International Existing Building Code, homes can be re-roofed one time by applying a second layer of roof shingles over the existing one, but after that application begins to wear, both layers need to be removed before a brand new roof is installed.
 
There are important reasons why this code is in effect. For one, a layer of shingles adds considerable weight to a roof─weight that can be hard for a structure to carry when severe weather strikes. Second, the fasteners used to hold shingles in place need to penetrate through to the the roof sheathing under the shingles, and if they damage underlying layers or pop or tear the new shingles along the way (a phenomenon worsened when the roof heats up), the integrity of the roof is impacted.
 
Additional guidelines may apply depending on where you live, and as stormy seasons approach, the Institute for Business & Home Safety recommend that those in high-wind areas have all old layers of roof shingles removed before reroofing, as working off of clean and sturdy roof sheathing provides much more dependable results.
 
So, I'm afraid the costs are going to be high whether the existing three-layer roof is insured or replaced. The size and location of your home and available options in roofing materials may still make the latter possible for you, so get estimates from a few reputable roofing contractors.
 
You'll then be better able to weigh the cost of having a new, safe, easily insurable single roof layer against paying a high premium for the multiple roof layers you already have.  

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Return on Investment for Home Improvements

The home we just purchased was in need of several home improvements. We've done a few things already, but would like to do more as long as we can sell it at a higher price in two or three years. My hope is to improve the basement, update the cabinets, build a master bathroom and closet, and update the current bathroom with nice fixtures, all of which would yield a four-bedroom, two-bath home with walk-out finished basement. Is it possible to get a good return on my home improvement investment if I follow through with these improvements?

Our Answer

It definitely pays to consider improvements carefully and spend your time and money on the most cost-effective of the bunch. Generally, that means avoiding anything that's too dramatic a change, too personalized to appeal to the general home-buying public, or reconfigurations that subtract precious living or storage space. That being said, it sounds like you have a few viable ideas on your wish list. Before making a move toward the local home improvement center, however, be sure to browse the latest Remodeling Online Cost vs. Value Report, which provides recent data on popular improvements and corresponding costs recouped, according to U.S. region and can help you identify which home improvements give you the best return on your home improvement investment.

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Estimating remodeling costs and value

I'd been considering some pretty major home improvements before the housing market started turning upside down. Got a crystal ball I can look into to see whether or not what I have in mind is likely to pay off a few years down the road?

Our Answer

You're wise to take a moment from your home improvement dreams to reconsider their value. Renovations and redesigns of any magnitude call for careful planning, and this is even truer in difficult market conditions.
 
The best source for determining the value of various remodeling projects is Remodeling Online's Cost vs. Value Survey, which predicts the return on investment for a wide variety of remodeling projects.
 
Beyond that, several websites offer free home improvement calculators that'll give you a general idea of project investments as they relate to your home's location and present value. This'll at least give you a start, and from there it's wise to do your own research on home values in your area and the sales impacts of related improvements (a local real estate professional is a good resource for this). Site's like AOL Real Estate can also help your compare market value to others.
 
Also remember that beyond estimating remodeling costs, keeping the improvement neutral will help make sure those expenses hold the best value. Any redo you consider should be free of overly personal design features and over-the-top color schemes. Keep things neutral for appeal to a wider range of home buyer tastes.

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Home Improvement Project Calculators

Where can I find helpful online home improvement calculators for my upcoming projects? I'd like to bulk up my "favorites" list so that I'm prepared?

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Most major retailer and home product manufacturers offer helpful online home improvement calculators tailored to the materials they make or carry. Browse around and you'll find home improvement calculators to help for everything from concrete to grass seed.
Some easy-to-use home improvement calculators include Behr's paint calculator, which allows you to determine quantities for either customized or standard room sizes; Lowe's flooring calculator, accompanied by product selection and project advice; and Hope Depot's drywall calculator for room resurfacing projects.

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Bath Remodeling Return on Investment

What is the return on investment for a bath remodeling project? I have an 18-year-old four-bedroom house (1875 square feet) and want to do a master bath remodel. However, to expand the bathroom I'll need to take out the master bedroom closet and make the bathroom double in size. To make up for losing the closet, I will take out the small guest bedroom next to the closet and make a large walk-in/sitting room master closet area. Will losing a bedroom affect the value of my house?

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Interesting return-on-investment question, to which my answer would be a definite maybe! Bathroom remodels usually have a high return on investment and are generally considered one of the smartest home improvement projects you can do. The 2008-2009 Cost vs. Value Report done by Remodeling Online shows that an upscale bathroom remodeled delivered better than a 70 percent return on investment. This means that if you sold your house within a year of doing the improvement, you'd probably get 70 cents on the dollar for your trouble. 
My concern with the bathroom remodel you propose is that even though a greatly improved bath is usually a good idea, you are completing this at the cost of a bedroom. Bedrooms add value to a home, and all other factors being equal, a three-bedroom home will probably be more valuable than a two-bedroom home. Therefore, your elimination of the bedroom to create the closet could impact value in a negative way.
I think the bottom line is that it's really going to depend on who wants to buy your home. If it is a couple with a growing family, then they may not be too excited about losing that bedroom and devalue the home accordingly. However, if it is a single person or a couple with no kids, the super-expanded master bedroom may be just what the doctor ordered.
To protect your options and return on investment for the bath remodel, I'd make sure that the spare bedroom can be converted back into a bedroom or at least be usable as a nursery, should a future owner have that need.