The housing market is experiencing a comeback, and home remodels are on the rise. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the fourth quarter of 2012 gave the Remodeling Market Index its highest score since 2004. However, Americans aren't completely out of the woods yet. With an average cost of $9,327 for a deck addition and $18,527 for a minor kitchen remodel, these projects can really throw your finances for a loop if you're not careful.
When you sit down to draw up your plans for a kitchen or bathroom makeover -- or even a full home overhaul -- consider the following tips to help keep your costs manageable:
1. Choose Your Contractor Wisely
Your contractor can be your best friend or your worst enemy, so choosing a good contractor is essential. To find a qualified contractor who has been in the business for a while, reach out to family, friends and coworkers for referrals or check out the website HomeAdvisor.
When you've settled on a few candidates, ask for price quotes and references from past projects, as well as photos of their work. Follow up with the references and inquire about professionalism and performance and also be sure to ask about cost overruns or project delays.
2. Buy the Materials Yourself
Once you get an estimate or two, parse the contractor's supply costs carefully. If they seem exorbitant, do some research online and see if you can buy the materials yourself at a cheaper price -- Home Depot and Lowe's are good places to start. If your project is on the larger side, make sure you can transport all the materials yourself, or that any delivery costs don't negate the benefits of shopping on your own.
3. Help Out If You Can
Unless you're an electrician, you may not want to rewire your home, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of jobs you can perform to help reduce your labor costs. You can clean up and move furniture to prepare the space, for starters. You can also rip up old carpet and lay protective tarps on the floor before the walls are painted. So be sure to take advantage of the many tasks you can assume yourself -- just don't bite off more than you can chew.
4. Create a Budget and Stick to It
Once you've evaluated provided estimates, choose the contractor you feel most comfortable with, create a budget and do your very best to stick to it. Stay disciplined and limit yourself to the project at hand, resisting the urge to expand it to other areas. You're going to have plenty of time (and hopefully money) in the future to complete a separate project.
5. Shop Online
Did you know that websites such as eBay and Amazon have a wide selection of building materials for sale, and usually at cheaper prices than standard brick-and-mortar retailers? You may not be able to find lumber, but you should definitely look for fixtures, small appliances, and other minor accessories. Every dollar you save on materials adds up in the long run, so be on the lookout for the lowest prices.
6. Finance the Project
Both Lowe's and the Home Depot offer financing programs if you sign up for one of their charge cards. Currently, both offer 0 percent financing for the first six months for projects over $299. However, if you're less than certain you can pay off the sum in full before interest kicks in, be sure to establish a plan in advance to pay off the remaining balance quickly.
Once you're up and running with your current remodel, you're likely to get several ideas for other work you can do to improve your home. That makes saving on this project all the more important. Put all the money you're conserved into a separate bank account dedicated just to home improvement, so when the urge to start another upgrade hits, you've already got the starter funds to kick it off.
What ways can you think of to save on a home remodel?