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Attention Homeowners: Your New To-Do List

by Allen Norwood





If you've invested in expensive technology consider protecting your investment with regular service by a professional. Builders, inspectors and other experts say that's always wise. Don't let the contract lapse.

Follow the manufacturer's advice for care and service. Owner's manuals are online. Just check the product for a model name or number, and go to the company site. The manual should answer most questions. Many have helpful pictures, and there's usually a toll-free hotline on which an expert (if you're patient) can answer questions. Today's homes are filled with components that weren't so common years ago. They make your home more efficient and less work. You can't ignore them entirely, though. So, as you plan your chores and projects for the coming year, here are some to keep in mind.
 


Limestone/marble
These ancient materials are more popular than ever. Not all stones need sealing. Ask your stone pro. Buy the best sealers you can afford. Grit and acids are the biggest threats to marble and limestone. Clean surfaces with a few drops of neutral cleaner, stone soap (available at hardware stores) or a mild liquid dish detergent and warm water. Go easy on the cleaner or soap, because too much can leave a film. Rinse thoroughly and dry. Do not use abrasive cleaners, or ones with lemon, vinegar or other acids. For deep stains, try a poultice at www.marble-institute.com/consumers.

 

Treated crawl space/attic
Closed, or sealed, crawl spaces are touted as efficient - and healthy - alternatives to the traditional vented crawl spaces. They're certainly drier and cleaner and brighter, so you shouldn't mind sticking your head under your house from time to time. And you absolutely should, experts say. Don't ignore this chore. Check regularly to make sure no moisture is getting in. If there's a dehumidifier, make sure it's working. Look for condensation. And if you see standing water, you have a real problem.

 

Vinyl windows
Vinyl windows are tough, and extremely popular. They should get a yearly inspection.
Clean window tracks of debris. Make sure weather stripping is sound and making proper contact. Replace as needed. When cleaning, never use abrasives. That can damage the vinyl skin of the window. If you need to lubricate a track, use pure silicone spray, not WD-40. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for caulking. When washing windows, be cautioned that bleach can discolor dark vinyl colors. And, remember, window films can void your window warranty.

 

HardiePlank/fiber cement siding
It won't rot. It holds paint. And it's very durable. It's the siding of choice on many new homes. Often called HardiePlank, it's almost trouble-free. Still, inspect annually. If caulking fails, water can penetrate the joint and damage the wood and framing behind the siding. If you're going to check your home's exterior less often, use caulk rated for at least 20 years, and longer is better. Choose a quality silicone or polyurethane.

 

Fiberglass doors
Minor dents can be filled with auto body putty. Follow the instructions on the can and, just as if you were working on a car, don't stint on the sanding. Uneven spots will show. For larger areas, cut out damaged fiberglass with a grinder. Repair with mat and resin from fiberglass repair kit. Prime, then paint. with 100 percent acrylic.

 

Stainless steel
Stainless steel is hot for kitchens because it looks good, resists rust and cleans easily. The biggest complaint about stainless is that the fridge shows all those little handprints.
Clean with a specialty product such as 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish. Such products create a barrier against fingerprints. Avoid products with chlorine; mild abrasives can scratch. Read labels.

 

Multihead showers
There are six times as many connections that can leak, six times as many shower heads that can clog. Check regularly and clean with CLR or some other solution. You can use white vinegar to clear a shower head that has been clogged with mineral deposits. Place vinegar in a plastic bag, enclose the head and secure the bag to the shower neck with a rubber band or twist tie. Let stand for at least two hours.

 

Composite decking
Early on, composite decking was billed as a trouble-free - and chemical-free - alternative to treated lumber. You still have to clean it. The best way to prevent stains is to sweep or hose off regularly. To wash, use a commercial composite deck cleaner. Jomax is one popular brand.
For stubborn stains, allow solution to sit for a few minutes and scrub with a bristle brush.
Be careful with power washers. Some decking manufacturers recommend against them, and using one can void your warranty. Other makers suggest smaller washers with no more than 1300 PSI, with the fan tip no closer than 8 to 10 inches from the surface. The best known maker of composite decking, Trex, recommends that you wash your deck twice a year, in spring and fall, to prevent mold and mildew.

 

Allen Norwood, Charlotte Observer

 

5 Inexpensive Home Updates to Complete before Listing Your Home

by Lisa Johnson Sevajian

 

There is no perfect formula for selling your home efficiently, but by following these five tips prior to listing you can increase your chances to close quickly at a higher price.

1.) Update your old garage door(s). Garage doors seem like a non-issue, but many times they make up a significant percentage of the front of a home. Because of this, they are one of the first things that buyers notice when they pull in the drive way. Replacing, or even just painting, these central fixtures will do wonders when it comes to instantly impressing perspective buyers and standing apart from your competition. The market has changed drastically since many of us purchased our homes here in town. I frequently hear buyers say that they have taken a house off their list because of the lack of curb appeal. This issue is especially important to people on busier streets, corner lots, or near a neighborhood eyesore.

2.) Replace old windows. Outdated windows age a home significantly, and you can often upgrade standard windows to vinyl for a reasonable $300 per window. The average home has 8 windows, so this upgrade doesn’t cost nearly as much as you might think and it will make a huge difference to the value perceived by prospective buyers. Key point to remember is that when buyers view a home they love, if they see it has older windows, they consider it a time consuming and costly headache. First time buyers have never replaced windows and often dramatically overestimate the cost to cure this issue. By replacing pre-listing you an actually save money. A well priced, move-in condition home will sell for far more than one with windows in need of repair.

3.) Assess your floors . If you have hardwood flooring, it’s worth the investment to have them refinished considering buyers put an extremely high value on them; you’ll get the most bang for your buck if they are refurbished. Carpets should be shampooed and replaced if they are stained or look worn. You don’t need to spend large amounts of money on the highest grade or most modern name but something inexpensive and neutral will certainly bring you a return on the investment. Even the smell of new carpet will make buyers set your home apart from the comparables.

4.) Paint the trim. If you can’t afford the daunting task of painting your entire house, painting just the trim will still make a big difference when it comes to curb appeal. Painting the whole house can be expensive, time consuming, and delayed by weather conditions; painting just the trim will give your home a fresher look. Interior trim is equally as important.

5.) Update fixtures. Keep an eye out for sales at home improvement stores and replace outdated lighting, plumbing and hardware fixtures. Simple replacing lighting fixtures and knobs in the bathroom or kitchen can update the entire look of the room. You can find many modern brand name fixtures online on contractor supply websites by just searching for terms like sale faucets, sale plumbing fixtures etc.


By Lisa Johnson Sevajian

 

2011 Ulster County Real Estate Statistics

by Team Ulster





The final numbers are in for 2011 home sales in Ulster County.   Here are some highlights from the charts shown below:


• The number of homes sold in 2011 was 914, down from the high of 1,711 homes sold in 2005 – a 45% decline.

• Home sales in the $400,000 to $900,000 range declined by 61% from 2005 to 2011.

• In 2011, home sales were most active below $400,000, with sales under $100,000 being at their highest level in the last eight years.

• There was a 22% drop in the median price of homes from their high in 2007 of $250,750 to $199,000 in 2011.

• The number of days a house was on the market from listing to closing was 188 days in 2011, up from 126 days in 2004.

• It is a great time to buy a home, as interest rates are at their all-time low, and prices have dropped to there lowest level in 10 years.

 

The following charts were compiled based on information taken from the Ulster County Multiple Listing Service.

 

 

 

 


 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shop Carefully to Find Deals on Home Upgrades

by Al Heavens

The situation: You want to make some improvements to your house, but don’t want to spend money you don’t have. Nor do you want to waste the money you do have by buying something inappropriate for your needs.

A tall order, for sure, and a situation many homeowners find themselves in as the economy totters toward a recovery that always seems just shy of a sure thing.

The Internet has made finding the best price for a product easier than it was 10 years ago, says developer Carl Dranoff, who has written the checks for more than a few renovations at his buildings over the years.

“The Internet has driven down the prices of just about everything,” he says, “so there is little variation” from, for example, one manufacturer’s refrigerator to the next.

Need replacement windows? A modest federal tax credit—up to $1,500—is available until Dec. 31.

Energy-efficient windows will cut utility bills 7 percent to 15 percent, government data shows. But the cost of complete window replacement for the average home is $7,500 to $10,000, according to the folks at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

They advise this: When you’re interviewing contractors, ask them to break down the price quote by labor and materials, keeping in mind that although energy-efficient windows cost more, the labor costs for installation should be the same for all kinds of windows.

In general, experienced buyers recommend that you shop carefully and know exactly what you want before you hand over your credit card or write a check to a supplier.

“A dozen years ago, you might have to go to specialty stores to find the really groovy items,” said Center City real estate agent Mark Wade, who also buys and renovates condos for resale. “Today, it is as simple as hitting Lowe’s, Target, or Home Depot.”

Stores don’t stock everything they offer, though. “Go online and see their entire product line,” he suggests.

Durability is what developer Liz Solms looks for when she shops for products.

Solms is using sustainable or “green” materials to renovate apartments at Touraine in Philadelphia, one of the buildings she co-owns around the country. She said she measured the value of these products by how long they would last.

“Time is money, right?” she says.

Jay Cipriani, president of Cipriani Builders, a Woodbury, N.J., remodeling contractor, thinks so.

“Features to consider other than price might include durability, as well as whether the product will result in a healthier or safer environment” in your home, he says.

Another question to consider, Cipriani says: “Does it add value to the home?” He suggested looking for lesser-known names to get a good product and warranty. Look into how to buy directly from the manufacturer “rather than through big-box store or distributor,” he says.

Sometimes, immediate need compels us to buy something without considering all the factors.

It’s hot, and you need a window air conditioner. You find a website that lets you calculate the size you need—say, a 7,500-Btu unit. Several retailers are selling them for about $300, so finding the lowest price isn’t the overwhelming issue. What else do you need to think about before you buy?

“Sales tax is one,” Dranoff says. “Can you pick it up yourself, or do you need to have it delivered? Can you install it yourself, or do you need someone to do it for you?”

Not to mention these pertinent details: Can it make it through the doorway? Is the window too small or too big? How can you adjust the window opening so it will fit?

How close is the outlet? Is the outlet grounded? Will you need an electrician to install the proper outlet? How will the unit drain?

What about the warranty? Who will repair it if the unit breaks down? How easy is it to obtain parts?

If you plan to install something yourself, Cipriani says, “think about the hidden risks of self-installation, such as technical obstacles—plumbing or electrical, for example—or whether or not you need a permit before installation.”

Dranoff favors American-made products because of the availability of parts and people who know how to repair them if they break. He prefers established products to new ones.

“New is not necessarily better,” he says. “Consumer Reports suggests waiting a year on any product before you buy so that it will go through a cycle of consumer testing.”

Of course, the goal is to do it right the first time, and that requires planning and common sense. Measuring helps, too.

How many times have you heard of people buying mattresses that won’t fit up their stairs? Or granite countertops too heavy for their cabinets? Or refrigerators with ice-makers for spaces where there are no water lines? Or gas dryers where there is no gas connection?

“It is as easy,” Dranoff says, “as asking if that washer you want to buy can make it down the basement stairs.”

Ulster County Real Estate Statistics, First Half 2011

by Ben Shor

The following statistics were taken from the Ulster County Multiple Listing Service (MLS). These statistics include all single family homes sold in Ulster County that were listed on the Ulster County MLS. We will be comparing statistics for the first half of 2011 with the first half of 2010.

 

You will see that there were major changes in the Ulster County real estate market when you compare the first half of 2010 with the first half of 2011. After two years of stable prices, there has been a noticeable drop in the median price of single family homes during the first six months of 2011. In addition, the number of homes sold has decreased significantly, single family homes are on the market longer, and they are selling for a lower sale price to list price ratio.

The median sold price for single family homes decreased by about 9% when comparing the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011, from $214,000 to $195,000.

The number of single family homes sold in the first half of 2011 decreased by about 28% when comparing the first half of 2010, from 509 to 369. You may remember that during the first half of 2010, there was an 8% tax credit for first-time home buyers, which expired at the end of May 2010. During the first half of this year, there was no tax credit, which reduced the urgency to buy.

The sale price to list price ratio decreased by about 2% when comparing the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011, from 93.89 to 92.07%. That means that in 2011 the average single family home sold for about 8% less than the final listing price for that home.

The number of days a sold house was on the market from the time it was listed until the closing date, increased by 14 days (about 8%) when comparing the first half of the first half of 2010 to 2011, from 180 to 194.

The number of single family homes listed in the first half of 2011 decreased by about 5% when comparing the first half of 2010, from 1,656 to 1,579.

The average sold price for single family homes increased by about 12% when comparing the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011, from $234,563 to $261,861. The main reason for the increase in average price is the greater number of homes sold for over $500,000. In the first half of 2010, ten homes sold for $500,000, and in the first half of 2011, 23 homes sold for over $500,000.

The Steps in Cleaning and Staining a Deck

by Al Heavens, RISMedia


It’s deck sprucing-up time, and I thought I would share some tips on staining from Debbie Zimmer at the Paint Quality Institute. Assuming that your deck doesn’t need repairs, the first step is to remove any loose paint or stain that may be present. This is done in one of two ways: by scraping and sanding, or by treating the surface with a commercial deck conditioner, followed by careful power washing with plain water.

The prep work can be even easier if the deck has no loose paint or stain. Clean the surface with a commercial product, or, to save money, make your own by mixing a cup of household bleach and a splash of soap with a gallon of warm water. After scrubbing the surface clean, rinse it very thoroughly using a garden hose.

If, after cleaning, you still have areas with stubborn mildew, apply a solution of three parts water to one part bleach, allow the solution to sit on the affected surface for 20 minutes, then scrub off the mildew and rinse the surface clean, Zimmer says.

Once the surface preparation is complete, pick your stain. There are solvent-based and water-based formulations, but water-based stains offer significant advantages: They have better resistance to weathering, dry more quickly, are relatively odor-free, and clean up with plain soap and water.

Another consideration: whether to use a clear deck finish or a pigmented stain. This decision may be dictated by the condition and color of the wood on your deck, but durability is another important concern.

Clear-wood finishes provide only limited protection from the sun’s UV rays, so they need to be reapplied every 12 months or so; pigmented stains afford more UV protection, so they last longer.

There are two types of pigmented stains. “Semitransparent” coatings help protect the wood without hiding its grain or texture, while “solid-color” stains show texture but not the grain.

The former need to be reapplied every 12 to 18 months, but solid-color stains can last three to five years, so if you want to stretch out your application cycle, go with a solid-color finish.

Consider the stress a deck endures, such as standing water, snow and ice, foot traffic, abrasion from patio furniture, and direct sunlight.

Zimmer says that top-quality 100 percent acrylic latex stains—either semitransparent or solid-color—are perhaps the best option when restoring a deck.

“They’re tough and durable, and many of these stains contain extra ingredients to help prevent mildew,” she says.

Stains can be applied with spray equipment, a long-handled roller, or by brush.

“However, spray or roller application should be followed by back brushing,” she says. (That means going back in and brushing the stain while it’s still wet so that it better penetrates the wood.)

Homeowners Recoup More with Exterior Replacement Projects

by National Association of Realtors


As part of the 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, REALTORS® recently rated exterior replacement projects among the most cost-effective home improvement projects, demonstrating that curb appeal remains one of the most important aspects of a home at resale time.

  

“This year’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report highlights the importance of exterior projects, which not only provide the most value, but are also among the least expensive improvements for a home,” said National Association of REALTORS® President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “Since resale value can vary by region, it’s smart for homeowners to work with a REALTOR® through the remodeling and improvement process; they can provide insight into projects in their neighborhoods that will recoup the most when the owners are ready to sell.” 

Nine of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects. The steel entry door replacement remained the project that returned the most money, with an estimated 102.1% of cost recouped upon resale; it is also the only project in this year’s report that is expected to return more than the cost. The midrange garage door replacement, a new addition to the report this year, is expected to recoup 83.9% of costs. Both projects are small investments that cost little more than $1,200 each, on average. REALTORS® identified these two replacements as projects that can significantly improve a home’s curb appeal.

“Curb appeal remains king—it’s the first thing potential buyers notice when looking for a home, and it also demonstrates pride of ownership,” said Phipps.

The 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 80 markets across the country. Data are grouped in nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 13th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood, LLC, was completed in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine.

REALTORS® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets. Overall, REALTORS® estimated that homeowners would recoup an average of 60% of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, down from an average of 63.8% last year. Remodeling projects, particularly higher cost upscale projects, have been losing resale value in recent years because of weak economic conditions.

According to the report, replacement projects usually outperform remodel and addition projects in resale value because they are among the least expensive and contribute to curb appeal. Various types of siding and window replacement projects were expected to return more than 70% of costs.

Upscale fiber-cement siding replacement was judged by REALTORS® as the most cost effective among siding projects, recouping 80% of costs. Among the window replacement projects covered, upscale vinyl window replacements were expected to recoup the most, 72.6% upon resale. Another exterior project, a wood deck addition, tied with a minor kitchen remodel for the fourth most profitable project recouping an estimated 72.8% of costs.

The top interior projects for resale value included an attic bedroom and a basement remodel. Both add living space without extending the footprint of the house. An attic bedroom addition costs more than $51,000 and recoups an estimated 72.2% nationally upon resale; a basement remodel costs more than $64,000 and recoups an estimated 70%. Improvement projects that are expected to return the least are a midrange home office remodel, recouping an estimated 45.8%; a backup power generator, recouping 48.5%; and a sunroom addition, recouping 48.6% of costs.

“It’s important to remember that the resale value of a particular improvement project depends on several factors,” said Phipps. “Things such as the home’s overall condition, availability and condition of surrounding properties, location and the regional economic climate contribute to an estimated resale value. That’s why it is imperative to work with a REALTOR® who can provide insight and guidance into local market conditions whether you’re buying, selling or improving a home.”

Selling a home with a Well or Septic

by Above Grade Home Inspections

 

Listing and selling homes in a challenging market is hard enough, don't leave key inspection items open to interpretation. There are many "unknown" factors when dealing with wells and septic systems. The following items should eliminate many questions and pitfalls that occur during a home inspection.

 

#1 Certify the distance between the well and septic components - By far the most important item on this list! I can't count the number of times I have arrived on an inspection to find out the distance between the well and septic leaching field is less than 100 feet apart. This is an immediate disqualifier for several mortgage types. Above Grade Home Inspections uses high frequency technology and video equipment to locate and mark out all the system components. We can provide the homeowner and the prospective buyer with a distance certification and map. We also flag all the system components for easy location.

#2 Shock, aka, chlorinate the well - It is very important to periodically shock the well, especially after the recent winter and heavy rains. Large volumes of surface and ground water are entering our wells. In some cases carrying harmful bacteria that can be easily treated. One failed potability test typically results in 15 extra phone calls. Many times the prospective buyer wants a full water treatment system installed for a simple failed water test! In most cases, a simple well shocking and proper testing procedures results in a positive outcome with unnecessary aggravation.

#3 Pump the septic tank - Is there an inspection that goes by when the buyer doesn't ask the age old question..."when was the last septic pumping?" You guessed it NO. Why not have the answer before they ask? If the system hasn't been pumped and cleaned in over 3 years, chances are the buyer is going to ask the seller for it to be done. A recently pumped system will make the prospective buyer feel more confident.

#4 Locate and flag the well location - Ever try to find a 6" well cap in 2 feet of snow? Under leaves? Hidden in landscape? In can tell you first hand it’s not an easy task. In a perfect world the well head is sticking out of the ground and easily visible. In some cases older well heads and pressure tanks are located in well pits underneath the ground. These areas need to be uncovered and accessible for inspection. Don't wait for inspection day to inform the buyer you don't know where the well is located. Locate the well, mark it with a stake and flag, and leave a map on the table. Any information about the pump and well equipment should also be supplied.

#5 Perform a water test - Supplying a prospective buyer with a passing water test is a smart decision. After proper shocking procedures have been completed a water test should be performed. The average cost is $25 at a local water lab. This will allow the seller to deal with any water contamination issues ahead of time. It is always easier to deal with issues upfront then to involve attorneys, buyer’s agents, family members, etc.

#6 Conduct a full septic evaluation - In most cases homeowners don't evaluate septic systems until there is an issue. Big Mistake! If any type of septic issue arises on an inspection it’s almost always a kiss of death. Over the years the costs of septic repairs has been over- inflated by the internet and TV advertising. A simple fix can turn into a $10,000 credit by the prospective buyer. A recent septic evaluation and a clean bill of health will speak volumes.

#7 Maintain water treatment equipment- Got a water softener? Fill it with salt. Have a whole house filter on the water main? Change it. Does the home have a chlorine system to deal with sulfur? Fill in with chemicals. You get the picture! I fail to understand why the new buyer has to smell the foul smell of sulfur water throughout the house when there is a system. Or hard water deposits on the plumbing supply equipment when there is a softener. Simple maintenance is easy and inexpensive. Simply changing filters and wiping down the systems will give the treatment equipment the look of a properly maintained system.

#8 Locate and flag septic system components - Buyers want to know where the septic system components are located. This is an issue that doesn't go away. More specifically the location of the tank, the distribution boxes, and the leaching fields. Many deals have fallen through because the buyer thought they could add a pool or a garage only to find out the septic fields were located in the same exact area. A simple map won’t do. Mark out and flag the components for easy identification by the buyer, inspector, and appraiser.

#9 Create an information folder - Collect as much information about your systems as possible and create a folder for the inspection day. Items to include: Brochures on installed equipment, chemical and treatment specifications, recent upgrades or maintenance logs etc. Buyers will be very leery if the seller can’t provide maintenance information. Providing information will make the inspector’s job much easier and give the buyer a greater sense of confidence.

Painting the Rooms in Your Home

by Stephanie Andre, RISMEDIA


Looking to spruce up your home, but don’t know where to start? From molding to choice of color, there’s a lot to consider before dipping your brush in the paint. Does a room really look smaller with a darker color on the walls? Should your ceilings be white? Do you want to add an accent wall?

 

Getting Started

• Size up your room. How you use color depends on where you use color. Each room has its own unique elements and function. First think about the structure of the room. Consider its shape and size. A lighter color can make a small room feel more spacious, while a darker color can help an immense room seem cozier.

• Take into account any architectural details, such as molding, trim, columns, and brackets. What's attractive and what's not? Varied intensities and hues can complement architecture, furnishings, and art. Remember, paint can accentuate a room's features or hide them.

• Your choice of color also depends largely on function. Will the main purpose of the room be eating, sleeping, working, entertaining, or something else entirely? A warm hue in the living room gives a more comfortable and inviting atmosphere for guests than a cooler color.

Selecting Interior Paint

• Before choosing your paint, think about where your room fits into the scheme of things. Where is it situated in relation to other rooms? Is it a high- or low-traffic area? Flat paint, for instance, is best suited for ceilings, walls, surface imperfections, and anywhere else that a muted low-reflecting surface is desired. Because it takes more effort to remove stains from this type of paint, a flat finish is best suited for the low-traffic areas of your home.

• Use low-luster, satin, and eggshell paint on areas where a sheen is desired. These paints are easier to clean than flat paint and hold up better under repeated washings. They withstand the wear and tear of high-traffic areas-hallways, woodwork, kitchens, baths, children's rooms, and playrooms-more easily than other finishes.

• Semigloss and high-gloss paint and enamel are best suited for banisters, railings, shelves, kitchen cabinets, furniture, doorjambs, windowsills, and any other surface you wish to accentuate. But be careful-the higher the gloss, the more it emphasizes any surface imperfections.

Choosing a Palette

• Having trouble deciding on your paint palette? Choose a design direction. If you've already chosen an interior décor or if you're working with a room that's already furnished, focus on a favorite fabric color, piece of art or furniture, or other object. If you still can't settle on a color you like, we offer free computerized paint matching and custom color mixing.

• Have color confidence-don't be afraid to paint bold and bright. If your room is unfurnished, a vibrant color can fill it until you can.

• Consider yourself above all. Paint color should reflect your mood and personality. What are your favorite colors? If you're having trouble selecting a color, try looking in your closet. The colors you enjoy wearing are the ones that make you feel good. You are the one who has to live with the color so live with the shades you love.

Making Your Purchase

• Water versus oil. When selecting an interior finish, try choosing a water-based enamel instead of an oil-based gloss paint. Water-based gloss enamels have less odor than conventional oil-based paints. They are much easier to clean up after, and they wear better over time.

• Don't purchase low-quality paint. High-quality paint performs better for a longer period of time. It's less prone to yellow as it ages, goes on smoother, and won't leave brush marks. It is also easier to wash and dirt resistant.

• Purchase test quarts to review your color and finish selections at home. Paint a piece of scrap material such as cardboard, or even a portion of your wall, to study the effects of various light conditions.

10 Tips for Hiring a Home Remodeling Contractor

by RISMEDIA

With the U.S. economy facing the lowest home sale statistics in 15 years and home values continuing to slide in many regions, it's not surprising to hear that housing trends point towards a large percentage of American homeowners looking to improve and maximize their existing property investment versus buying a new home. When deciding to undertake a remodeling project however, there are several invaluable tips to keep in mind as you discuss your home make-over with potential contractors.

Through advice and stories shared by both contractors and consumers, StageofLife.com, a blogging resource for homeowners, discovered 10 important tips on how to find a trustworthy home remodeling contractor to help ensure the right person or company is hired for your next home improvement project.

Tip #1: Does Your Contractor Have Proof of Insurance?

Ask the contractor to have his insurance company mail or fax a copy of his current contractor insurance card to you. If the contractor can't do this - stay away. Why? If there is an accident at your home, you are then liable. This also applies to any sub-contractor or employee that the contractor may use - those individuals should have active insurance cards faxed or mailed to you as well.

Tip #2: Did You Check References and See Photos?

Ask for at least three references - with two of them being for the same type of project you are planning - and then call the references. Additionally, ask the contractor to provide photos of previous work, especially for the same type of project. If he produces lawn and garden photos and you're planning a bathroom remodel, you may want to check out another contractor.

Tip #3: Does Your Contractor Take Debit or Credit Cards?

Besides your ability to earn a few points, bonus miles, or cash back on your project, a good sign that a contractor is financially savvy and has a bank behind his business is his ability to take debit and credit cards. This doesn't just apply to big contracting companies. Many small, one-man shops will take cards if they have a good relationship with their business bank or credit union.

Tip #4: Manners and Appearance?

If the contractor drove his vehicle to your home to give you an estimate, take a look at the way he keeps the equipment and vehicle. Are things clean? Neatly arranged? If not - that's a big warning. The way a contractor treats his tools is a direct connection to how he'll treat your home. During the initial meeting, does the contractor present himself in a professional way? Do you feel comfortable around him or his employees? They will be working in your home after all.

Tip #5: Clean Up Policy?

Ask about the clean-up policy. For example, if your home improvement is a multi-day project, will the contractor be cleaning up at the end of every day or will he leave the dust, wood chips, and other mess laying there for day #2? The more mess in your home - the more it gets tracked around. Many homeowners find themselves with mouths gaping wide after the contractor has left for the day and their floors and home are dirty and messy around the project area.

Tip #6: Will the Contractor Put It In Writing?

Is your contractor willing to put both his bid and the scope of work in writing? If not - walk away immediately. You'll be surprised how many homeowners have been duped by contractors who verbally tell you what's included in their scope of work, but will then, in the middle of everything, require extra money to finish the remodel, thus holding you hostage with an uncompleted home project.

Tip #7: Availability?

Can the contractor get the job done in your timeline rather than his timeline? There's nothing more frustrating than if a contractor tells you that a job will be done by a certain date and then it isn't . On the flip side, if you can't find a good contractor that's willing to commit to your timeline, your expectations may be too high and you may need to adjust your timeline.

Tip #8: Does Your Contractor Use "Subs?"

Does your contractor plan on doing everything himself? Or will he "sub out" work to the "trades?" For example, if you are remodeling a bathroom, you may need a plumber, electrician, and carpenter. It's okay if the contractor subs work out to these specific trades - it shows he wants the work done right.

Also, it's fair to say that you can expect your contractor to make money off the trades, or other sub-contractors, by marking up those quotes for the project. That is a standard practice to help the general contractor recover costs in the time it takes to manage the schedule. If you don't want to spend the extra money on your contractor marking up the trade quotes, then you should prepare to project manage the remodel yourself, but know this may limit your options on contractors willing to work with you.

Tip #9: Quoting & Billing Procedure?

Ask the contractor about his quoting procedure. Will it contain general information, or will it be specific? For example - most contractors will charge you for a fuel surcharge, material up-charges, waste removal, labor, etc. Some will show you these exact costs in a line item invoice, but others roll it up into one big bill. How much detail do you want? You should clarify that with your contractor upfront.

Also - what is the payment or billing policy? Is money required upfront? If so, go back to #1 and #2 above to make sure you have the contractor's references checked and have a copy of his contractor's insurance.

Tip #10: Did Your Contractor Get the Permits?

Ask your contractor to take care of the permits. Although permits cost you money, the inspection process is meant to protect you from poor workmanship and to make sure that everything is being built to code.

By following these 10 tips for hiring a home contractor, you'll feel more confident that you've found the right contractor for your remodeling job.

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Contact Information

Photo of Laurel Sweeney Real Estate
Laurel Sweeney
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nutshell Realty
1209 State Route 213, PO Box 452
High Falls NY 12440
Office: 845-687-2200
Toll Free 877-468-5783
Fax: 845-687-4162

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