As much as we love our home renovations, there’s no denying that the process can nevertheless be a stressful one. Some of that is due to the myriad of details, ranging from large choices like siding color and style to the smallest, like door stops or light covers.
And a good chunk of the stress can come from working with contractors. From personality styles to deadline stress, the homeowner-contractor relationship can be a tricky one.
To keep a project running smoothly and to reduce stress, consider these tips for working with a contractor:
- Communicate clearly and in detail. From the first walk-through to the final check, make sure you are clear in your expectations and goals. Put it all in writing, from the paint finish and number of coats to the projects a contractor needs to complete before getting that next check.
- Speaking of milestones — never get ahead on the money. In other words, pay the contractor enough to cover materials and some of the early work, and then draw up milestones that serve as a carrot. This is fair to both sides: the contractor isn’t working for free, and you aren’t in a position to lose money should a worst-case scenario happen, and the contractor stops showing up.
- Get referrals and visit construction sites. Any reputable contractor will gladly hand over referrals and welcome you to their job site. This gives you a look at finished projects as well as their style with in-progress work.
- Get multiple estimates. This may not be necessary with a small project — you probably don’t need three estimates for someone to install a toilet — but you should always get estimates from multiple contractors for mid-sized to large projects. Not only do you get a better idea of the price, but you could be surprised at how differently contractors may visualize the same job.
Buying a new house is easy: Dive into some websites. Pick a house you like. Press “Add to Cart” and 10 minutes later you’re picking new furniture.
…Nah. Doesn’t work that way.
Like all pivotal decisions in life, the fun part is rarely the most important.
The best way to buy a home is to start answering the dull questions first.
Start by building a basic financial profile about yourself: First, pull your credit report and get your credit score. You can do this at freecreditreport.com or at other sites, such as creditkarma.com. If your score is under 620, you’ve got some work to do on your credit. Start by making absolutely sure every account is paid on time, every time, not one day late. During your credit building period, make sure you don’t apply for loans on cars or anything else. Do everything you can to pay off any loans or credit cards you may have.
With a credit score of at least 620 in hand, start gathering documents that show how much money you make and what your expenses are. You’ll need pay stubs and a list of your bills.
You will also need cash.
A good rule to remember: The more cash you have, the better the terms of any deal you make. You’ll have more flexibility and loans will cost you less, especially if you also have a high credit score.
But how much is enough? Down payments vary depending on the type of loan. With an FHA loan, for example, you might need no more than 3.5 percent of the selling price. But you’ll also need some cash available for closing costs — maybe up to 2.5 percent or more.
One of the best places to start the process is with a lender. Gather your financial information and chat with your bank or credit union to find out how much house you could possibly afford. They will tell you how much cash you will need. Once you have the cash, get a pre-approval from your lender. Then the fun part begins. Visit some websites and find your best home.
Good idea: Start small with a home, buying one that is easy to afford with a short mortgage. Then, add some elbow grease to fix it up to increase its value, while paying off the mortgage. Soon, you’ll have value in the house and you can sell with more money to put down on your next house. This is the way wealth is built over time.
Interest rates, production costs, and regulations have made new cars cost more.
According to Experian, the average consumer pays $495 for a new car loan. That is more than the $447 they paid in 2008. The average interest rate in the third quarter of 2016 was 4.69 percent, compared to the higher rate of 6.14 percent in 2008.
Consumers were financing more car in 2016 than in 2008 — up to an average of $30,022 compared to $24,600 for 2008.
The cost of cars is also higher. In fact, according to Autotrader, about 3 million new cars should have been sold last year, just looking at population growth.
Part of the problem, says Heritage.org, is that new regulations press car prices up, just as new technology actually pushes prices down.
The price of a new vehicle is more than $7,000 higher than 2008, Heritage says. It points to new, costly fuel economy standards that are driving prices up.
Prices are also under pressure at the dealer level. According to Automotive News, franchised new-car dealers in the U.S. spent a combined $3.2 billion in 2012 to meet 61 new federal regulations. Those costs are passed along to consumers.