Hiring a General Contractor
When you hire a general contractor to remodel your home, it’s helpful to know what to expect, so start with the design you want. Are you doing a complete remodel? Updating a kitchen or bathroom? Adding square footage or moving walls and plumbing will require professionals to ensure the project turns out the way you want.
If you hire an interior design firm, or kitchen design firm, the company will have excellent resources, including general contractors. The designer wants a seamless, trouble-free project as much as you do, so s/he knows which contractors to hire, what they’re especially good at, and who to avoid.
The general contractor is in charge of scheduling, hiring, material estimation and acquisition, tear out, installation, waste disposal, permits, and insurance. All of the sub-contractors and their workers will report to him or her.
Ask for references. Most clients are happy to tell others if they had a good experience, and they understand your need to check referrals. Certifications can indicate standards of professionalism and values. NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) offers the Certified Remodeler, Certified Remodeler Specialist, and Certified Lead Carpenter designations.
Hiring a general contractor can protect you by knowing the latest building codes and getting the proper building permits so your job is insurable by your homeowner’s insurance. The firm will also provide worker’s compensation to cover workers who might get injured on your property.
Make certain the scope of the work is detailed in the estimate, so you know what, when and where work will be done.
The Brick Industry Association touts brick for its strength, energy efficiency and low maintenance, but sometimes brick can appear dated or downright ugly. Painting your brick exterior can go a long way toward updating your home.
Whether you choose to do the work yourself or hire a professional, the same steps, particularly careful preparation, should be followed.
Clean the bricks: Use a wire brush, soap and water to clean the bricks, or use a power washer. For hard to remove stains, you can mix water with phosphate-free trisodium phosphate (TSP). Use approximately one-half cup to a gallon of water. For mold, mix one-part bleach to three parts water and scrub with a wire brush.
Repair cracks and missing mortar: If you’re painting the brick for the first time, buy a premixed mortar patch, then caulk and seal any cracks in the brick as trapped moisture can cause paint to peel.
Use masonry primer before painting: Like TSP, latex masonry primer is made for hard surfaces like brick. Allow the primer to dry before you begin to paint. Apply two coats of paint for coverage, and wait for the first coat to dry before applying the second.
Merry Christmas, homebuyer! Don’t cash Mom and Dad’s check yet! Your loan could be denied if the money isn’t carefully documented.
Why? Gifts can cause confusion. Is your parents’ money a gift or a loan? Unless the terms are clearly defined, don’t mix the gift with your own funds. It alters your bank statements and raises your income both of which could muddy your financial picture.
Lenders require a paper trail for all monies, so no phone deposits. They also limit the size of gifts in relationship to the total down payment. Some loan programs require the borrower to contribute at least 3% to 5% of the down payment if the down payment is less than 20%, while other programs allow the entire down payment to be supplied by a gift.
To avoid questions, provide a certified down payment gifts letter or sign an affidavit that explain:
- The amount of the gift, accompanied by a corresponding cashier’s check, including a photocopy of the check
- The name and address of the gift-giver and relationship the gift-giver has to the homebuyer
- The purpose of the gift – to be used only as a down payment on the subject property, complete with the property’s address
- A statement confirming that the gift is not a loan, and does not need to be repaid
- Signatures of the borrower and the gift-giver
If you’re planning to use a gift as part or all of your down payment, ask your realtor how to meet all the appropriate requirements regarding down payment gifts.
There’s nothing like a new year to pump enthusiasm into your life, so what do the experts say about the housing forecast?
Unemployment remains low: Despite tens of thousands of people losing their homes as well as businesses and hospitality services crippled due to the storms, the unemployment rate remains at a low 4.2 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Buyers have the income to shop for homes.
New home construction lags
demand: Due to costly governmental oversights, lack of skilled construction workers, and increased enforcement of undocumented workers, homebuilders are unable to meet demand for new homes, according to the U.S. Census. There’s currently five month’s worth of supplies at today’s rate of sales.
Millennials favor homeownership: Pew Research found that millennials are the largest living generation and are disproportionately renters compared with previous generations. As the generation matures (the oldest are at 34 years of age), seventy-two percent wish to become homeowners.
Demand is outpacing supply: According to Freddie Mac research, the hurricane season that hit the southern and eastern coastal areas, is exacerbating a market already short on homes, particularly in the affordable price ranges. Home prices are predicted to rise 4.9 percent.
Mortgage rates drop under four percent: Nationally, the average interest rates on conventional purchase-money mortgages decreased in the fall to less than four percent, reported the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Market conditions suggest near-term winter and spring homebuying will remain brisk. You might be encouraged to buy before the summer rush!