DIY or Hire A Contractor for Home Improvements?

So, you want to be “that guy”.

The one who decides to build a detached garage by himself. The guy that doesn’t have the right tools, so he MAKES the tools out of scrap iron and a wires stripped out of a broken lawnmower.

You want to be McGuyver.

How hard could it be?

Don’t we all? Not just to show your spouse how manly you are. Not just because you want to save money. But because the idea of paying someone to do something that looks so simple just bothers the hell out of you.

Before jumping headlong into this “easy” project, make sure you are hungry, because a big ol’ bite of humble pie may be in your future.

We all have skills. No doubt many of you are capable and skilled enough to do home improvement projects. I simply caution you that approaching a task that looks simple, but is beyond your technical ability, could cause more headaches than its worth. To figure out if you should tackle a project yourself or pay a professional, ask yourself these questions:

1. Can I afford to pay someone to do it?
If the answer is yes. Then hiring someone is certainly an option. If the answer is no, you need to ask yourself some more questions…

2. Do I have the tools for the job?
If not, does the cost of the tools, outweigh the cost of the contractor?

3. Do I have the skill and experience to do the job?

If you have done a similar project in the past, you should feel comfortable doing it again. But if you need an extra set of hands, ask a friend to help. Share your skill. If you are not sure if you have the skill, that should be your first red flag.

4. Do I have the time?
Life gets in the way. If you need that deck put up in a hurry in time for a party or family function, you may want to consider hiring someone to get it done for you. Work, kids, family all make jobs take twice as long as you think.

5. Can you afford to do it wrong? What starts out as a project with the best of intentions – saving money, making the wife happy etc… could end up cost you a lot. If you tackle a project beyond your abilities, you might end up having to hire a contractor to fix your mistakes thus costing you more money, pissing off your wife and more importantly, creating an event that lets your spouse use the phrase “remember that time you tried….”.

In the end you need to like the result. If you do it wrong, your mistake will be staring you in the face for a long time and you will not be happy. If you hire a qualified professional to do it, you may not be able to beat your chest and claim it as your work, but you can enjoy the home improvement and still take credit for making it happen.

So, before you jump headlong into any home improvement project, do an honest assessment of all the questions above. Generally, the larger the project, the more likely it is you should hire a professional. The same goes for project complexity. If a project involves electrical, plumbing and other components, get a general contractor (such as myself) involved to manage the subs for you. If all you are doing is replacing a toilet, building shed or something that does not have the potential to adversely affect your quality of life, then have at it McGuyver and be “that guy”.

Good luck!

– Jim

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Should I Renovate or Build a New House?

This is a common dilemma that I run into with many of my customers. They agonized over spreadsheets trying to find out what is a more feasible option both in terms of lifestyle and budget. And to their credit, it’s not an easy decision to make.  But lets look at the different scenarios and try to help you make a more informed decision.

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Create An Outdoor Living Space

When it comes time to make home improvements that will help with future resale value, we often think of redoing the kitchen, new floors, new windows and even finishing the basement. But one of the most often overlooked improvements is one that can also get you more money for you house and at the same time expand your living space. Putting in a patio is a win-win improvement.

Stamped concrete patio with wood awning for protection from the elements.

The patio is an outdoor living space that will help enhance your yard, make entertaining more enjoyable and will allow you to spend more time outside even in poor weather. If the patio is designed in proportion to the house and is tastefully done, it can really help boost your home’s value. Spending a lot of money on a patio that is disproportionate in size to your house may look strange and may detract from its value. So design carefully. Continue reading

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Ranch vs. multi-story home. Which one should I build?

This question is one that many of my customers ask me when beginning a new home building project. My answer is typically…. “yes”.

A vague answer? You bet. But much like ordering dinner at a restaurant, the answer to what type of home you should build often comes down to what you like, the size of your appetite and frankly the depth of your pockets.

Personally and as a builder, I prefer the ranch home, but let me give you some pros and cons of each to help you decide which is best for you.

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Financing Your Custom Home Part 4: The Builder Contract

Make him your new best friend. A Builder's contract will make sure both of you are in agreement on all the details.

Continuing on in our series on financing your new home, I would like to share with you an additional step you can be working on while you await the result of your loan application. If you haven’t already, be sure to read blog posts 1-3 of the series on how to begin the construction loan process

Now that you have applied for your loan, you need to identify your builder and begin contract negotiations. Having a contract in place is a requirement of most construction loans. It is also an important way to protect yourselves and your future investment. What follows is an excerpt from an article on construction loans that I often refer to clients of Kelly Custom Homes.

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Financing Your Custom Home Part 3: Applying for Your Construction Loan

So you’ve identified the best type of construction financing for your new home. Great! If not, be sure to read Part 2 before you continue.

One of the things you may find when you start calling around to local banks and institutions about a construction loan is that many institutions do not offer them. Do not be discouraged! Keep calling; make sure to ask for the construction loan officer or whoever handles those types of loans.

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Financing Your Custom Home Part 2: Finding the Right Construction Loan

In this second part of the series, we move on to the Construction Loan.

A construction loan can help make your dream home a reality.

Unlike the typical home purchase of an existing house, there are not as many financing options available to the new home builder. In fact there are only three real options for those looking to build a new home.

  1. Cash.
    Finance the home building process yourself. You can either using savings, home equity lines of credit, a generous uncle or a ponzi scheme (just kidding!). However, according to the US Census, only 1 in 5 new home builders go this route. For the rest of us with a last name not ending in “Gates”, there is the construction loan option.
  2. Continue reading

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