The Home Guru: Fire Up the Grill (and Outdoor Improvements), Summer is Here!

Guild EDGE, Author

Its summertime and that means outdoor entertaining.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to put in an outdoor barbecue station, a fire pit, deck or patio cover. Or perhaps you’ve longed for an in-ground pool or spa.

These outdoor improvements can add value to your home and also increase your enjoyment of your property.

For many people, though, the thought of embarking on a major home improvement project – indoor or outdoor – is an intimidating prospect. But it doesn’t have to be.

The first question you must ask yourself when contemplating such a project is whether to do the work yourself, which can save a considerable amount of money, or hire a contractor. Of course, the answer depends on whether you have the expertise, patience and time for the project you have in mind, and whether you have the needed tools and equipment.

Even if you have the know-how, you have to take into consideration the cost of buying tools, which could make the project more expensive than simply bringing in an expert. You also have to calculate how much time it will take to complete the project yourself (this summer or next!).

Next, determine your budget for building your outdoor project. With that number in mind, you can begin pricing materials and/ or calling contractors in your area to seek bids. Check with friends and relatives to see if they can recommend someone who does the type of work you need. You can also check with trade groups, such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Other sources include newspaper classified ads or online contractor listings.

It’s always a good idea to get at least three bids from reputable contractors, and check out potential contractors through the Better Business Bureau, your state’s contractor licensing website and references provided by your bidders. If you carry out due diligence upfront, you can avoid headaches later in the process.

If you have decided on the “do it yourself” approach, look for books in the library, or online videos that explain the ins and outs of your project.

Experts recommend setting aside a portion of your budget, say 10 percent, as a contingency reserve in case of unexpected complications, or changes that you might make once you have started your project.

When working with a contractor, it also helps to sketch out at least a rough outline of how you envision your project to look, and where you want it to go. That won’t take the place of professional construction drawings, but it gives you a starting point and helps your contractor meet your needs.

Another thing to think about is how to pay for your dream outdoor project. If you start planning long enough in advance, you can set a target budget and begin saving a little each week or month until you have accumulated enough money to pay for your outdoor improvement.

Other options include home equity loans, or a refinance of your home loan in which you pull out cash for home improvements. Those options often make sense, because interest on such loans may be tax deductible. The experts recommend that you consult with your tax advisor before proceeding. Then, if you are interested in refinancing, our experienced loan officers at Guild Mortgage will be happy to help review the many different options available.

For additional background, check out these additional resources. And good luck!

http://architecture.about.com/cs/repairremodel/bb/remodel.htm

http://architecture.about.com/b/2012/03/28/spring-building-projects.htm

http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/

http://www.remodeling101.com/index.html