Home Improvement 101

Home improvement is the repair, maintenance, restoration, and/or upgrade of a residential real property. It includes, but is not limited to: fixing electrical problems, replacing the roof, painting, resurfacing the driveway, remodeling the kitchen or bathroom, and adding new fixtures. It may also include landscaping and building a pool.

Homeowners have a variety of motives for undertaking home improvements, from increasing comfort to improving curb appeal and boosting resale value. However, it’s important to weigh the benefits of each project against the potential return on investment when deciding what improvements to make. Some improvements, such as a sparkling bathroom overhaul or basement remodel, can get you the best bang for your buck, according to data from the Contractor Growth Network. Others, such as a garage conversion or outdoor living space, can cost you more and often don’t give you back your money when you sell.

Before beginning any home improvement project, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced professional. Not only can they help you determine whether a particular renovation will yield the desired results, but they can also advise you on financing options. Secured loans, such as a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a second mortgage, can provide more flexibility than an unsecured loan and often have lower interest rates.

It’s also a good idea to create a budget and find out what permits are required for the work you want done. Once you have a firm idea of what needs to be done, shop around for contractors and obtain multiple quotes. Be sure to compare prices, but also consider factors such as the contractor’s reputation, experience, and length of time in business. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for references from past clients.

Once you’ve hired a contractor and agreed on a price, be sure to get the contract in writing. Maryland’s Home Improvement Law requires that a written contract be signed by both the consumer and contractor before any work begins or any payment is made. The contract should clearly state the scope of the work, the materials to be used and the dates when the performance will begin and be substantially completed.

It’s also a good idea to talk to a realtor about which renovations are likely to increase your home’s resale value. That way, you’ll know which projects to tackle and which ones to skip. And don’t forget about the little things, such as replacing worn doorknobs and cleaning out gutters, which can have a big impact on how your house looks. Neglected maintenance tasks will be discovered by a prospective buyer and could reduce your home’s resale price.