Construction Resources

Are you planning a major home improvement project in the near future? If your answer is “yes,” you’re probably in the market for a contractor. Finding the right professional to handle such a project can be tricky. Trickier still is getting a great job at a fair price.

Here are a few important techniques:

When possible, choose a contractor through personal recommendations. Try to get referrals from friends or neighbors who have had similar work done. You can also find prescreened local contractors through online services.

After you’ve put together a short list, call and pre-qualify several contractors. Be sure each person is licensed and insured for worker’s compensation, property damage, and personal liability. From each contractor, request names and phone numbers of a few satisfied customers. Call those references and ask to see the contractor’s work. Don’t be shy. Most people who’ve recently remodeled are proud to show off their homes and, if they like the contractor, they’ll go out of their way to help him or her secure another job.

From at least three contractor candidates, request a formal bid based on exactly the same plans and specifications. Don’t automatically choose the lowest bid. If one bid is seriously lower than the others, be suspicious of inexperience or desperation (the latter isn’t necessarily a problem). Generally speaking, if a bid looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Chemistry with your contractor is critical–this person may be in your midst for several months, and there may be times when you have to haggle about difficult issues. Ask whether your job will be the only one on their plate or whether they’ll be managing multiple projects at the same time. Find out whether the contractor will be on site to supervise your job or hand it off to a foreman.

When you’ve made a selection, ask to see his or her contractor’s license and double-check insurance coverage.

Hiring a Contractor

Basic Contract Criteria

At this point, you and your contractor should agree upon a written contract and both of you should sign it. The contract should include:

Contact information- Both of your names and addresses and details of all work to be performed. Don’t forget to specify who will be responsible for demolition, cleanup, and trash collection. Be sure your plans are thought through completely. It’s fair for a contractor to charge you for changes and modifications that are not in the plans, particularly those changes that will require more work or more expensive materials. Charges for changes and extras can send your budget though the roof.

Materials- When specifying materials, avoid the term “or equal” unless it is clear that substitutions can’t be made without your approval. If you agree to a separate budget for items you haven’t selected yet, such as plumbing fixtures or floor coverings, be sure the budget figure is high enough to cover their costs. Do your homework; go to a home improvement center to price the fixtures and finishes you want.

Payments and dates- Be sure to include a completion date and details on when and how payments will be made. Never pay more money than enough to cover work completed and materials delivered to the job—it’s okay to request copies of invoices for the latter. If the contractor requests a deposit before starting work, do not pay more than 10 percent or $1000, whichever is lower. Make additional payments as the work progresses. This gives the contractor continual incentives and protects you from the possibility of a contractor disappearing after you’ve made early payments. Remember: money is your only leverage for getting things done.

Don’t sign a completion statement or make the final payment until the job has passed final inspection. Be aware that materials suppliers or subcontractors who are owed money by your contractor can place a lien against your property. You can protect yourself from this by adding a release-of-lien clause to your contract or asking for proof of payment by your contractor. Another somewhat expensive option is to issue a portion of your payments to an escrow account to be held until the work is completed.

What Does Building Your Own Home Entail?

Building your own home is never an easy task. First of all it is costly and second, it will require a lot of patience and some excellent budgeting skills. This is also one reason why some people choose to purchase an existing piece of property and have it renovated to their liking. Do not just fall into making quick decisions as to whether or not building your own home or contacting someone to make the necessary arrangements in buying a pre-owned house.

Build Your Home

The Dream Home

The “dream home” desire is what drives most people to take on a project of this magnitude. Simply put, you will designing, planning and building your own home. Floor plan, exteriors and interiors, and even the landscaping – it’s all for you to decide on. Keep in mind safety, feasibility and the final appearance of your home when brainstorming on its details. You definitely don’t want to be building a home that would endanger the lives of anyone who lives inside.

Building and Planning

At some points in planning you might really need the advice of experts, such as an architect or engineer, to determine the feasibility of your building your own home. This is when they should not modify your design and preferences, unless structurally required. Not only is this method cheaper than hiring an architect and engineer do the designing and math, you also make sure your home’s appearance is the product of your own imagination and innovativeness.


Now that you’re done with the planning, budgeting should take place. In this part, it is necessary for you to seek the advice of an expert as you wouldn’t have a single idea on how much materials you will need and how much the dream of building your own home will cost. Always take into account for unexpected or surprise expenses, by adding a padding to your budget of approximately at 10%.

At this point, you should be receptive to the idea that you will need to hire laborers in building your own home, as obviously you and your home consultant won’t be doing the all the labor! Choose a team that is honest, reliable and will put a hundred percent of their effort in realizing your dream house. Always ask for references and follow up with them for feedback. In no time, the dream of building your own home will be a reality, full of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Noise from flights

Question: I am selling my condo. Am I legally required to disclose that my home sits under the flight path of a moderately busy airport? – Louis

A: A 1985 Florida case set the precedent when it comes to home sales and “caveat emptor” (Let the buyer beware).

Based on the outcome of Johnson v. Davis, I advise sellers to disclose everything not readily seen that can affect the value of the property. You could face a lawsuit if you fail to disclose something important to your buyer. If there is any doubt about whether to disclose, you should do so.

Most real estate agents will have a seller fill out a detailed disclosure form to give the buyer. Make sure you fill out the form completely and accurately. Material defects, such as roof leaks or sinkholes, are obvious to disclose, but some issues and reviews, such as airplane noise, can be more subjective.

It’s really a judgment call and depends on how much noise the planes make. If your windows are routinely rattled at 5 a.m. — when a typical buyer would not be likely to discover it — then definitely disclose. If the planes are flying over every 15 minutes during normal business hours when people are viewing the house, it’s not as important to disclose.

Every situation is unique, and adding another sentence to the seller’s written disclosure form is free and easy, so I recommend disclosing every possible defect to avoid problems later. Because you think the noise is enough of an issue for you to be concerned, you might want to let the buyer know.