Get a high-quality remodel for less

new_home_sales_construction2.jc.top.jpg By Josh Garskof, contributing columnist


(MONEY Magazine) -- Ask any homeowner who has done an improvement on the cheap: You get what you pay for. Second-rate materials don't last and contractors who make low-ball bids rarely deliver fine craftsmanship.

Fortunately, there are a few effective ways to get good quality for less. One is simply to renovate during an economic slump like this one: Contractors who are eager for work tend to be more willing to cut deals. Here are five other time-tested strategies.

Think off season

Doing a project when other homeowners aren't may save you about 10%, says Robert Wilkos, who runs an HVAC and plumbing business in Panama City, Fla. In autumn, for example, put in a new patio or lawn irrigation system; in winter, finish the basement or install central air. Wait till summer, if you can, to replace your old furnace or install a gas fireplace. Get the bids during the busy season, then say, "If I'm willing to wait, will you give me a discount?"

Look for a mom-and-pop contractor

You have a choice between large outfits (where the boss or a salesman bids on the job, then sends a crew to work) and small, family-run ones (where the boss is the lead laborer). Because the latter have leaner operations and lower overhead, says Kermit Baker of Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, they can charge less than the big guys. You might save 5% to 20%.

Combine small jobs

To make a minor task, such as replacing a faucet or installing a ceiling fan, worth his time, a pro typically charges extra: a four-hour minimum, for example, or a $75 service charge, says Todd Recknagel, CEO of the Mr. Handyman chain. Get more work for your money by saving up your odd jobs and hiring someone to do them all at once.

Get a tax deduction

Give your demolition castoffs -- sinks, paneling, doors, and the like -- to a building product reuse center. Call your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore (find it at habitat.org), which will send a truck to collect the stuff. Get a receipt and you can deduct the value of the items as a charitable donation.

Put in some sweat equity

Take on some simple projects yourself, such as sealing your new fencing or staining the deck. Or pay your teenager a modest amount to do it. Who knows? If the kid's good, the contractor might even give him a job next summer.  To top of page


Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.19%4.27%
15 yr fixed3.27%3.27%
5/1 ARM3.36%3.35%
30 yr refi4.17%4.23%
15 yr refi3.25%3.25%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
  • Find Homes for sale
    Real estate and homes for sale on Trulia

  • Property Type
  • Find a home in: New York | Atlanta | Chicago | Los Angeles
  • Washington D.C | Houston | Philadelphia | More options
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,880.36 -31.75 -0.19%
Nasdaq 4,462.90 20.20 0.45%
S&P 500 1,970.07 0.12 0.01%
Treasuries 2.55 0.09 3.74%
Data as of 8:28pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 15.58 0.24 1.56%
Genworth Financial I... 13.98 -2.28 -14.02%
Facebook Inc 74.68 0.97 1.31%
Pfizer Inc 29.26 -0.21 -0.71%
Apple Inc 98.15 -0.23 -0.23%
Data as of 4:01pm ET

Sections

The case involves bad mortgages sold by Countrywide Financial ahead of the Great Recession and its multi-billion dollar rescue by Bank of America. More

The case involves bad mortgages sold by Countrywide Financial ahead of the Great Recession and its multi-billion dollar rescue by Bank of America. More

Restrictive immigration policies prevent talented entrepreneurs from launching businesses in the U.S. So, they're moving to Canada. More

The Mason family, which has been struggling to pay the $100,000 student loan bill they were left with when their daughter passed away five years ago, is now seeing an outpouring of support. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.