Contractor Help For First Time Home Buyers
Before you get swept away with that future dream home, and all the plans for home improvement to make
that house your home. Home renovations can be costly, and budgeting for home repairs must be considered before
buying. Consider the tips below before signing on the dotted line.
Permits for Renovation Take Time
As a prospective home buyer, it’s easy to get carried away with visions of grandeur. Home renovation projects like a new patio, garage, or addition involves permits first and the process could be as quick as a few days or weeks, depending on the project and your city’s specifications. A new deck or patio, for instance, can take months if conservation and board hearings are required. Until you sign on the dotted line and the keys are in your hand, you as the homeowner, cannot pull a permit. That means you have to close on the purchase of your home before you can even start with the paperwork, which can take weeks.
Manage Your Expectations
Schedules are very important as well and need to be looked at from all angles. The first thing most new homeowners want is to sign on the dotted line, get their keys, and start moving in. Although it’s possible to move in right away, that’s not always the case. The house may not be livable until certain projects are complete. This is similiar to having a shiny new car in the driveway, but not being able to drive it for a few weeks or even months. As a home contractor, our goal is to give my clients a realistic time frame that they can plan on and if anything unforeseen arises, we do our best to address it quickly and properly.
Get an Estimate First
Bumping out a couple of walls to create an open floor plan may not seem like a big deal. It’s just removing two walls, right? Budgets are always an important component of any project, no matter the size or scope of the project. Enlisting the help of a contractor as early as possible is the best approach. The process works best when the contractor can see the proposed project and get ballpark figures together for the homeowner ahead of the contract being drawn up for the home. You may experience sticker shock and find you don’t have enough cash to make it into your dream home if you wait to get an estimate after closing on the house.
Installing Central Air Conditioning
You fell in the love with the old world charm of a 1800s Victorian, but there’s no air conditioning. Now, you’re wondering how you’re going to beat the summer heat in this old painted lady without putting a freeze on your budget. Here are some factors to consider. Adding central air to a home can be as simple as adding a condenser and tying into the existing forced hot air system, or can be as complicated as adding chases/soffits to conceal duct work. If your new home has forced hot air for heat it is a relatively easy solution. If your new home has forced hot water baseboard, steam, or electric baseboard, it’s a little more complicated. An option for historic homes where running duct work isn’t possible are to use ductless, or mini split, units which use a condenser outside and a small wall hung unit inside. You’ll want to factor in other components when adding central air. A homeowner will most likely need more than an HVAC company. This home renovation project will also need an electrician at a minimum, but it will also involve some wall repair and painting. Be sure to keep these things in mind as they can really add to your budget.
Drywall or Plaster
Prior to the 1960s the majority of homes were built using lath and plaster to create a smooth finish on interior walls and ceilings. Although beautiful, plaster walls also come with some hidden costs. Repairing plaster walls can be very costly due to their age and the increased complexity of the needed repairs over that of sheetrock. This is something to keep in mind if you have plans to do some energy-saving upgrades that involve new wiring for outlets or running lines in the ceiling for recessed or overhead lighting. The increased costs to make these upgrades in a home with plaster walls and ceilings will be significantly greater than making the same upgrades in a home that is built with sheetrock walls and ceilings.
If you’re a fan of home renovation and improvement shows, you know that almost every episode involves remodeling by moving or knocking down walls to get that all important “open floor plan.” It seems like a viable solution in any home but it might not be for the house you want to buy. Every building is designed differently so if it’s a clear-span truss design that means you can take the interior walls out and move them around without structural impact as they are considered architectural partitions. However, you’ll need an expert to verity that or you. The cost would vary for structural retrofitting as the range can be between $1,000 to $10,000 or more.
The gingerbread trim of the old Victorian may grab your attention more than the dirt around the house, but it’s important you take a closer look. Proper drainage is the single most important feature to look for in older homes, because poor drainage causes the most expensive repairs. Look for houses where the dirt around the house falls away from the house, creating “positive” drainage away from the house. Stay clear from homes with a steep slope or eroded properties. This issue with homes that have the ground or grade being pushed up against the house could mean costly repairs in the future. Foundations can split, columns that support porches and decks can move and sink, basement floors can swell and sink and retaining walls can fall down.
You might get lucky and find a house with some improvements already in the works, like an addition for a future family room. Even if the concrete has been poured and the walls are framed, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be less expensive on the budget to finish. Consult a general contractor to make verify that the framing is up to code, there is proper drainage and if the foundation is deep enough and sized correctly.
The giant oak trees instantly won you over. Better check your roots first. If large trees with aggressive root systems are planted too close to the house or underground pipes, their root systems can definitely damage the pipes or foundation in the same way that you see roots breaking up concrete sidewalks all the time. Trees that have not been properly taken care of present two concerns for houses. First, large limbs or whole trees over houses which are structurally unpredictable can fail in a storm, falling on the house and creating property destruction. Second, tree limbs or shrubbery that is growing up against the siding or roof of the house, creating a moist, shady environment which leads to the growth of mold, moss, and mildew which may damage the exterior siding, as well as creating property damage.
Fuses or Circuts? Electrical Updates
The garage is begging to be a man cave, complete with a kegger fridge but can you plug it in without blowing a fuse and your budget? Before you make a move on investing in the home, think about all the home appliances and upgrades, just like a sprinkler systems that may be more taxing on the current 100 amp service. If the home is older, it may need electrical improvements. Check all switches and receptacles to make sure they may be wired correctly and up to code. GFCI’s, or “ground fault circuit interrupters,” are found in the kitchen, restrooms, outside on porches and in garages. These are the outlets in which one can reset with a push button. Do not forget to check the exterior outlets. They really should have weatherproof covers on them. Potential dedicated circuit, surge safety at the panel and grounding are also important, especially for older homes. Most people don’t realize these are requirements.
Get A House Inspection
Even if the home is brand new or you’re buying it from your friend who is a realtor, a house inspection can be an vital part of buying a home. It may add $400 to $500 to the price of the process, but it’s better to know any problems ahead of time rather than discovering you’ve acquired a money pit. If issues do arise during the inspection, electrical issues are the top priority to repair as old breaker boxes and incorrect home-owner wiring from the past can burn your house down. Plumbing concerns are next, followed by foundation problems.