San Francisco Chronicle Article:
James and Morris Carey
January 1, 2005

Get Paperwork and planning out of way now

If you expect to take advantage of low interest rates so that you can better afford to do your kitchen or bath remodel or that special room expansion or addition, then now is the time to begin planning. In an improving economy, interest rates and construction prices typically rise with spring flowers and if your planning doesn't begin soon then you probably will not do as well dollar-wise as the early birds.

Get serious about talking to designers, architects and contractors now. These are the folks who will be able to offer money-saving alternatives as well as valuable suggestions that you may not have considered. Give yourself the time it takes to make the most informed decisions possible.

Planning, the most important part of any construction project, almost always takes longer than the project itself. Beating the early spring remodeling rush is a must when it comes to getting personalized service before everyone in the industry becomes overwhelmed with work. More important, beginning early gives you more choices. Construction slows down in the winter.

As you plan your budget, be careful! Brand alone is not the way to establish a budget. For example: If you are working on plumbing fixtures and have decided to use the Grohe brand, keep in mind that their basic facets range in price from $300 to $700 each. As an allowance, $500 would be OK - its right in the middle price-wise - but what will happen after you have your bank loan in place and then you decide on a more expensive model? This holds true with Kohler, American Standard, Moen and all other well-known plumbing product manufacturers.

So, too, for every type and kind of product that you will have to purchase for your project. So, the more time you take getting specific about the style and finish, the better off you will be in establishing the bottom line before the project begins. If nothing else, at least ask your designer or contractor to show you specific examples of what can be purchased for the budgeted amount.

Collecting photographs of what you really ant helps construction professionals. Also, keep in mind that lasting quality has a lot to do with the "real cost" of your project. A $300 faucet that might last for five years is a far better investment than a $100 faucet that only lasts two years. How can that be you ask? Three $100 faucets will last longer by a year in this example. Well, factor in the removal and installation costs - not to mention the inconvenience - and the right decisions becomes light work.

Once the plans and specifications are complete and after you have entered into a construction contract, you can count on engineering and permits taking another couple of months. In other words, if you decide to begin a project today - and actually do your homework - it may not actually come out of the ground until late spring or early summer (5-8 months out). Smaller projects can begin far more quickly once the decisions are made, but projects that involve structural changes can take what seems like forever.

An important thing to remember: When searching out a professional, remember what it's like when you apply for a bank loan. The lender makes you fill out all kinds of forms (a credit application is just one of them) to find out if are capable of paying back the loan.

You may want to take this same precaution before a choosing a construction professional. Borrow a blank credit application from your local bank. Have the contractor fill it out. Then don't hesitate to pay someone $15 to have the report run. Also check with local, county and state agencies that control construction projects in your area for other things you should be aware of as well.

When it comes to planning a home improvement, the early bird really does get the best bang for the buck.