MLR

Home improvements often cost more than expected

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Murphy’s Law is alive and well, at least when it comes to home improvement projects, according to a new study by Consumer Reports magazine.

Nearly half of homeowners doing major home improvements found that if something could go wrong, it did.

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More than 17,000 consumers were surveyed about projects ranging from painting to remodeling kitchens to adding new rooms – 30,000 projects in all. Of them, 44 percent said they spent considerably more money than anticipated and experienced a variety of unexpected problems.

The primary reasons given for going over budget were:

  • Buying the wrong products
  • Encountering surprises, such as delivery charges
  • Paying debris-removal fees
  • Using a contractor who underestimated expenses, did poor work or didn’t anticipate code requirements

The consumer group gives several tips to homeowners, some of which include advice concerning contractors:

  • Make a plan and stay with it. Many of those who went over budget did so because they changed their minds in the middle of the project.
  • Beware of lowball estimates. Some contractors may underbid a project and then try to make up the difference as the project goes along, the magazine said. It urges homeowners to beware of open-ended estimates.
  • Check the contractor’s references. Consumers are urged to be sure the contractor has up-to-date licenses, insurance and worker’s comp insurance. They are told to ask for a list of every product used, down to the model number to avoid unexpected incidentals that add up.
  • Have financing in order. Consumers are told to be sure closing costs and interest rates are in order before the project begins, and to be sure their contractor adheres to local codes. It’s a red flag if the contractor asks the consumers to get their own permits. Homeowners should have a flexible maximum amount available in case the project does go over budget.

Project

% Over budget

Overrun

Bathroom remodel

60%

$600

Kitchen remodel

56%

$1,200

Basement finishing

56%

$1,350

Room addition

55%

$2,000

Deck addition

45%

$700

Major landscaping

45%

$735

New windows

33%

$600

Interior painting

31%

$280