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I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately and I see many houses for sale and lots that seem to need work. Times are hard and uncertain and repairs are never cheap, but the longer things are let go the worse they get. They never seem to go down in price either. Financing is difficult to secure and in many instances impossible so it looks like down the road there will be a lot of pent up demand. Next spring and summer may be a good time to catch up on needed repairs but homeowners will have to do some saving to get in shape to tackle them.

If you find you are unable to get to your houses needs or your desires this year, take some time to check out possible problem areas this fall and winter. Make a checklist in order of importance and start coming up with a budget and a plan to keep things from getting out of control. It’s never too early to start looking around for a good contractor. Many companies are not all that busy now and could have some time to talk over your plans in a general way to give you a rough idea what you are dealing with.

Just remember a contractors time is still money so don’t waste it unless you are serious about future work. They won’t be able to give you a sound proposal until all the plans and specs are ready but they should be able to head you in the right direction. Thanks, see you next week.

Today’s walk… don’t hire an airline to do your remodeling, at least not most airlines. The other day my daughter was flying home from Charlotte, N.C. with a stop in New York’s JFK Airport. The plan was to pick her up at Logan Airport in Boston around 4;30 PM. Unfortunately, at that time I was driving towards NYC on a rescue mission because the airline she trusted to get her safely and expeditiously home completely failed in their task.

First her flight to NYC was delayed. She was finally able to board about 30 minutes late but still should have been able to catch her connecting flight. When they landed they were held out on the runway because of congestion at the gate. When they were allowed to taxi to the gate they were not allowed to exit the plane for a long, unexplained time. At last, entering the terminal, her departing gate had been changed to the far end of the terminal. Finally reaching it, she was told her plane had just left.

All of that would be bad enough, but there was more to come. Another plane to Boston was scheduled, delayed and then cancelled. There were two later possibilities at 7:30 and 10PM but they were also soon cancelled and it was announced there were no more flights until the next morning. No further accomodations were made available to hundreds of stranded passengers who had done nothing but book a flight on a disfunctional airline. We both decided that trusting them to make good on the latest promise would be a bad bet so…at 4:30 PM I was driving to NYC.

How many promises should your remodeling company be allowed to break before you’ve had enough? Are they responsive to any problems that arise with effective solutions or do they make excuses and leave you holding the bag? These are just some of the questions you should feel comfortable about before signing an agreement with them. Thanks, see you next week.

Walking is a great way for me to think about things so here goes…  Let’s make a deal. Hard economic times bring out the deal seekers and the deal makers, but in the construction business that can be a lethal combination. Property owners looking for a low price are often taking on more risk than they imagine. Contractors trying to buy time with little or no profit margin are digging a hole they may find impossible to climb out of. If we want to go broke we can stay home and save on gas.

Now that I have that off my chest, let’s get back to the “deals” out there. Property owners have a large investment in money, time and future financial and emotional security in their homes. Before you invest even more on improvements make sure you are working with a reputable company. In Massachusetts, that means the contractor is licensed and enrolled in the Home Improvement Contractor program with the state. They also must carry business insurance to cover damage to person or property. If any work to be done includes changes to the structure of your home, they need the above to be able to pull a building permit.

This can seem like an awful lot of bother and added expense just to get your kitchen updated or a small addition to the back of your house. The deal you may be offered to skip all this process can turn out to be a nightmare you keep paying on forever. Shoddy workmanship and materials, projects started and dragging on far too long or worse never started or finished at all. The “deal” you got under the table can leave you with no protection if things go wrong, and if they go disastrously wrong may void your insurance on your property and belongings.

Be careful and hire a pro who will do the job you want, at a fair price and on time. Thanks … let’s walk again next week.

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