Kathy Kelley | Wellesley Real Estate, Natick Real Estate, Needham Real Estate, Weston Real Estate


Are you considering a large-scale home remodel?  Whether you are looking for a project intended to increase your home's value, or you're splurging on a pleasure project for your family, many of you will be turning to contractors to carry out the work that needs to be done.  However, not all contractors are equal.  It is important for you to outline your priorities for the project.  You'll want a reliable contractor that can perform satisfactory work for a reasonable price.  Here's a few tips to help get you started. 1. - Find yourself an insured and licensed contractor.  Don't just pull a number from the classifieds and run with it without doing some proper homework.  Licensing ensures that the contractor in question is qualified to do the work being discussed.  To find out if your prospective contractor is licensed, contact your state license board and check up on them. Insurance is another matter.  Insurance protects the workers the contractor will be employing, and your home from accidents resulting in damages.  Ask your contractor to provide you with proof of insurance.  If they can't provide this, then move on to a new contractor. 2. - Referrals and reviews - Before you strike out on your own, ask your friends and family if they have anyone that they'd recommend.  Many times, the best contractors are found word-of-mouth.  Every contractor on the planet wants his clients to think that he's the best for the job, but results speak for themselves.  Again, make sure any referrals are licensed and insured.  You don't want to take the chance of incurring additional damages to your property due to negligence and accidents.  If no referrals can be found, then check online for reviews of local contractors.  Most reputable contractors will have solid online reviews that are easily accessible.  Contractors that operate their own websites are a plus. 3. - There's no such thing as a stupid question.  If your contractor acts annoyed with you for asking too many questions, then you should probably consider someone else for the job.  Questions to consider asking are - How long have you been in business? - How much will this project cost in total? - Have you performed this type of work before? - What is the protocol if the project goes over-budget? If you don't like the answers given, then continue looking for a contractor you feel comfortable with. 4. - Don't pay too much up front.  Paying up to a third of the total estimate up front isn't unheard of.  This initial payment will more than likely be used to hire employees and buy supplies.  However, be wary of giving the contractor any more money until after your project is finished.  Also, don't be afraid to get a rundown of how that initial payment will be spent.  Be thorough if you want to be.  The contractor should be able to give you a pretty good picture of the project in terms of cost and time. 5. - Get a contract - No matter the size of the project being undertaken, a contract should always be written up.  This will ensure a legally-binding agreement between you and the contractor exists in the event of the unforeseen.  Without a contract, there is no way to hold the contractor accountable in the event he performs an unsatisfactory job.  And trust me...Any hassles you may incur in securing a contract is nothing compared to going to court without one in the event something goes awry.  A proper contract should include the following information.
  • When the project will start and end
  • How and when you or the contractor is in default of the contract
  • How any disputes will be rectified
  • What happens if there is a delay due to weather, available materials, and so on.

Are you considering a large-scale home remodel?  Whether you are looking for a project intended to increase your home's value, or you're splurging on a pleasure project for your family, many of you will be turning to contractors to carry out the work that needs to be done.  However, not all contractors are equal.  It is important for you to outline your priorities for the project.  You'll want a reliable contractor that can perform satisfactory work for a reasonable price.  Here's a few tips to help get you started. 1. - Find yourself an insured and licensed contractor.  Don't just pull a number from the classifieds and run with it without doing some proper homework.  Licensing ensures that the contractor in question is qualified to do the work being discussed.  To find out if your prospective contractor is licensed, contact your state license board and check up on them. Insurance is another matter.  Insurance protects the workers the contractor will be employing, and your home from accidents resulting in damages.  Ask your contractor to provide you with proof of insurance.  If they can't provide this, then move on to a new contractor. 2. - Referrals and reviews - Before you strike out on your own, ask your friends and family if they have anyone that they'd recommend.  Many times, the best contractors are found word-of-mouth.  Every contractor on the planet wants his clients to think that he's the best for the job, but results speak for themselves.  Again, make sure any referrals are licensed and insured.  You don't want to take the chance of incurring additional damages to your property due to negligence and accidents.  If no referrals can be found, then check online for reviews of local contractors.  Most reputable contractors will have solid online reviews that are easily accessible.  Contractors that operate their own websites are a plus. 3. - There's no such thing as a stupid question.  If your contractor acts annoyed with you for asking too many questions, then you should probably consider someone else for the job.  Questions to consider asking are - How long have you been in business? - How much will this project cost in total? - Have you performed this type of work before? - What is the protocol if the project goes over-budget? If you don't like the answers given, then continue looking for a contractor you feel comfortable with. 4. - Don't pay too much up front.  Paying up to a third of the total estimate up front isn't unheard of.  This initial payment will more than likely be used to hire employees and buy supplies.  However, be wary of giving the contractor any more money until after your project is finished.  Also, don't be afraid to get a rundown of how that initial payment will be spent.  Be thorough if you want to be.  The contractor should be able to give you a pretty good picture of the project in terms of cost and time. 5. - Get a contract - No matter the size of the project being undertaken, a contract should always be written up.  This will ensure a legally-binding agreement between you and the contractor exists in the event of the unforeseen.  Without a contract, there is no way to hold the contractor accountable in the event he performs an unsatisfactory job.  And trust me...Any hassles you may incur in securing a contract is nothing compared to going to court without one in the event something goes awry.  A proper contract should include the following information.
  • When the project will start and end
  • How and when you or the contractor is in default of the contract
  • How any disputes will be rectified
  • What happens if there is a delay due to weather, available materials, and so on.

If money is tight right now, or if you're just trying to live frugally, there are a number of ways to save money without having to drastically change your lifestyle. One of the best way to save money is by going through all of your recurring bills to see where you can eliminate or reduce spending. In our age of user-friendly, advanced technology, there are more services available to us than ever before. You can call an Uber with one tap on your phone or order more laundry detergent by clicking the Amazon Dash button in your cabinet. With services this readily available to us, it's hard not to sign up. Read on to learn how to save some money on your monthly services without having to sacrifice too many of life's comforts.

Utilities

There are countless ways to save on water, heat, and electricity. Yes, you can turn down the heat in the winter time and take shorter showers, but there are less commonly known ways to save as well. For example:
  • Keep multiple electric-powered items plugged into one power-strip and power off the strip overnight. This will stop those items from consuming electricity in standby mode
  • Insulate your windows in the winter time by using caulking, weather stripping, and shrink wrap your windows with heat shrink film to keep the heat in
  • Some Saturday afternoon make a checklist of all of your home's lightbulbs. Then go out and replace them with energy efficient CFLs and LED bulbs
  • Hang clothes on the line in fair weather and wash your clothes in cold water; much of the energy consumed by washing clothes goes to heating the water up first

Monthly services

Remember when there were only a few good shows on TV and paying for cable was the only way to watch them? Now any given household can have Netflix, Amazon Streaming, HBO Go, and countless other monthly services for watching TV. To save on watching your favorite movies and television, try these tips:
  • Ditch Netflix DVD services or expensive premium cable channels and rent from your local library system. Through inter-library loans you can get the newest movies and TV shows shipped to your library for free
  • Cancel your cable bill and try a cheap service like Hulu. If you're worried about missing the news, use websites or news apps on your smart TV to keep up to date on the issues
  • Negotiate rates with your provider. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to learn about better options. Since many people are taking the internet-only approach, cable companies are desperate to maintain customers
Saving on telephone bills:
  • First, ditch the landline. You probably only get telemarketers calling there anyway; what do you have to lose?
  • Use a family plan and calculate your data usage. Make sure your family is on wifi whenever possible. You can save up to $30/month just by having a lower data plan
  • Negotiate with your provider. Reminding your provider that you have other options when it comes to cell phones can get you a better rate.
General tips and tricks:
  • If you have a student email address (.edu) this can be used to gain discounts from a number of monthly services
  • Ask your providers to apply promotions to your account. If you see that something you pay for is running a deal, call and ask if you can have the rate as well. You're a loyal customer after all
  • If you've built up good credit, look for lower interest rates online. There are apps and websites dedicated to finding you better deals

Going to college can be a very expensive endeavor as a result of the financial requirements and obligations.  It requires a lot of financing from textbooks, to housing accommodations, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses.  This does not even include the cost of tuition. There are several ways of handling these costs effectively without going broke. Here are a few suggestions to assist in your financial planning. 529 College Plans This is a form of investment that allows parents to set aside some money towards their kid’s education, allowing it to appreciate in value tax free.  This implies that when you withdraw from your savings, as long as the funds are used for the purpose of your child’s education, you will not be taxed. Irrespective of your income, and other family members can contribute to a 529 account. Coverdell Education Saving Accounts (ESA) This account functions like an IRA. But in this case, it is for education and not retirement. With this form of savings, you can make contributions up to $2000 with post tax dollars and allow the money to grow tax free. When you withdraw, you are not taxed on the money or interest as long as it is used for the purpose of education. IRA and Roth IRA Accounts Basically, these accounts are investment accounts used to save money for college or retirement with no significant taxes. They come as deductible and non deductible accounts. In order to qualify for this type of accounts, your income as well as an existing retirement plan is taken into consideration. With a deductible IRA, tax is deducted from your annual contributions. When you make withdrawals, you will be taxed based on your contributions and earnings. Roth IRA, contributions are not tax deductible and your earnings are also tax free if your withdraws after a five year period are used for an appropriate expenses like college tuition.

Going to college can be a very expensive endeavor as a result of the financial requirements and obligations.  It requires a lot of financing from textbooks, to housing accommodations, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses.  This does not even include the cost of tuition. There are several ways of handling these costs effectively without going broke. Here are a few suggestions to assist in your financial planning. 529 College Plans This is a form of investment that allows parents to set aside some money towards their kid’s education, allowing it to appreciate in value tax free.  This implies that when you withdraw from your savings, as long as the funds are used for the purpose of your child’s education, you will not be taxed. Irrespective of your income, and other family members can contribute to a 529 account. Coverdell Education Saving Accounts (ESA) This account functions like an IRA. But in this case, it is for education and not retirement. With this form of savings, you can make contributions up to $2000 with post tax dollars and allow the money to grow tax free. When you withdraw, you are not taxed on the money or interest as long as it is used for the purpose of education. IRA and Roth IRA Accounts Basically, these accounts are investment accounts used to save money for college or retirement with no significant taxes. They come as deductible and non deductible accounts. In order to qualify for this type of accounts, your income as well as an existing retirement plan is taken into consideration. With a deductible IRA, tax is deducted from your annual contributions. When you make withdrawals, you will be taxed based on your contributions and earnings. Roth IRA, contributions are not tax deductible and your earnings are also tax free if your withdraws after a five year period are used for an appropriate expenses like college tuition.



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