Friday, July 4, 2008

Home Improvement Horrors - Part Two

Home improvement is expensive, which just adds to the excitement. You should expect to spend 10 to 15 percent of your home’s value on a totally new kitchen, according to Leona Hess, founding president of the Westchester (NY) Chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. For a $685,000 home (2007’s median single-family home price in Westchester), that’s $68,000 to $103,000. For a $1 million home (not unusual in the county), your kitchen remodeling can run $150,000. It might be cheaper to buy a small restaurant in Arkansas and have your meals flown in.

Numbers like those are enough to give every potential home improver the heebie-jeebies, especially when you add in some of the horror stories from your neighbors. According to Eric Messer, a contractor since 1986 who owns Sunrise Building in Briarcliff, NY, and serves on the board of the Westchester Building and Realty Institute, it doesn’t have to be that way. “If you just do your homework,” he advises, “you can avoid most of the problems from the start.”

And Edgemont, NY, homeowner hired a guy named Sheldon to rip out a first floor bathroom and expand the family room as well as to remodel an upstairs bath. She says she can’t remember his last name because she blocked it out—-like the pain of childbirth. She also admits to committing three errors right at the beginning. For one, “We didn’t really do much due diligence because we trusted the guy who gave us the referral,” she explains.

Secondly, Sheldon was the low bidder on the job—-by a lot—-which is not necessarily a good thing. Finally, the contractor apparently carried the plans for their job in his head. “He said he had done this project and that project and it wouldn’t be a problem,” she says. Unfortunately, Sheldon spent a lot of time in Miami while the project was underway, which made it difficult for his crew to consult the plans in his head, not to mention for the homeowner and her husband to talk to him.

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