Tag Archives: Home Improvement

Contractors In High Demand

Contractor Hotline was founded in August 2006, when the economy was strong and demand for home improvement services was high. Those days were much like the present, when good contractors stayed busy with their customer’s home repair and remodeling needs. But, those days didn’t last long before the recession pretty much brought business to a grinding halt.

Prior to that time, we knocked on a lot of doors trying to get the attention of good contractors interested in new business. By the end of 2008 the tables began to turn and many of those same contractors were seeking out our services. Over time we retained a lot of those original contractors, recruited many more, and built a solid network of quality home improvement professionals. We have been through these times together and value the relationships we have with each other.

Fast forward, we now find ourselves in an interesting housing market. If you have sought out the services of a contractor lately, you likely discovered delays are imminent, especially on larger scale projects. Several factors contribute to current conditions.

Real estate inventory continues to be modest, helping drive home values higher. Many homeowners whose property values were dramatically reduced during the recession are experiencing significant appreciation. This opens up the opportunity for many to make long deferred home maintenance improvements. Others are updating or remodeling their existing homes, rather than waiting to find the next ideal home to purchase. For those who are selling their homes, repairs or updates are sometimes necessary to prepare the home to show well and sell quickly for the best price. New buyers often make improvements such as painting or replacing flooring, before moving in. Each of these circumstances, in addition to an upsurge in new construction, all contribute to an increased demand for good contractor.

Remodeling contractors report they are the busiest they have been in ten years. Some are booking work as far out as 6-12 months. While this can be good news for contractors, it puts an increased strain on the consumer. Homeowners pressured to get work done sometimes take risks, knowingly or unknowingly. Just like the days prior to the recession, stories of illegitimate contractors posing as licensed, bonded, and insured professionals are becoming more common. Contractors disappearing with a homeowner’s deposit, abandoning a job midway, or doing shoddy work are on the rise. Some employees of contracting firms decide to grab the brass ring and strike out on their own. What many of them fail to understand is that it takes a lot more than being a great mason, painter, or remodeling contractor to run a successful business. What goes on in the background such as paying off vendors, obtaining lien releases, and keeping current on insurance premiums and taxes, can impact their customers.

Hiring a contractor during high demand times not only requires due diligence, but also planning as far in advance as possible. Setting unrealistic goals can be stressful and lead to disappointment. Allow 6-12 months for larger scale remodels and home additions. In a soft market when contractors are readily available it can still take weeks and sometimes months to go through the process of meeting contractors, procuring proposals, and obtaining permits. The better prepared you are from the start will help expedite the process. Larger projects may require building plans before contractors can provide bids. Finish materials need to be decided upon and a budget established. Reviewing proposals, checking references, and finalizing a contract are all important steps, prior to getting on the contractor’s schedule. It’s easy to see how it can take months just to reach this point.

Some improvements are seasonal, such as exterior painting for example. Waiting until the weather is ideal is often too late to get on a good painter’s schedule. Starting the process in late winter or early spring helps to ensure there will be multiple contractors to choose from and that your project will be completed during the optimum season.

If you plan to sell your home in the next 6-12 months, now would be the time to have a professional home inspection. A thorough inspection will likely cost less than $500 and well worth the money spent. It should include the structural components, basement or crawl space, foundation, drainage, attic, electrical, plumbing, heating & air conditioning systems, and the full exterior. Allowing plenty of time to address any problem areas in advance will help make the sale of the home go more smoothly. You will also have the option to share the report with prospective buyers, which can be a positive selling point.

Buyers often want to make improvements to their new home before moving in. If the seller is agreeable to allowing prospective contractors into the home prior to closing, this will help expedite the bidding process. Deciding on a contractor and getting your project scheduled prior to possession will save valuable time. Focus on the projects that would be most difficult to complete after you have moved into the home. Painting and flooring are much easier to complete in a vacant house. Larger remodels may require a delayed move-in date or completing in stages so a portion of the home can be closed off from the construction area.

It is realistic to expect the demand for home improvement professionals to remain high for the foreseeable future. Regardless of the size of your next project, it is imperative to plan ahead and be patient.


Everett Home & Garden Show

Come visit us at the Everett Home & Garden Show at Xfinity Arena this weekend, March 6-8. Enjoy a relaxed and comfortable home show atmosphere while learning about new and innovative ideas for all your home improvement needs.

There is plenty of parking (including free parking on Sat & Sun in the Snohomish County Garage on Oakes Street between Wall and Pacific), discounted tickets, free wine tasting, and a variety of public speakers.

Location: Xfinity Arena, Broadway & Hewitt, Everett

How To Get The Most Value From Your Home Improvement Project

Remodeled kitchen

Kitchen Remodel, Bothell

We all want to get the biggest bang for our buck, especially when it comes to home improvement. While it might be tempting to hire the cheapest contractor you can find, that can and often does backfire. There are many other ways to cut project costs. Following are some useful tips that can help you save money without sacrificing reliability and quality of workmanship.

1. Shop carefully for materials. You can save a lot of money shopping sales and comparing materials at different suppliers. For example, if you’re installing hardwood floors, you may be able to save several thousand dollars on materials by choosing flooring that runs $10/square foot vs. $14 that is just as good.

Habitat for Humanity’s Home Improvement Outlet Stores can be a valuable resource. They are open to the public and offer deep discounts on a wide variety of home furnishings including appliances, doors, windows, flooring, countertops, plumbing fixtures, and much more. At the same time your purchases help finance low-income housing for qualified Habitat families. Two nearby locations:

The Habitat Store Snohomish County

2302 Broadway

Everett, WA 98201

The Habitat Stores King County

21 S. Nevada St.

Seattle, WA 98134

13500 Bel Red Rd.

Bellevue, WA 98005

Additional bargain shopping opportunities:

Second Use

3223 6th Ave S

Seattle, WA 98134

The RE Store

1440 NW 52nd St

Seattle, WA 98107

2. Consider doing projects in the off season. Most contractors start getting busy in the spring and slow down during late fall and winter during the holidays and colder winter months. If you plan your project when their schedules are open you won’t be competing with other homeowners who may have bigger budgets or bigger jobs.

3. Consider doing your project in stages. If you’ve found a reliable contractor but his bid is too high and there’s no room for negotiation, consider doing the project in stages. A good contractor will recognize that gaining a customer for a smaller job with prospects for future work is worthwhile.

4. Talk to References. Before hiring any contractor, ask to speak with other homeowners who hired the contractor for a similar project. Ask them about their experience and where they felt they could have saved a few dollars.

5. Consider doing prep work yourself where you can. For example, if you plan to have the exterior of your house painted, you can save money by clearing the area around the house yourself and power washing just prior to when painting is scheduled to begin.

6. Reconsider your plans. Review the details of your project with your contractor and ask if there are any design elements in your home that can stay and be incorporated into the job rather than replaced. For example, perhaps you can save money (and not compromise too much on design) if you paint and reuse doors rather than purchase new ones.

Top 5 Home Improvement Projects


Kitchen Remodel and Full Home Renovation

Kitchen Remodel and Full Home Renovation

If you are planning a home improvement project we have good news to share with you. According to the Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com), for the second consecutive year the value of home remodeling projects is rebounding, with a 5.5% jump (national average) from last year and the largest increase since 2005. A consistent trend in real estate’s rising resale value is driving the overall improvement.

The survey includes data from 35 projects ranging from lower cost improvements such as entry and garage door replacement to upscale remodeling projects and home additions. The report compares the average cost for these improvements against the value they are expected to yield at resale. Actual numbers will vary depending on specific neighborhoods and how closely the improvements match the report’s project description.

According to the report, the top five home improvements with the highest potential rate of return in Seattle are: 1) Entry Door Replacement 2) Minor Kitchen Remodel 3) Siding Replacement 4) Garage Door Replacement and 5) Window Replacement.

Entry Door Replacement (steel): Exterior replacement projects often yield a better return than remodeling projects. They are some of the least expensive and non-discretionary improvements to make that add instant curb appeal. Replacing an entry door is a relatively simple job, highly cost effective, and may also reduce utility costs. According to the report, up to 104.1% of the cost can be recouped to replace an existing door with a midrange steel door and new lockset.

Minor Kitchen Remodel: A minor remodel of a 200 square foot kitchen that is functional but in need of cosmetic updates. It includes replacing cabinet and drawer fronts, including hardware, but leaving the cabinet boxes intact. Replace laminate countertops, sink, faucet, flooring, wall covering, and paint the trim. Replace wall oven and cook top with new energy-efficient models. Being careful to stay within a modest budget this type of remodel could yield a 97.9% return.

Siding Replacement (fiber cement): Siding replacement is good value and can significantly increase curb appeal by improving the overall look of a home’s exterior. Replacing siding with fiber-cement siding can yield an average return of 87.9% on your investment (in comparison vinyl siding yields 67.7% and foam-backed vinyl siding 71%). However, when deciding on the best siding materials for your home it is also important to keep in mind the style of your home and the others in your neighborhood. For instance, replacing traditional wood siding with vinyl may actually detract from the home’s value.

Garage Door Replacement: Replace an older garage door with a new high tensile strength steel door on new heavy-duty galvanized steel tracks (reuse existing motorized opener). The upscale category door is foam insulated with thermal seals between pinch-resistant panels, includes top panel insulated windows, and has a lifetime warranty. The return on this improvement is expected to be 87.6%. The midrange category door is un-insulated, single-layer, embossed steel with a 10-year limited warranty and yields an average 85% return. Similar to replacing the entry door, garage door replacement is a relatively inexpensive improvement that adds resale value by increasing curb appeal. The added convenience of a highly functional door goes without saying.

Window Replacement (vinyl): Replacing older double-hung windows with insulated vinyl windows is the 5th project with the highest potential rate of return. The highest yield on window replacement is 86.9% and is based on a midrange product, wrapping the existing trim to match, and not disturbing the interior trim. Midrange insulated wood windows with the exterior clad in vinyl or aluminum has a slightly lower return of 82.3%. Alternatively, one can expect a 79.3-86% replacement value when choosing upscale, insulated, low-E, divided-lite vinyl or wood windows. The added comfort and energy savings achieved are yours to enjoy above and beyond the resale value of this improvement. © 2014 Hanley Wood, LLC. Complete data from the Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.

Our expertise is matching customers with the most appropriate service professional for their project. Each contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured, has successfully passed a thorough screening process including reference checks and regular credential audits, and continues to meet high standards of workmanship and professionalism.