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Before launching your renovation project, here's what you need to know to save money and protect your investment

Many people are planning renovations, so there may be a wait time. Use that time to make sure you are approaching the project in the best way.

DALLAS — We are in the season for renovations. According to a survey conducted in the middle of this year, a whopping 7 out of 10 homeowners here said they were planning or considering a renovation by the end of 2021. 

Beware though: The same survey found that 65% of those who had contacted a contractor were told the work won’t start for at least three months because so many people want to do a reno right now.

I just had a couple of big projects done and didn’t wait long at all. That’s not to say it was easy. Here are some things I got right, though:

Do your research

1. I started with research for how much projects should cost for my area, and who is recommended to do the work. I visited places like Google, Angi, Home Advisor, Next Door. I talked with other people I know who have had similar projects done. I even talked with hardware store workers, which is extraordinary. They also gave me some leads on good local contractors.

2. I also asked contractors for references, and I actually read through ratings and comments about contractors using some of those same sites where I researched. Comments - and particularly trends in the comment section - can tell you a lot.

3. I checked on prospective contractors with the Better Business Bureau. Looking at complaint history there can also give you a good picture of a contractor.

4. Forget the three-estimate rule. I got a ton of estimates, which were coming in all over the place, until we had a bingo.

How to save money

5. I kept some costs down by being realistic, knowing what the possibilities were for the space, and which extras I could do without that would keep me within my budget.

Even though I don’t want to do the work, I am handy around the house. So, I always figure out if there are some do-it-yourself aspects of a project that can save me money when shopping the overall job to contractors.

6. After a few estimates came in extremely high, I looked at itemization on the estimates. I knew generally how much the materials I needed should cost, and the contractor estimates included quite a bit of mark-up. So, I purchased some of the crucial construction materials from retailers and wholesalers. Those wholesale stores can also connect you with contractors.

Protect your investment

7. There were no winks, no nods, and no handshakes. You must get every detail of the job - the charges, the timeframe for it all, and the warranty - in writing.

8. Also, ask to see a contractor’s licensing and insurance information. Admittedly, I have used people in the past who didn’t have those credentials. That’s a judgment call based on the project.

9. We agreed on specific payment terms up front. You’ll likely pay the contractor like 10% upfront, and possibly some more during the project. But a significant chunk of payment shouldn’t happen until the very end - and not until you have inspected the work throughout the process and are happy with the final result. More about that here and here.

More to consider

10. Final note, I didn’t do this, but this article suggests you consider paying with a credit card - as long as you pay it off. It may offer some protections.

BONUS: See more great information and tips here for hiring a contractor.

Want more stories like these? Watch our Right on the Money series during WFAA News at 10 p.m. Check wfaa.com/RightOnTheMoney for the latest segments.