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 5 Misconceptions about Home Improvement 

by Jennifer Weldon


1. Big Box Home Improvement Stores Have the Best Prices

It is easy to be lulled into thinking that big box home improvement stores carry the best prices for consumers. To be fair, some items they offer are great deals for customers. And while the big chains do get discount pricing from manufacturers and suppliers they tack on profits, and charge a lot for labor and installation. If you are tackling a home remodeling or renovation project your professional contractor is just as likely to get these direct prices and will pass them along to you without the increase in labor charges.

2. Due to the Housing Downtown, Now is Not the Time to Remodel

It is true that some people have put remodeling projects on hold. However their reasons for doing so may be due to misconceptions about value or due to the fact they cannot secure financing. Many banks have stopped home equity loans that typically paid for large remodeling projects.

However, now could be the best time to remodel your home. Investing in your home may be a safer place to put your money than the turbulent economic markets. Also, you will see a return on your investment when the housing market rebounds and it is time to sell your home. A study from The Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University noted that “several factors - including the recent underinvestment in portions of the owner-occupied and rental housing stock, as well as the long-term strength of the high-end improvement market—ensure a robust recovery in spending.� This means that more people will start remodeling projects shortly. As demand rises, so will prices. So there couldn't be a better time to start your home remodeling project.

3. Solar Panels and Geothermal Heating Systems Pay for Themselves

Many professional HVAC contractors state that installing solar panels or geothermal heating systems are actually not cost effective. It is erroneous to think that government and utility company incentives will pay for these items. True, there are some tax credits out there, but they will not cover the entire cost of these.

It is true that these systems can lower your monthly heating and cooling costs, particularly if you live in a high energy rate area. But a high energy rating on a traditional system can also save you money, at a lower up front cost. If your utility company is willing to pay a competitive rate for any surplus energy you harvest and you are eligible for significant federal, state, and local tax credits then installing these eco-friendly features may make sense. But if you don't these features can cost thousands of dollars. It also looks like the costs won't be decreasing in the near future because their engineering costs are fixed.

4. Vinyl Siding is the most Cost-Effective Siding Material.

Vinyl siding is by far the most commonly used siding on homes today. Vinyl siding costs approximately 20-30% less than fiber cement siding. However, fiber cement lasts longer than vinyl siding. Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report from 2007 rates the average rate of return as 5-8% higher for fiber cement siding over vinyl siding. This brings the whole idea of cost effectiveness into question. You may need to ask yourself how long you plan on living in the home, what effects your climate will have on the siding, and similar questions.

For instance, that 2007 report also states that in the south central region of America, and along the Pacific Coast, the return for fiber cement siding over vinyl jumps to 10-20%. It may come down to a question of what your personal preference is and what value you place on it. There is no doubt that home with fiber cement siding stands out from a home that has vinyl siding it both beauty and curb appeal. In a neighborhood that only has vinyl siding homes however, it may be harder to earn the greater return.

5. Home Inspections are only Necessary When Buying or Selling a Home.

Home inspections are usually a requirement when buying or selling a home. But, homeowners whose house is not even on the market can benefit from a home inspection. A professional home inspection can uncover problems beneath or inside the walls of your home before they become huge problems and require costly repairs. They can see the start of mold, foundation cracks, roofing problems, chimney cracks and more. With a professional home inspection report in hand, you can have qualified contractors repair these minor items before they become major disasters.

It is not necessary to have a thorough home inspection annually if your home is relatively new. However, if your home is more than 10 years old, having such a report done each year will ensure you find any problems as they arise. If you are planning any renovations or remodeling projects on your home, having a home inspection done beforehand is also a good way to ensure you are fixing what needs to be fixed. You can take care of any problem areas at the same time you have the contractors out performing the remodeling work. A reputable home inspection should be done by a licensed home inspection. They will provide you a detailed report listing each and every deficiency in the home, as well as every item they inspected.