Saturday, January 19, 2013

Can you trust what the "pros" tell you?

Sometimes, there’s something to be said for going with what a pro has to say. On the other hand, if you aren’t particularly savvy when it comes to that pro’s specialty, it can be easy to get duped. 

A recent newspaper article in the Atlanta area talked at length about the benefits of having an unfinished basement in a newly constructed house. The article indicated that homebuyers could finish the basement to add living space and thereby easily increase the value of their home. The tempting pictures that accompanied the article were of typical construction that can be found in professionally-designed living spaces today: kitchen area, recreation room/man cave, theater and television viewing area, wide open panoramas of lush outside gardens, all packaged neatly into a wood-floored, stone-walled, painted and trimmed corner of paradise. Beautiful.

The article itself, though, brought forth some interesting topics that today’s homeowners need to think about when it comes to trusting their contractor or so-called “pro.” One quoted source stated emphatically that it was best to add walls, bathrooms, electrical, floors and trim to the basement while the house is still under construction in order to most efficiently complete the project. This would seem to imply that, should the homeowner decide to wait for a short time before committing to a basement buildup, they would have to pay much more to have it done than if they simply had the contractor do it... 
Did you catch the upsell? Yep. It’s there. Presented neatly in an authoritative article on the benefits of finished basements, a contractor is not-so-subtly letting you know that they can offer you the additional service of finishing out your basement for you at what is sure to be an “economical” price that will effectively bolster their bottom line. 

That being said, there is a logic to it that simply cannot be denied. All the cabinetry, flooring, finishes and appliances can be ordered in one shot and put together for you. The electrical and plumbing won’t have to be further outsourced. Your yard will be put together after the trucks have left, without new trucks leaving muddy holes where your barbecue was supposed to go. The question is, can you afford a $60,000 upsell? Or, can you take care of some of it yourself? 

If going the DIY route isn’t for you, but you’ve just got to have that basement rumpus room, consider the merits of asking around for quotes from other contractors for upsell items on your home like a finished basement. Simply saying “yes” to your own contractor is like writing them a blank check. They’ve already quoted one price for the home construction itself. Everything else that they can sell you on top of that is just gravy. By forcing the contractor to compete, you’ll have the advantage of making them give you the best price, just as they would if they were walking into your home for the first time. 

The general rule of thumb when it comes to home construction projects is to obtain at least three estimates, and get them in writing. You’re not going to want to have to deal with cost overruns when it comes to this sort of project. In addition, make certain before you even plan to begin the project that the basement in your home is set up to be finished out. It will need to be waterproofed, with high enough ceilings to be useful, and a way to evacuate any moisture that might accumulate during a basement flood. Once you’ve got the three estimates, take the lowest to your contractor, and give them the chance to earn the upsell. They should be willing to cut you a deal to earn your business, but that’s the trick: make them earn it.

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