Home Improvement 101

A home improvement is any activity that involves the repair, remodeling, construction, altering, or adding to a residential building or property. It may include anything from a new roof to a new bathroom, and even a new porch or gazebo.

In the United States, spending on home improvements has increased over 50 percent since 2010, according to a recent report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. Aging homeowners who have built up equity in their homes are the primary drivers behind this rise, as are a growing number of people who are financially capable of paying for home renovations.

Cost Vs. Value

When it comes to home improvements, the ROI (return on investment) is often the main deciding factor as to whether or not they’ll be worth it in the long run. Several studies have shown that certain home improvement projects, such as replacing an entry door or garage door, can net a homeowner up to 75 percent or more in resale value. A major kitchen remodel and an addition to a master suite, however, only net up to 60 percent or less in ROI.

Investing in a home can make it more appealing to buyers, but it’s important to keep your goals in mind and be careful not to overbuild or spend too much money on renovations. Depending on the market, your home’s value can fluctuate dramatically from one month to the next and your renovation costs will be a factor in how much you’ll be able to sell it for in the future.

Before you start on any project, be sure to do your research and consult with a professional. Not only will they be able to guide you through the process of getting your home ready for sale, but they can also recommend the best materials and ensure that the work is completed properly.

Contracts, Permits and Insurance

A home improvement contract should state the total amount of the work to be done and any warranties or terms that may apply. It should also be signed by both parties before the work begins or any money is paid.

Homeowners who choose to use a contractor should check their license and find out if it is current. In Maryland, all contractors must be licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC). MHIC inspectors verify that contractors pass a test on home improvement law and general business competency.

The MHIC also inspects contractors’ work and makes certain they are in compliance with local building codes and regulations. In addition, MHIC has a program to monitor contractors and help identify any issues that could impact a client’s ability to receive a warranty on work performed.

Before hiring a contractor, be sure to ask for references and get all of their contact information. The contractor should provide you with their name, address and MHIC license number.

In the state of Maryland, all contractors must be licensed by the MHIC and be insured. You can check the contractor’s license by visiting the MHIC website or calling the MHIC office at 410-424-7722. It is also a good idea to call your local police department and the Department of Revenue to verify that the contractor has a valid license.