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Home Improvement Projects: DIY or Pro?

If you have a home improvement project, should you do it yourself (DIY) or hire a pro? Even if you're handy with tools and think you can save money, consider these factors first.

Evaluate Your Time

Determine the time needed to complete a project. It can be easy to misjudge. Take painting, for example. It may not take long, but it's the rest - covering floors and furniture, correcting wall problems, taping trim, and cleaning up that eats up hours. Larger projects may take months to complete when a contractor can finish in weeks. When you've come up with an estimate, decide if you want to take that much time away from work, friends, and family.

Assess Other Project Requirements

Other factors to consider are:

  • Materials - You'll need exact measurements if you do it yourself. Consider ordering all materials first. Check materials to ensure they're the items ordered and are undamaged. You’ll need a vehicle to pick up materials and dump the trash.
  • Tools - Certain jobs require specific tools. What will you need? You may have to buy or rent tools. Do you know how to use them effectively?
  • Skills - Are you capable of completing the entire project yourself? You may know electrical, but how about drywall? If not, sign up for a local community college course or attend a class at a home improvement center. You could also talk to a pro by paying for a few hours to pick his or her brain.
  • Safety - Doing projects at heights, using tools you aren't comfortable with, and doing unfamiliar work can be dangerous. Nail guns can puncture building materials and body parts. If you work on a roof, there's always the risk of a fall. With ladders, people not only can fall from them, but the ladders themselves can fall if not properly secured or braced.
  • Liabilities - Many communities require permits for projects. While a reputable contractor would handle getting the permits, a DIY homeowner must remember that task and understand the requirements. You may open yourself to liabilities if you make it a DIY project but hire casual labor to help with parts of it. For instance, if a worker gets hurt, you may get sued. If a worker causes a fire or significant damage, it may invalidate your homeowner’s policy.
  • Time - Factor in the cost of your own time. What could you earn at work for the time you'll spend on the project?

Financing Your Project

Credit cards work for many situations, but home improvement projects are not usually one of them. Although you can pay for the work with a credit card, there’s usually a 3% or more fee for the transaction. To put that into perspective, a $10,000 renovation bill with a 3% credit card fee would cost you $10,300. And you’ll pay interest on the credit card’s balance until that amount has been paid in full. As of now, the average credit card interest rate is 19%. This is why credit cards are rarely used for renovation projects.

If you don’t have cash for a renovation, there are several ways to finance the project at a reasonable interest rate.

  • Home Improvement Loan - Some financial institutions offer home improvement loans like the one offered by First Florida Credit Union. The loans typically provide a reasonable interest rate, repayment terms of up to 10 years, minimum and maximum loan amounts, so you’re less likely to get over your head in project add-ons, and there’s no lien placed on the property as collateral for the loan.
  • Home Equity Line of Credit – This option allows you to take out a line of credit using the equity you’ve already built in your home. It typically offers a low APR and terms of up to 20 years with a 10-year draw period. It’s helpful when you aren’t sure how much you’ll need, but you need access to funds to withdraw as you go. Repayment is based on an adjustable rate.
  • Home Equity Loan or Second Mortgage – Unlike a line of credit that works similarly to a credit card, a Home Equity Loan or Second Mortgage is a one-time loan paid in a lump sum based on the equity you have available in your home. The money is repaid through a fixed-rate amortized payment schedule.

Start by speaking with your local credit union since credit unions are known to offer competitive loan products at lower interest rates than big banks. At First Florida Credit Union, we help members determine which options would be best for their situation. With knowledgeable help, you’ll be on your way to making your renovation dreams come true in no time.

If you’re looking for ways to save up first before you start renovating, you can Find Money Fast with a Spend-Free Challenge.


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