Friday, September 25, 2009

Who Is Universal Design Designed For?

 If you haven't already read and learned about Universal Design on the AK website, let me recommend you do so! Click here to find out what Universal Design is; it's a quick and easy explanation of the concept!

 Now let us tell you a little about the numerous people for whom Universal Design was, well, designed! Of course the commonly used term "Aging In Place" is easily understood to refer to aging adults whose changing abilities require changing environments. Many people who wish to stay in their homes through their retirement are planning ahead to begin adapting their homes for the years to come. AK was asked to write a piece for the Maturity Matters blog as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist about they many ways that people can begin to adapt their current homes. Read that blog here!

   This mature section makes up an extremely large portion of those who benefit from Universal Design. In 2008 the US Administration On Aging concluded that 1 in 8 Americans is aged 65 or older. By 2030 that statistic will jump to 1 in 5! AARP took this study one step further and asked how many of these adults wanted to stay in their homes as they aged. An amazing 90% planned on staying in their current homes throughout their retirement; 50% of those people are planning on remodeling their home to accommodate their future needs. So, I think we have a handle on the fact that the aging population in our country is quickly realizing that Universal Design and Certified Aging in Place Specialists are going to be the best way to age gracefully in their home sweet home!

   But who else needs Universal Design? AK team members attended a Universal Design webinar this week and were honestly surprised to learn that 11 Million people age 6 and over require assistance to accomplish every day activities around the house; and, 10 Million age 15 and over require a wheelchair or a walker. Universal Design can assist these millions and millions of Americans by just making their home a friendlier place for them to accomplish basic tasks. The need may not even be a permanent one! Many people quickly understand the need for this kind of design plan after they experience an injury. Planning ahead for this can sure make life easier, but even making adjustments after the injury will have amazing benefits.

   Another growing group of Universal Design beneficiaries are veterans. Whether they are injured veterans from the current war, returning home to find new challenges in mobility and independence or even older veterans from wars in our past whose combat injuries still cause them pain and mobility issues. This group has the ability to receive assistance from the Veterans Administration to remodel their home to accommodate to their needs. Contact AK to learn more about the possibility of VA grants for Universal Design remodeling.

   Finally we want to introduce you to the term "Visitability." Visitability accommodations are a kind of Universal Design that applies to family and  friends of differently abled individuals who want to make their homes visitable to all abilities. The recession has driven the market for Visitability Accommodations, with multiple generations temporarily living under one roof or family and friends consolidating their households. Hopefully this has given you a better idea about the many reasons to consider Universal Design when beginning ANY remodeling project. AK has Certified Aging in Place Specialists on staff to assist you in planning your next project to ensure you home meets your current and future needs.

Ed Cholfin
Home-Medic
President, CAPS, PMP
Kitchen and Bathroom Designer
"As a Home-Medic my Hippocratic duty is to ensure you receive the ultimate level of service while providing the quality construction necessary to complete your renovation project; ultimately helping to bring your family closer together."

Office: 1-866-282-6231  /  Fax: 1-888-539-6734  /  Cell: 770-335-2694
Email: Ed@AKCompleteHomeRenovations.com

Visit our Website: www.AKAtlanta.com

AK Complete Home Renovations on FaceBook

Winner of the Atlanta 2007 Contractor of The Year Award for Best Kitchen and
Best Interior, the GuildQuality GuildMaster with Distinction for 2007 & 2008
and the BBB 2008 Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Financing Home Improvements through a Home Equity Loan or HELOC

  From MyBankTracker.com

   While the housing market is in the doldrums the home improvement industry seems to be thriving. High unemployment and business failure rates have cut deeply into the pool of new home buyers but at the same time low labor and material costs have combined with reduced interest rates to make this a propitious time for home modifications. Builders and landscapers are eager for work and the fall in demand has led to a reduction in building material prices. If in previous years people moved home to get additional space or better quality housing, in the current climate the savings gained by investing in home improvements have convinced people to take up this option rather than selling and moving.
   Whether your house has fallen into disrepair and is badly in need of a refurbishing, or you would like to add on an extra room due to family expansion, or perhaps you have a mind to create that dream landscape around the house, now is a good time to act. In addition to the gains from improvements in life quality home modifications, they also represent a sound property investment. A house in an excellent state of repair, extra rooms and a beautiful garden all enhance the property’s value. As the market value of your home increases, so does the equity value – the difference between the price the property is not expected to bring and the amount still owed on the original mortgage. The higher the equity, the better loans you are going to be offered should you wish to borrow with your home as security.
Paying for Home Improvements
   Setting for the moment quality of life issues aside, from economic considerations it is worthwhile borrowing to finance home improvements if the value added is going to exceed the costs of borrowing. If you have a substantial sum of cash that is not currently tied up obviously using this money is going to be the cheapest way to pay for home alterations, but most people wish to avoid having large sums of money at home or on their person and usually large sums are invested. Normally, it comes down to a choice between withdrawing from savings and investments and borrowing.
Two principal calculations need to be made, and depending on the result you are going to know if it is a good idea to make major home improvements now, and if so, how best to finance them:
  1. Do the benefits of increased equity and lifestyle enrichment exceed the costs of the work?
  2. If the answer to question 1 is yes, consider the difference between the interest rates your savings and investments are earning and what you are going to have to pay on a bank loan. If these savings and investments are earning significantly more than the interest of the bank loan, taking out a loan is preferable to withdrawing money from these funds.
Finding the best home improvement loan deals
   Having decided that a loan is the preferred option for paying for adding that new wing onto you house, which of the many loan plans is best for this purpose?
For minor improvements paying by check or credit cards are probably the most economical choices, but for major home improvements the consensus of opinion favors home equity loans and HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) as the most economical choices. Both these loan types are equity-based and their main advantage over other loan and credit types are significantly lower rates of interest and the opportunity to make your debt tax deductible. They are popular sources of finance for home improvements and other special expenses beyond the monthly family budget.
If your property offers the bank sufficient equity, at the same time as paying for the building work you might be able to take advantage of the home equity loan or HELOC to pay off credit card and loan debts carrying much higher interest charges and so achieve a very advantageous debt consolidation. Such an arrangement can bring you all the benefits of a beautiful home, increased equity and reduced debt burden.
   While both the home equity loans and HELOCs use your property as collateral, there are distinct differences between them that should be taken into consideration. The home equity loan is delivered to you as a lump sum of money. If you are confident that the work on your home is definitely going to cost a certain amount and no more, or you have set a strict limit beyond which you do not wish to spend, the home equity loan can meet your needs. If you estimate that the final bill may well exceed the original estimate or you are determined to get this project completed even if it is going to involve extra expenses, taking out a HELOC is a better idea.
The HELOC offers you a line of credit that you can take advantage of in line with the requests for payment received from the contractor. You only need to pay interest on the portion of the HELOC currently taken up. If you have a good credit rating and are taking out the HELOC against your first home, it is possible to find banks willing to cut or eliminate associated costs such as application fees, appraisal charges, and closing costs.
Whichever loan type you finally decide upon there is much to gain by approaching at least three potential lenders and comparing their offers.

If you're interested, read more about understanding the HELOC loan option. 


Ed Cholfin
Home-Medic
President, CAPS, PMP
Kitchen and Bathroom Designer
As a Home-Medic my Hippocratic duty is to ensure you receive the ultimate level of service while providing the quality construction necessary to complete your renovation project; ultimately helping to bring your family closer together.

Office: 1-866-282-6231Fax: 1-888-539-6734
Cell: 770-335-2694 Email: Ed@AKCompleteHomeRenovations.com
Visit our Website: www.AKAtlanta.com
AK Complete Home Renovations on Facebook
Winner of the Atlanta 2007 Contractor of The Year Award for Best Kitchen and
Best Interior, the GuildQuality GuildMaster with Distinction for 2007 & 2008
and the BBB 2008 Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Renovation Coach: Right Price vs. Low Price

By Jesse Morado

I recently advised a homeowner on a remodeling project and recommended that she not hire the lowest priced contractor because the contractors cost breakdown and timeline to complete the project appeared to be unrealistic.
She had four bids, one low, two that were relatively close in price, and one that was higher than all the rest. She stated “I am confident that I can manage this contractor to perform to the right price presented and get him to complete on time.” She elected to move forward with the low-priced contractor, contrary to my advice.
Eight weeks later I received a call from this owner in tears. She was terribly upset that her project was only 30 percent complete and had exceeded the scheduled completion date. She was also in trouble with her boss for taking so much time off of work to focus on her project. She told me that her contractor was a nice guy and listened to her concerns but just never executed or did what he said he would do. She was at the end of her rope and decided to terminate the contractor and begin searching for a new one for the project. She confused “right price” with “low price.”
Today’s economy has really brought low price top of mind. Many of us today are much more sensitive to what things cost and are looking for discounts or mark downs where we can. Our buying behavior has changed and we are making more sacrifices to keep our financial house in order. This is great and I am all for saving money today but we also must be aware of risks that come with accepting the lowest price. This is highly important when it comes to home improvement projects.
Contractors today are being asked to cut margins, discount materials and shave labor costs to get the project down to a number the owner wants to spend. Owners today are talking to five, six and yes even eight contractors (two to five more than you really need) looking for the best price.
In getting this low price do they know what the contractor has given up or failed to include for the sake of landing the sale? Will they be comfortable giving up quality due to the contractor hiring unskilled labor, performing substandard construction applications, and installing used or second hand materials? Do they still expect the contractor to be on site every day to keep their project moving, clean up, protect their home, and be responsive to questions or concerns?
Who is discounting the contractor’s rent, phone charges, truck payments, gas, insurance, license fees, utilities, etc.? Cutting margins puts the contractor’s business at risk, which in turn puts the project at risk. When a project is abandoned, compromised in quality, messy and unsafe, under staffed and lags on forever, the contractor will only bear the bad press for the customer’s negative experience. The decision to hire the lowest priced contractor by the owner who chose to accept the “lowest price” and the contractor who compromised his pricing model for the sake of landing the job have been forgotten at this point of the project. The focus now is how they are both going to settle their differences. Unfortunately, no one wins in this scenario.
A good solution is to select a contractor who can meet your customer service expectations and quality standards and then to discuss how you can work together to value engineer the project to meet the budget you have in mind. Discuss material and product options for your project to determine where you may be able to save. Look at efficient space saving design approaches to manage square footage and labor intensive details. Also consider providing some sweat equity for tasks like demo, site protection, and even clean up to keep your project costs down. Working with a reputable contractor who can assist you in achieving your goals, meeting your timeline and producing the project for an agreed to budget is a much better approach. Be careful today and don’t become a victim of the low price, make sure you have a contractor who can deliver for the right price.

Thanks to renovationcoach.com for sharing that fantastic blog! We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Ed Cholfin
Home-Medic
President, CAPS, PMP
Kitchen and Bathroom Designer
As a Home-Medic my Hippocratic duty is to ensure you receive the ultimate level of service while providing the quality construction necessary to complete your renovation project; ultimately helping to bring your family closer together.

Office: 1-866-282-6231Fax: 1-888-539-6734
Cell: 770-335-2694 Email: Ed@AKCompleteHomeRenovations.comVisit our Website: www.AKcompletehomerenovations.com

AK Complete Home Renovations on Facebook
Winner of the Atlanta 2007 Contractor of The Year Award for Best Kitchen and
Best Interior, the GuildQuality GuildMaster with Distinction for 2007 & 2008
and the BBB 2008 Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.

Name Your Own Price (Not Just For Insurance Anymore!)

  Have you seen this commercial? People shopping in this surreal bright white store staffed by an all-knowing insurance obsessed woman named Flo. In this particular commercial Flo is working with a man who is looking for insurance he can afford:

Man: So I tell you what I want to pay?
Flo: And we build a policy to fit your budget.
Man: I feel so empowered.
Flo: Power to the people!

  What this insurance company is promoting is the ability to name your own price. Sounds like a pretty unique option, right? Actually, not really. We might not have been advertising it on TV, but AK has had this option since it’s inception. What the real key to this ability is, is to realize how it works – both in the insurance and remodeling world.

  What naming your own price really means is that you tell AK what you want to spend, and like the insurance company, we build you a new space to fit your budget. Does that mean you can tell AK to build you a $25,000.00 kitchen and then receive marble floors, SubZero appliances and Cherry cabinets? Of course not. But it does mean that AK can tell you exactly what you can get for your price. It’s then up to you if you want to increase your budget to get those cherry cabinets you have your heart set on; or, if you want to stick with your lower investment amount and enjoy the kitchen facelift that it can buy you. 
The power is yours.
www.AKAtlanta.com

Reflections On Renovtions In 2009

We recently posted an article on our site about the “Nine Renovations Projects That Make Sense For 2009.” It’s not that in the near future we’re headed to some strange new 2009 world where kitchens are suddenly outmoded and overlooked. It’s because so many people that we hear from really really want to change parts of their homes but they are just terrified of making the investment right now. And, I can’t blame them. Most of us have been touched by the recession in one way or another and are spending less and spending smarter. And for most of us, that change was a good thing! So good can come out of bad…but what to do about that house?
While I sheepishly consider myself an expert in the field of remodeling, I would not say I’m the person you want making all your investment decisions. So when a client wants to spend thirty thousand dollars, sixty thousand dollars especially two hundred thousand dollars on my services I want to help them understand that they are making a smart and sound investment. (That’s how AK won the award for MarketPlace Ethics from the Atlanta Better Business Bureau, but we’ll save that story for another day!) This assurance has become even more important over the last 6-8 months. So if you don’t feel like reading the whole article above, let me tell you a little about what it says.
Americans are expected to spend $217 billion on remodeling in 2009, according to Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president for research at NAHB. That’s up from the $210 billion spent in 2008 and not far off from the $218 billion spent in 2007. That’s pretty good, right? Funny we haven’t heard that encouraging statistic on the news!

Siding replacement and window replacement
This is one of the main reasons AK has now devoted a whole page to this #1 investment decision! Throughout the country, both projects ranked among the highest in terms of “cost recouped,” , according to Remodeling magazine। In the Midwest in particular, that numbered hovered around the 70 percent mark for both projects.

Kitchen remodel.
“What sells the house is the kitchen and bathrooms,” says Ahluwalia at NAHB। Indeed, Remodeling magazine’s “cost recouped” figures bear that out with Midwesterners realizing 66.5 percent cost recouped on major kitchen remodels in the midrange price level—the minor remodels capturing nearly 70 percent.

Bathroom remodel.
Like the kitchen, a house with good bathrooms is gads more saleable than one without। And no, the glorious master bedroom bath is not dead, according to our experts. It just looks a little different these days. Skip the giant tub (few people actually use them and they are water guzzlers). Opt instead for a fantastic body spray shower and a smaller soaking tub, Sevon says. If your budget allows, go for mosaics or stone or fancy tilework in that shower area.

So, in a nutshell, there are still things you can do – and do well – that will be a good investment in your home while also making it more livable for your family in the here and now.

Ed Cholfin
Home-Medic
President, CAPS, PMP
Kitchen and Bathroom Designer
As a Home-Medic my Hippocratic duty is to ensure you receive the ultimate level of service while providing the quality construction necessary to complete your renovation project; ultimately helping to bring your family closer together.

Office: 1-866-282-6231Fax: 1-888-539-6734
Cell: 770-335-2694 Email: Ed@AKCompleteHomeRenovations.com

Visit our Website: www.AKAtlanta.com