Have you ever seen the film “The Money Pit”? It’s a movie from 1986 starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. They buy a $1 million distressed sale mansion that is on the market for $200k. What happens next is what you’d expect -- a comedy of errors about all of the home renovations that need to be done while the house is collapsing underneath their feet. At the end of day, this “money pit” probably cost them well over $1 million and it would have just been easier to have spent the money for a new home upfront. I’m not exactly in the same situation, but I am about to embark on some home renovations. They will be extensive enough that we are going to have to move out of our house for a few months. So I am left with two pretty big headaches. First, I really don’t want to get taken advantage of on the home renovation side. I want people in my house that I can trust to do impeccable work, but not overcharge me because they “think” I may be able to afford it. Secondly, I need to figure out where I can make a home for my family during this time. I need enough child-friendly space for three young boys. No big staircases that anyone might go tumbling down. No deck that is 15 feet off the ground. Yes, it’s going to be a long few months.
If you find yourself knowing that home renovations are on the horizon, I would keep a few things in mind. Whether these renovations are imperative to the structural stability of your home or because you think your home needs a little cosmetic facelift, negotiation is key. Don’t underestimate the power of your ability to get what you want for the price that you want it. Find a contractor and designer that come with impeccable references. At times like these I actually think it’s beneficial to work with someone out of the neighborhood or out of your main circle. Do your homework upfront and know what you want – don’t let a contractor dictate your vision. If you want to take one more step, you can always check to see if the remodeling contractor is a member of NARI, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. I’ve also had great luck find high quality people to work with (handymen, audio/video technicians etc.) using Kudzu.com.
Now that you are going to negotiate your way to a fair and balanced price for the renovation, it’s time to find some quality, affordable housing for your family. It’s not easy finding a good rental especially since I only need something for 4-6 months and have to accommodate three young children and German Shepherd. The obvious places to start are Craigslist, Harry Norman, Zillow, and the apartment complexes in your area. But were I had the most success (and found a place) was through using the app NextDoor. It’s not just for finding rentals – but makes it possible to send a message directly to your immediate neighbors as well as surrounding neighborhoods.
If you aren’t familiar with NextDoor, let me give you the run down. NextDoor is a private social network that is only accessible to people with a local neighborhood, subdivision, or community, depending on how the specific network is set up. Close to 20,000 neighborhoods are using the app today. The content of the group is secure and there are controls in place so anyone outside of the specific neighborhood or community will not be allowed to join. On this app, people post about a multitude of things ranging from their lost dog to thefts to picnics in the neighborhood park. The savvy business side of this app is when people use it as a platform to either rent or sell their homes. People feel more comfortable renting their homes to people they know in their community, as there is generally a tighter bond of trust. So, I’m a very glad that my wife suggested trying Nextdoor – a half a dozen good leads turned into a great find, and great place to stay during our renovations. Thanks to Nextdoor – another great example of the Uber Economy.
Wes Moss, the Chief Investment Strategist for Wela, writes a weekly blog for AJC.com. You can find his original article here.