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Improvements & Security

• Be very, very careful picking somebody to remodel your home. Do not hire people who drop fliers off in your mailbox, or who ring your doorbell and tell you your roof or gutters need fixing.

• For a minor renovation job, take recommendations for a remodeler from friends and neighbors. For a major renovation job, anything above $10,000, get recommendations from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) or the Remodelors Council of the National Association of Home Builders.

• Ask candidates for your remodeling job for the last 10 homes they've worked on, a description of what they did, the dates they started those jobs, the dates the jobs were completed, and how to contact each owner.

• Ask what kind of insurance each contractor carries. Protect yourself by hiring people who have a current certificate of insurance or by making sure you have enough liability coverage in your homeowner's policy in case someone who's uninsured is hurt on your property.

•Don't sign a standard builders supply house contract for a remodeling job. Instead, consider using a contract from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

•Get subcontractors to waive their right to place a lien on your home if they aren't paid by the contractor.

•Never agree to any contract that calls for a large payment up front. Devise with the contractor a reasonable timeline and pay schedule, under which the contractor is paid as work is completed. In the contract, include penalties against the contractor for failing to complete the job on time.

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Solar Panel Installation Guide

Is your power bill getting too costly? Now may be the time to consider installing solar at your home. Residential solar installations are expected to be up 50% year over year. A small number of states where laws are favorable to solar account for a big chunk of that growth: ...

Save money with do-it-yourself security systems

Save money with do-it-yourself security systems

Clark looks at a do-it-yourself home security system that cuts out the middle man -- and your monthly payments.

Digital Thermostats: Worth the high price tag?

Digital Thermostats: Worth the high price tag?

Buying a new digital thermostat can really cut heating costs. Clark has been testing the Nest digital thermostat for months.


My Favorite Gadgets at CES 2015

While at CES, I got a chance to interview Jim Barry (@ceaanswerman), the Digital Answer Man and media spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association. One of the things I discussed with Jim was how the "Internet of things" concept that was so fuzzy to me in years past really came ...


Buying a DIY Alarm System Will Save You Money

A couple of months ago my wife and I had somebody break into our house at 4 a.m. in the morning and this made it apparent that we needed to get some sort of security system. We originally thought that our two dogs would have been enough to scare someone ...


9 Areas of Your Home That Need Winter Preparation

I know it just seems like we just Autumn-proofed our homes, right? Yet while you may not have as many problems as your aunt in Billings, Montana, as the temperature drops, you definitely need to get ready for old man winter… Here are 9 areas of your home that need ...


Your Guide to Christmas Lights Safety

Nothing quite says ‘Happy Holidays’ like hanging roughly 25,000 lights on your house, by your house, in your house, in your trees, on your shrubs, on your lawn… Holiday lighting is a fun, festive way to celebrate.  I don’t know about you, but I love to drive around town and ...


How To Outsource the Financially Savvy Way

One of the things I love most about people who believe in living frugally: their dedication to DIY. The do-it-yourself mentality goes hand-in-hand with living well on less and saving money. Frugal folks know they can save big by handling their own errands, chores, and projects. I appreciate that people ...


When Does a HELOC Make Sense in Your Life?

For the first time since the real estate bubble, your ability to borrow against the value of your home is returning. This is significant because over the last 8 years, there was almost no home equity line of credit (HELOC) activity and almost no second mortgage activity. But now we ...


How To Handle Home Maintenance on a Budget

As a single mother of three, I decided it would be best to use the FHA loan program to purchase a drastically reduced foreclosure and get instant equity, plus a mortgage payment less than my former rent. That left a little wiggle room for maintenance and the potential to renovate ...

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