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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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A Look at the Nest Thermostat

A former Apple executive has given the lowly programmable thermostat in your home a high-tech makeover. The Nest Learning Thermostat is the brainchild of Tony Fadell, who had a role in the design of the iPod and iPhone. What can the Nest thermostat do for you? The Nest is a ...

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: ...

How To Get Trusted Referrals for Home Repairs

Right now, renovating a home is much, much easier than it had been during the real estate bubble. So how do you pick a contractor? I recall back during the bubble how often I'd get calls from homeowners complaining they couldn't get a call back from contractors. The frenzy around ...

HELOCs Make a Comeback

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 ...

12 Quick DIY Ways To Save on Your Energy Bill

  Summer will be over in a few weeks and it's never too early to start thinking about ways to lower your winter heating costs. By making some basic tweaks to your home, you can stay warm and save money at the same time. Here are 12 quick DIY ways ...

11 Ways To Pay Less for Appliances

Real estate is on the rise in the U.S. as more than 17 million Americans plan to purchase a home this year. With this renewed housing activity comes a high demand for appliances as new homeowners seek to replace out-of-date household gadgets while spending an average of $1,033 on such ...

Safeguard Your Home During Summer Vacation

We're on the cusp of summer vacation. Do you want to let criminals know you're not home? I've talked in the past about so many ways we let our guard down and make ourselves susceptible to criminals, especially in the summer. Fortunately, there are some basic precautions you can take ...

Comcast Home Security Drops The Ball Big-Time

When you're paying for a home alarm system, you have every reason to expect that it will work, right? Not if you're with Comcast for home security, apparently! Wait until you hear this story out of KPRC TV in Houston. Here's a closer look at a Comcast home security system ...

How To Shop For Home Security Systems

The burglar alarm industry is one that has a lot of honest companies, but there are also scamsters out there that you've got to look out for. Nothing makes you feel more invaded than coming home to a break-in. Burglar alarm salespeople often read local police reports and may show ...

Cheaper Temporary Housing Is Coming

Modern engineering has come up with a solution to deliver cheap temporary housing quickly in the wake of natural disasters. Reaction Housing's Exo is a portable, easy-to-assemble temporary house. It has a base and a dome and it sleeps 4 adults. The thing weighs less than 400 pounds. A single ...

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