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WHAT EVERY NEW HOME MUST HAVE

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WHAT EVERY NEW HOME MUST HAVE

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”  –  Chinese Proverb

Are you thinking of building your home? There is something you are going to need whether you realize it or not, because every new home has to have one – a building plan. Did you know that you can pick and choose your own set of plans, quickly and easily, using the Internet?

Building plans are typically found in home magazines, but now you can go to a new site, Allplans.com, and find the largest database of home plans in the country. Boasting over 15,000 building plans, with over 24,000 more plans to be added over the next six months, Allplans offers home plans directly from the nation’s top home designers, the same designers and plans that the custom and volume builders use.

Picking your own plans assures that you and your builder will build the home you really want. If a builder buys a set of plans, he or she can use the same set of plans to build the same home dozens of times. The advantage for the builder to use the same plans over and over is that he or she can estimate and control costs more easily and repeat the best ways to finish out the plan’s idiosyncratic details. The advantage of using the builder’s plans is not as good for the home buyer.

When you choose from among your builder’s inventory of plans, you have less inventory from which to choose. You may also see your home again and again in the same subdivision or town. That could spoil the fun in owning a custom-built home, or a customized volume-builder home.

Using your own set of plans won’t cost you any more money as far as the builder is concerned, so there’s no reason not to pick out your own plans. “About 80 percent of home plans sold are to individuals,” says Ron Lester, marketing director for Allplans. “and 80 percent of those plans are sold to women. Women control the pocketbooks and they are also typically the design person of the family.”

Allplans.com is the brainchild of Bob Chatham, owner of Chatham Home planning in Mobile, Alabama. He and his staff realized over two years ago that there was a growing shift of buyers seeking information about new homes toward the Web. The company digitized the plans they already had on hand, and promoted the idea to other designers. The site has a partnership with the American Institute of Building Design’s (AIBD.) and offers home plan digitalization services to the organization’s 1,400 members. Allplans.com is now the go-to site for independent access to the top home designers in the country, which number approximately 6,000 nationwide.

Home plans are easy to search at Allplans.com. The inventory is not organized by designer but by the type of home, such as Colonial, Contemporary, Traditional, or Tudor; square footage; number of stories, and; number of bedrooms and bathrooms. The site guides you to homes of your interest level, and then if you find the plan of your dreams, you can buy it online. The plans are overnighted for next business day delivery.

Note: Before you buy home plans, be sure to show the plan you have in mind to your builder online, so you both can make sure that the plan suits your building site as well as the building specifications of the division or neighborhood where you will be living.

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WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR NEW HOME WALK THROUGH

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WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR NEW HOME WALK THROUGH

“Change your thoughts and you change your world. “ – Norman Vincent Peale

Boxes are packed; utilities are all arranged, and the moving van will pull up in a few days to transport your worldly belongings to your brand new home. There are a number of formalities to deal with, however, and once they’re out-of-the-way, you’re “home free”, so to speak. After all, you have watched this home go up stick by stick, delighted in that special warm beige Berber carpeting being installed, and have a tough time sleeping these past few nights because of the intense anticipation of the move.

Aside from the escrow appointment to take in the remainder of your down payment and record title, making it “official”, you are about to participate in the walk-through, or new home orientation, as many builders now refer to it. The builder may have given you literature explaining how long it takes, its purpose, and how they return afterwards to make touch-ups and corrections. What they may fail to hit home with, however, is the immense importance of this tour as a learning tool for you as you spend the next odd number of years of your life there. Getting the most from your new home orientation can take some planning and research; viewing it as a mere formality may see you regretting taking it so lightly someday. This is usually your last opportunity to have uncompromised time with the builder itself, whether dealing with the superintendent in charge of having your home-built, or a customer service quality-control representative. And since there is such a large investment at stake, why not look upon it as important as most other major events in life that prepare you for the future?

View this event as more than a hunt for hairline cracks in drywall, unpainted trim and crooked moldings. It’s important to remember that a new home is a handmade product, touched by literally dozens of individuals before its completion, making it an inexact science. As they say, nothing is perfect in our physical world.

First, see if it is possible to get a copy of the builder’s warranty book ahead of time. This is not a common request with many builders, so it may take some prodding through the builder’s salesperson. Telling them that you want to study it so that you are prepared for the orientation may make them less defensive.  Then, peruse it for a while, noting what items are included in the builder’s structural claims, and what warranties expire well before the ten years or so the builder is “on the hook”, so to speak, for the big stuff.

On the day of the orientation, take a clipboard and even a video camera if you must, to document and to learn about the care and maintenance of your new home, and use the manual to give you insight into what to ask about during the orientation. For instance, what does the builder say about the windows that have been installed? Dual-paned windows are oftentimes replaceable indefinitely through the manufacturer if the gas seal is compromised between the panes and moisture gets in. Other products in the new home have stated one-year warranties through their manufacturers. It’s important to note that many products that are installed within your new home carry individual warranties that are passed on to you when you close escrow. Failing to fill out and send in applicable warranty cards, as tedious and unpleasant as it may be, may cause you heartache in the future if something goes haywire. (Check to see if many of these manufacturers have on-line warranty registrations now, as this process may not be as unpleasant as filling out cards.)

There may be a list of items that the builder will be returning for over the period of the next few weeks or so. Most builders want to get this part over with, so they will schedule the work to be done as quickly as possible. If you miss an appointment to be on hand for a repair, it will be your loss if the builder’s schedule is now booked up for weeks to come for a return visit. Instructions regarding maintenance are among the most important parts of this meeting. Care of floor surfaces, how often to change heating and air conditioning filters, how to keep standing water away from the foundation of your home and maintain the builder’s original grade, the importance of sealing grout in tile areas, and warnings about disturbing insulation in crawl spaces; all these and more prepare you for the future, helping to keep your home “new”, preserving its value. Using your thermostat setbacks for efficient energy savings is important to your pocketbook, no doubt, and the care and use of your fireplace may help it serve you better for many years to come.

Common sense definitely comes into play here; builders are oftentimes called on to the scene to unclog toilets only to find foreign objects have been stuffed down them. After your own orientation, it may be advisable to conduct your own “kid” orientation, instructing your children on what constitutes “abuse” of your new home and how to respect it as well. Apart from the warnings about appropriate toilet functions, giving an elementary course on how to properly use systems and items installed in your new home may go a long way in eliminating future warranty and expensive repairs calls.

In the longer scheme of things, buy a special “house” calendar and folder, and mark down important dates for warranty follow-ups and regularly scheduled maintenance. If your builder has given you paper work to be filled out quarterly for the first year, mark down when it needs to be faxed or mailed by. Write down workmen’s appointments, and keep copies of warranty follow-up paper work with the calendar, noting the work that was done, assurances made, and items still on order for replacement. Note when manufacturer’s warranties were sent in and take copies if you can.

Take this appointment to learn about your new home as seriously as you would learn from a physical examination. Get a relative to watch the kids, tell friends and family members that they are welcome to visit at another time, and take more than the customary amount of time off work for it.

It’s safe to say that you will get from your new home orientation what you are willing to put into it. Seeing yourself and the builder of your new home as “partners” in this process will help eliminate finger-pointing when emotions are high before, during, and after the move.

SETTLING IN: PRE-MOVE POINTERS FOR TAKING STOCK

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SETTLING IN: PRE-MOVE POINTERS FOR TAKING STOCK

“Even a minor event in the life of a child is an event of that child’s world and thus a world event.” – Gaston Bachelard

Despite all of the hassle moving represents, when the anxiety is gone and the dust has cleared, most of us have to admit that it’s a liberating experience. It forces us to rid ourselves of the clutter accumulated in the house we’re leaving. Whether or not you buy new furniture for your new residence, the motions of packing up and heading for different surroundings is a positive experience for most movers. It’s an opportunity to start over.

Before you move, it’s a good idea to take inventory of your belongings and consider what place they’ll have — if any — in your new home. After all, when you moved into your current home, your family’s needs were different. Since then, its occupants have become older, hobbies have been abandoned, tastes have changed, and now, suddenly, items you once thought you’d die without don’t seem that wonderful anymore.

* Taking stock of your furniture is a good place to start; after all, if you decide to get rid of a piece or two, you can save yourself the considerable expense of moving them. In addition to your furniture, take a good look at your lamps, rugs, pillows, and other accessories — particularly the ones you’ve stored away for months — and decide whether they really reflect your tastes anymore. Some of them may serve little purpose other than to clutter your closets and collect dust. Rid yourself of them, while reminding yourself that everything you pack means more boxes, more packaging and labor costs, and more to unpack later.

* An effective strategy is to draw on paper the floor plan of your new home. Sketch in the designated spots for your furniture, making sure you’ve noted where such obstacles as fireplaces, windows, built-in shelves or desks, etc., are located. Remember where your electric outlets, telephone jacks, and television hookups are located, and make sure you’ve considered the direction in which your doors open. If you’re looking for a more exact plan, with square footage taken into account, take a note from Better Homes and Gardens Online, which suggests using graph paper to draw your rooms to scale. Each square translates to one foot of available space.

Here’s where your creativity takes over: After measuring the size and shape of each major piece of your furniture, draw them on graph paper using the same one-square-per-foot scale as you did for the rooms in your new home. Then cut the shapes and arrange your miniature furniture within your various room floor plans. Once you’ve made a decision about what suits you and where, attach the shapes onto the page.

While this process requires a little patience and a little more creativity, planning ahead enables you to avoid either moving heavy furniture yourself, long after the movers have left; or having your movers pause upon entry into a room, shouldering a heavy load as you decide where that 300-pound dresser should be placed. (Of course, you’d be lucky to find such a tolerant mover.) You’ve got a plan of attack that makes your life and your movers’ lives easier. You can point them in a direction and move on to the next item. The bottom line is that you’re paying by the hour, and a little sketching and cutting now will save you labor costs later. Take the trouble to draw only your major pieces of furniture; your smaller items and accessories can be placed anywhere for now, until you have time to consider the perfect spots for them.

This strategy also allows you to experiment with various arrangements that you may have considered in the past, but abandoned because it seemed like too much effort to pursue. And trying out new configurations is a consolation for not being able to purchase new furniture. Even if you’ve resigned yourself to a sofa that doesn’t thrill you anymore, arranging your furniture in a different manner may provide you with a completely new outlook on belongings that once seemed tired. That variety, combined with a new place of residence, is bound to inspire you. And don’t restrict your furnishings to the rooms in which you’ve traditionally placed them. For example, the chest of drawers sitting in your bedroom might look even better in your new living room. This move is your big chance to experiment — and you don’t even have to move the furniture yourself.

And while you’re laying out your plans on graph paper, you might want to determine the focal point of each room first — a fireplace, a large window, anything that grabs you when you first enter the room. Then arrange your furniture around that focal point. And while it’s a given, it’s well worth repeating that you should consider how each room is going to be used before you design its layout. For example, when you’re planning your living room, if you plan to spend a lot of time entertaining there, you’ll want to place chairs and/or sofas close together and provide plenty of walking room, as well.

After you’ve taken inventory of your current home, take stock of your home-to-be, starting with the kitchen and its appliances. With any luck, you’ll have ensured that all of those kitchen appliances are in good, safe, working order long before your move. Make sure the hot water system is both working and the correct size for your family’s needs. If the answer to either of those questions is no, replacing the unit will save you both considerable energy and money. Then investigate your new home’s heating and cooling system, which is going to represent a predominant percentage of your monthly energy expenses. To figure out if it’s running in top condition, determine the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating for your air conditioning and heating unit. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system. A rating under 8 is considered relatively inefficient. Also check your ductwork to ensure that its size is appropriate and that it’s clean. Finally, make sure your thermostat and controls are operating correctly.

Home owners often forget that clothes washers and dryers eat up energy, particularly when stackable units are involved. Because users can’t fill them with much clothing, they’re forced to run more loads though the units, resulting in increased energy consumption and subsequent expenses. On the other hand, units that are too large may use excess water or heat. Regardless of the type of unit in your new home, make sure that the washer drains properly and that your dryer is vented out of your home.

And speaking of energy consumption, study all doors, windows, vents, and other passages to the outside for cracks. If you see any gaps or if you feel any air streams, seal them either with caulk or weather stripping. And check your windows to find out if they’re double-paned and fit tightly.

Finally, if you can’t paint your new home’s interior prior to your move-in date, don’t unpack until you do. And be sure to consider the direction of light in your home — where it hits the walls and the shadows it creates. Painting your dining room a deep shade of forest green, for example, could backfire on you if your lot is heavily treed, or if the room generally doesn’t receive much sunlight. The color that seemed vibrant in the can may leave you simply depressed once it’s covering the walls of an already dark room.

Written by Courtney Ronan
May 27, 1998

SITE SELECTION IS AN IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION

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SITE SELECTION IS AN IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION

“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life IS worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” –  James Truslow Adams

Standing in the model home sales office, leaning on the padded edges of the builder’s “topo” board, you stare at the little shapes, numbers and street names as the builder’s sales consultant explains their new home neighborhood layout. You’ve chosen the floor plan that flipped your switch, and now it’s time to select a home site for it. Although you’ve driven around the community’s empty streets and half-built rows of homes, you’re having a tough time making a decision between lots # 47, 49, or 52.

There is only so much selection and so much assistance production homebuilder personnel can give you when choosing a home site. Faced with the prospect of making a decision from among the available lots it’s ultimately up to you. You must study each of the home sites’ liabilities and opportunities for the home you have chosen. Identifying the site characteristics that both please you and disappoint you before any structure has even been started takes some time and forethought. To do this, you may want to ask the following questions and see what answers both you and your sales consultant find in the process:

1. What direction does the house face? Study the home’s floor plan and where the sun rises and sets in relation to the rooms. Is direct sun shining on the front of the house in the mornings or afternoons? How will either orientation affect life in that area of the home at different times of the day? If you’re planning a pool in the back yard, how long will the sun linger there? Will the home’s energy efficiency be affected by its orientation?

2. What will your windows overlook? If you are buying in a production home neighborhood, will you be privy to activities through a neighbor’s bedroom windows, or will they be able to see into yours? (Decide just how much of the “American Beauty” lifestyle you can take.)

3. Does anything have the potential to block views you consider worthwhile keeping? What are the builder’s plans for homes around you? What may be planned by the city for the area around this new home area that can eventually be visible from the home site?

4. Is the home site in a low-lying area? If so, what is the potential for flooding from higher grounds and homes above?

5. Is the home site level, gradually sloped, or dramatically sloped? How steep will your driveway be, and how can that affect you, your family, your visitors, and your vehicles? If you are working with an architect and considering choosing a home site for a custom home, get him involved in the selection process to answer these questions.

6. How is the lot shaped, and how will the home you choose fit on it? Have the agent, consultant, architect, or homebuilder plot the house’s “footprint” onto a mini-map for you, giving you backyard, front yard and side yard distances from the house to the property lines. These will dictate how much room you have for recreation, boat or RV parking, courtyards and patios and privacy from neighbors. Also ask about the approved setbacks for that area.

7. If the property has a slope to be retained, how will it be treated? Redwood? Concrete blocks? Railroad ties? How high will retaining walls be and what is required by the city? As the agent or builder to explain slope ratios to you and also explain how much usable yard space may be robbed by retaining walls.

8. How will the site drain? If you are in an elevated area, you can be held liable if your lot’s grading causes low-lying homes to flood in heavy rains. Find out where the water goes and how the swails are arranged to avoid this phenomenon.

9. Where does traffic go when it passes the home site? If you have small children, corner lots can be desirable size-wise, but offer little protection from cars whipping around curves. If the home site is at the entry to a community, you can count on a busy home front at certain times of the day. Homes located at the back of a subdivision get the least amount of traffic when the neighborhood is an enclave.

10. Ask the agent to fully explain easements for access, utilities and any other purposes that created their existence. Generally speaking, you are not allowed to build any structure over an easement, so make sure this is not space your would plan for pools, outbuildings, or eventual add-ons.

Getting as much information as early as possible is the key to making a wise choice in the location of your home. If you can’t get immediate answers to your questions, it may be wise to wait until they are answered to make a final decision. The choice you make may make a huge difference in your own family’s comfort and well-being and affect your future property value as well.

THE TROUBLE WITH MORTGAGE CALCULATORS

THE TROUBLE WITH MORTGAGE CALCULATORS

“How we think shows through in how we act. Attitudes are mirrors of the mind. They reflect thinking.” –  David Joseph Schwartz

Years ago, people used charts and simple multiplication to calculate the time value of money. Then, Hewlett-Packard introduced its ubiquitous hand-held financial calculators, and those “time value of $1” charts faded from memory. The latest incarnation is the Web-based mortgage calculator, provided online by real estate brokerages and agents, lenders and mortgage brokers and such companies as Bankrate Monitor and Nolo Press, among others. Calculators pose intriguing questions: How much can you afford to borrow to buy a home? How much will your monthly mortgage payment be? Should you refinance your mortgage? And so on.

Do mortgage calculators work? Yes and no. Calculators plug user-entered data into complex equations that would be daunting for the average not mathematically inclined person to solve by hand. However, the results lack real-world reliability and can vary from one calculator to the next. Some calculators are so suspect, in fact, that they’re accompanied by small-print disclaimers warning consumers not to rely on the results. If you want to use online mortgage calculators, keep these caveats in mind:

Mortgage calculators rarely reveal their behind-the-scenes assumptions.
Few mortgage calculators are accompanied by any explanation of how they work or what assumptions are used. Does the monthly payment include mortgage insurance, if required? Does it include an impound account for property taxes and casualty insurance? Is the equation adjusted to reflect a higher interest rate on a jumbo loan or a non-owner-occupied property? The more questions you’re asked before you click “calculate,” the more reliable the outcome is likely to be, but that’s assuming the information you enter is correct.

Mortgage calculators can’t predict payments on hybrid or adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) beyond the initial fixed-rate period.

The interest rate on a traditional 30-year mortgage is a fixed constant that can be plugged into an equation, but the interest rate on a hybrid or ARM is unknown beyond the first adjustment, which might occur in one month, six months, a year, three years, five years or 10 years, depending on the mortgage. There’s no way for a calculator to account for this unknowable factor. Some calculators tackle the worst-case scenario. That’s useful up to a point, but again, the reliability of the results still depends on secret internal assumptions and formulas and the accuracy of user-entered data.

Refinance calculators usually ignore the longer term on the new mortgage.
Many people refinance their existing mortgage with the goal of lowering their monthly payments. However, if you’ve been making payments on your existing mortgage for some time and the new mortgage will be amortized over a full 30 years, refinancing can cost more over the lifespan of the loan even if the monthly payments are lower. Mortgage calculators that purport to show whether you should refinance tend to focus on the monthly payment and the payback period for the refinancing costs, while ignoring the longer term of the new mortgage. This flaw is fatal.

Mortgage calculators can be fun and possibly educational.

The positive side to mortgage calculators is the ability to make rough comparisons among various scenarios. Plugging different numbers into one calculator can give novice borrowers good insights into the interplay between the cost of the home, the interest rate, the downpayment percentage and the monthly payment. But again, it’s important not to make real-world decisions solely on the basis of these numbers

MOVING ON UP!

MOVING ON UP!

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” –  Henry Ward Beecher

The kids are warring over bedroom space — even the dog wants more room! So one Saturday you innocently load everyone into the car, in search of a larger home. Emotionally, it makes sense.

But financially, are you prepared to part with some of your hard-earned equity (not to mention a bit more of your paycheck) in order to purchase a larger home? It’s going to cost you money to move up.

Simply explained, equity is the difference between what you owe on your home (all its mortgages, liens, etc.) and what you could obtain on the open market LESS YOUR COSTS OF SALE. (And the last part of that sentence is often overlooked by over-zealous move-up buyers!) But looking before you leap can make the difference between a financially prudent new purchase and a haunting economic disaster! Let’s evaluate the costs.

1) Some increased costs of purchase are obvious: You’ll be paying a larger mortgage payment monthly to own a larger home (depending on your down payment) your taxes will increase, and yes, even your home owner’s insurance will be more. And if your down payment isn’t at least twenty percent of the purchase price, you may even have private mortgage insurance to pay. It all adds up; but

2) Some increased costs of purchase aren’t so obvious: What about upkeep and maintenance? Utilities? Even the extended period of time it takes to clean the home on the weekend, taking time away from your family and other “fun” things—are you prepared for that?

3) One category most of us overlook when taking the “move up” plunge is to evaluate the chunk of equity it will cost us to sell our existing home, pay our buying costs, and move into another. Since 80% of all sellers hire a broker to sell their existing home (often saving money overall in doing so), you’ll no doubt benefit by that cost. You’ll add to it the additional sales costs of title insurance, transfer taxes, deed preparation, tax pro-ration—-basically all the costs paid by the seller when you purchased the home.

So should you move up? The answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re purchasing a home that will appreciate faster than your current one, gives you more space, is in a better neighborhood, and/or will make you psychologically happier, it may make sense to move. It’s true that happiness becomes the over-riding factor to the move-up buyer. Yes, you may want different features than you have in your current home; but you also know that housing is housing— but being happy where you live is paramount!

The bottom line is that homebuyers purchase with their “gut” and justify the purchase with their wallet. Long after you’ve crunched the sales cost numbers and consulted with an expert to evaluate a new neighborhood, you’re still likely to follow your gut instincts and purchase the home that tugs hardest on your heart-strings. After all, it’s what living the American Dream is all about.

REMODELING YOUR KITCHEN

REMODELING YOUR KITCHEN
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”  –  Oscar Wilde
 

The prospect of a newly remodeled home, while certainly tempting, often ignores the requisite headaches that come with the territory. Take, for instance, the kitchen, one of the most frequently remodeled rooms by virtue of its functionality and the amount of time families spend there.

Homeowners rarely stop to consider the imminent chaos that will befall them when they decide to remodel their kitchens. For starters, you’ll be asked to remove everything in your cabinets and drawers. That means all silverware, plates, cups, pots and pans, cookbooks, and depending upon whether or not you’re a pack rat, possibly other items, as well. Before long, your kitchen is draped in plastic, your forks are sitting on your living room coffee table, your spices are in the bathroom cabinet, and now the contractors are moving your refrigerator to the dining room so that they can reach the wall behind it. Need to microwave your breakfast? You’ll have to head to the spare bedroom. That’s where the microwave is now. It’s balanced precariously on a bar-stool by the computer desk. And you’ll need to figure out where to wash your breakfast dishes, because your kitchen sink is either filled with construction dust and tools, or it’s not there altogether. Your dishwasher is sitting in the foyer, so you won’t be able to use that, either. Garden hose, anyone?

No, it’s not a pretty picture. The chaos can be exacerbated by the time of year. For families with school-aged children, it’s probably best to begin remodeling jobs during the school year. Otherwise, you’ve got the kids underfoot, and it’s a matter of time before your patience is wearing thin. If you’ve never lived through a remodeling job, and you’re about to begin the process in your own home, you’re undoubtedly experiencing some trepidation. Aside from the obvious money-induced butterflies, you may be asking yourself to what extent your home life will be turned upside down during the remodeling process, which — depending upon the project — could last anywhere from several weeks to several months.

How on earth are you going to retain your sanity during this messy period? You could go with the obvious answer, of course, and find yourself a motel room with a kitchen or even a reasonably priced corporate apartment if you’re looking at several weeks’ worth of chaos. But that’s assuming you have disposable income left, and that’s a big if with most of us who are embarking on what could very well be one of the biggest investments of our lives. If it’s within your means to stay at a motel for even a short period of time (you may want to wait until the messiest phase of construction begins if you’re on a limited budget), just make sure that you find yourself some accommodations near your home so you’ll be able to make frequent and unannounced visits to monitor progress. If you’re lucky, you might have family or friends in the area who will either volunteer a spare bedroom or two, a sofa, or at least an occasional respite from the sawing, hammering, drilling and dust.

No, you’re going to stay and tough it out, you say, and so will the kids. It’ll be a character-building experience for everyone involved. Yes, it will, but you can make it easier on everyone by attempting to carve some semblance of organization into an otherwise haphazard household. If you have a spare bedroom, convert it into your temporary living quarters. Move the furniture against the wall, and set up your microwave and a card table and chairs. If you don’t already own inexpensive shelving, purchase some temporary shelves to store your plates, cups and silverware. You may want to seriously consider using paper plates, cups and utensils for the time being, because the question of where to wash your dishes can be a hassle to solve. If you own a dorm-sized refrigerator, move it into the bedroom. Purchase bottled water. Resign yourself to eating out as much as possible within the constraints of your budget, electing to spend breakfast in your makeshift kitchen, giving the kids lunch money for school, and then heading to an inexpensive restaurant for dinner.

It’s important to note, however, that if you decide to stick around during the remodeling process, you’re going to reach a point at which your absence is required. Many paints, glues and other materials commonly used in the construction process contain fumes that could be harmful to your family if inhaled. Ask your contractors up front when they plan to use materials that emanate potentially hazardous fumes. Plan to clear the house at those times — overnight, if necessary. This may, indeed, be the occasion during which you head to a motel for the sake of your family’s safety. Make sure that before you leave, you speak to your contractors about keeping your home properly ventilated before, during and after the application process.

Another reason you should keep a close eye on your contractors — regardless of whether or not you’re going to be remaining in your home during construction — is that you’re going to have to take steps to protect your home from damage. Even the best contractors have been known to scratch or cause other damage to a wood, tile or linoleum floor or track mud onto the carpet. Cover as many of these sensitive surfaces as possible before construction begins, and check to make sure they remain covered throughout the project’s duration. In addition, your breakables and other valuables — including fine China, vases, artwork and even your television, stereo and other electronics — should be removed from the immediate area and stored until the project is completed.

While these measures won’t inoculate you from the temporary inconvenience inherent in the remodeling process, they’ll help you keep your lifestyle as normal as possible until the dust has cleared and the plastic is lifted on your brand-new kitchen. And regardless of how long you have to wait for that moment, it’s nearly always worth the headaches required to get there.

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