How does one know which improvements are good ideas and which ones are not?
It really depends on the home. That said, improvements that make your home feel like it has more “character” can make it more appealing to you and others. Things like the kitchen, baths, master bedrooms, and the front and entrances make a big difference in the enjoyment and the salability of a home. Trading in a “plain Jane kitchen” for another “plain Jane kitchen” may not add much if any value since most homes already have a kitchen. New windows, doors, and insulation can save you money over the long run. Improving the flow of traffic through the home can make it more livable. Of course if the rest of the property is in need of repair that adversely affects the value of the new improvements. A bad roof can destroy a good home and the “new” improvements quickly. Call me and we can discuss the specifics for your home.
How can one contractor/builder make home improvements for so much less than everyone else I interviewed.
They can’t without short cutting something somewhere. First make sure you are comparing apple with apples and that something wasn’t modified or left off the list. When I say apples to apples be specific. Jonathan Apples to Jonathan Apples not some other variety. Are they really a plumber or an electrician with some friends in the business. Ask any contractor you meet with if they will provide you with receipts for all materials, labor, etc. as a part of their agreement. Ask them to put it in writing.
How and when are the various Trades paid?
Ask the Builder/Contractor how they handle this issue. If the trades are not paid in a timely fashion they do not show up to finish the work they started. They can place liens on your property.
None of these questions can be answered sufficiently in a couple of lines. Contact me and we will sit down and discuss them. You will appreciate our knowledge, experience, and philosophies on these matters.