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Considering a remodel? The first step in the process—planning—is most important, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). To help you lay the groundwork for a successful project, the group offers these 10 tips:

1. Research your project. Taking time to research projects on the internet and NARI.org will provide a good sense of what’s involved, such as price, scope of work, return on investment, and new product options. Research property values in your neighborhood, too, to ensure your project is in line with other homes in the area.
 
2. Plan the project around the long term.
 How long do you plan to stay in your home? How might your family structure change over time? Life can change quickly, so these questions should be answered early on to ensure your project will fit your lifestyle long after it’s complete.

3. Set your budgetDeciding on a realistic budget and arranging finances to support your project are essential. This number needs to include everything—the project, products, contingencies, etc. Don’t be afraid to share this with your remodeler; professionals are respectful of a client’s budget and will create a plan around it, not over it.

4. Dig deep to find qualified professionals. Ask friends, family and neighbors for referrals. Keep in mind professional remodelers take their reputation seriously and hold credentials beyond licensing, such as certifications, memberships in trade associations and additional training.

5. Ask the right questions. Time and cost are important, but getting the right information requires the right questions. Ask your professional remodeler about his or her educational background, training, specialties or past issues with clients. Ask about how the remodeling process will work.

6. Verify your remodeler. Don’t take their word for it. Check the information given to you, such as references, license numbers, insurance information and certifications, by calling providers to verify. Request a visit to an active client’s jobsite. Make it known that you’re checking—a true professional considers that as a positive sign to working with a homeowner.
 
7. Review contracts word-by-word. 
A remodeling contract protects you and your remodeler. Review it carefully, and ask for clarification of terms you don’t understand. Pay attention to details about change orders, payment, additional fees timeline and responsibilities. Remember: If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t exist.

8. Keep design in mind. Your design guides the entire project. Think about what you dislike about your current space and the intended use of the new space. Use magazines and websites to gather design ideas. Make sure you can articulate specifically what you like about that design when talking to your designer. Professionals don’t recreate a photo—they incorporate accessibility, functionality, ease of modification, style and value into your design.

9. Make your selectionsDeciding on products and materials is a larger process than most imagine. With so many options to choose from, product selections are one of the primary reasons project timelines are extended. Include selections in the contract to lock down pricing and keep your budget intact.

10. Create a communication plan. Your remodeler should lay out a communication plan at the beginning of the project. If not, ask for one. This plan should clarify the roles of everyone involved, communication methods, availability and the frequency of communication that is expected.

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