A Comprehensive New Homeowner Checklist

new homeowner checklist

Purchasing a new home is a tremendous milestone, but it also entails a great deal of responsibility. Once you settle in, there are a few things you should do to safeguard your investment and guarantee your peace of mind. This detailed new homeowner checklist covers everything you need to accomplish, from obtaining insurance to setting up utilities. Let’s get started!

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Home Safety Research: How to Create a Safe Living Space for Your Family

home safety research

Home safety is a key component of establishing a secure and comfortable living space for you and your family. Nevertheless, countless homes aren’t nearly as safe as they should be, and accidents occur all too frequently. You can, however, learn how to establish a safe living space by conducting some home safety research.

This post will discuss tips for recognizing hazards, educating your family, and staying up to date on the latest preventive measures. Let’s get started!

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Is It Safe to Have a Fire Pit Under a Pergola?

fire pit under pergola safe

As a homeowner, you’ve likely considered the usefulness and aesthetic charm of adding a fire pit to your outdoor living space. Perhaps you’re drawn to their cozy atmosphere and delicious smoky aroma. But before you invest in one, it’s important to understand all of the potential risks involved—particularly if you plan on placing it under your pergola or patio cover structure.

This blog post will discuss whether it’s safe or not to have a fire pit beneath your pergola. We’ll address common safety concerns associated with using this type of setup and outline solutions that can help ensure everyone stays safe while enjoying this warm and inviting feature within the comfort of your own backyard!

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12 Tips for Buying a Home in Atlanta

Whether you’re tired of renting or you’re moving to a new town, buying a new home can be stressful – especially in a big city like Atlanta. There are many diverse neighborhoods and various things to do around the city. You’ll feel like you don’t want to miss out on any of it!

However, there are numerous things to consider before you make that final step. To make the process easier, here are 12 tips for buying a home in Atlanta.

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6 Tips For A Stress-Free Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

The summer months are the time of the year when you want to enjoy your home, not have to fix it up! However, some things need to be addressed before fall rolls in. Also, some of these simple tasks can help you enjoy both the inside and outside of your home more.

Below we’ve provided 6 stress-free summer home maintenance tips for you to consider. If you keep on top of your home maintenance checklist you’ll have plenty of time to sit by the pool and have BBQs this summer! Let’s get started.

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How much home insurance do I need for my Atlanta house?

Do you know how much home insurance you need?

Do you know how much home insurance you need?

Your Atlanta home is one of your greatest assets. A house is a big investment, but we know that it’s more than that. Your house is your home, your shelter. Sure, you might have the occasional maintenance issue, but you wouldn’t trade it for anything. And to protect your home, you need to make sure that you have the proper home insurance.

But that begs the question – how much home insurance do you need?

The answer depends on several things, but a lot of it comes down to how you choose to insure your home in the first place. You have different options. Let’s break it down into two parts – insuring the home itself (meaning the structure) and your personal belongings.

The House:

To make sure that you have enough insurance for your home, you need to check that you have enough coverage to handle rebuilding your home entirely if it were destroyed by a disaster like a fire. Now, you also have to take into account the cost of the contractors’ labor and building materials. This is your home’s replacement cost.

You need to take construction costs into account for your home insurance.

How do I find out the replacement cost of my house?

To figure out how much your home would cost to rebuild or replace, you need to consult a trustworthy builder. Find a builder that’s reputable to give you an estimate of what it would cost to rebuild your home, taking into account the materials it’s made of.

Will the replacement cost ever change?

Okay, so here’s the thing – you need to let your agent know anytime you make a significant change to your home. These could be home improvements, like an addition or renovation. By renovating or doing home improvements, you could be altering the value of your home and thus how much home insurance you need. You might be changing the value of your home enough to need to adjust your limits of coverage. Another time to consult with your agent is when you have a significant lifestyle change, like getting married.

It might be tempting to go with a lower premium for your home insurance, but it’s worth it to get robust insurance with plenty of coverage. Besides, there are other ways to lower your insurance premium while still keeping high levels of coverage.

Personal Property:

When it comes to insuring your personal property, again, you have options. You can insure your belongings for their actual cash value or their replacement value.

Actual cash value means that your home insurance company can reimburse you for the price of the items at today’s value, minus your deductible.

Replacement cost value means that you get reimbursed for the full cost of replacing the items, minus your deductible.

That might not seem like a big difference. But it is. You might want to insure your belongings for their replacement value because of depreciation. Basically, the value of your belongings might have gone down since you bought them, so the cost of replacing the item might be more than its current worth. With replacement cost, you’ll be able to replace the item with a new one without worrying about depreciation. With actual cash value, you might not get enough money to replace the item.

We recommend insuring your belongings for their replacement value.

The easiest way to further explain is with an example.

Say that you bought some furniture a couple years ago. At the time it cost $4,000. It’s nice. Your home gets burgled and the thieves take off with your furniture. The only thing is that it is only worth $3,000 today. With actual cash value, you could get the $3,000 (minus your deductible) … but it might not be enough to replace the items that were lost.

Now, depreciation depends on the type of possession and its age, of course, but things sometimes lose their value over time. You need to be prepared for that.

How do I know how much home insurance I need for my personal belongings?

Taking a home inventory is a great way to get an idea of the total amount of coverage you need. This will give you an idea of the value of all of your belongings.

Insuring Your Valuables:

Don’t forget about your expensive jewelry, silverware, furs, and antiques. You need to make sure that you have enough coverage for your jewelry and other valuables. They might exceed the limits on your home insurance policy, which means that you need to consider adjusting your insurance to ensure coverage for these items. You might need to get an extra floater or rider (basically an addition to your policy) to cover them.

To figure out just what insurance you might need, you have to have your treasures appraised. That way you’ll find out what they’re worth in today’s market and know how much they need to be insured for. Remember, you’ll need to have these valuables appraised every couple years to take changing prices into account.

Don't forget to get your valuables appraised when it comes to your home insurance.

Remember, the name of the game is making sure that you have enough insurance to cover everything, including the home itself and its contents. Peace of mind is worth it.

Insuring your home might seem like a headache. There’s a lot to think about and a lot of factors at play. But we can help you make sure that you have the insurance you need to protect your home and your family. Just give us a call or fill out our quote form and we’ll help you create a customized insurance plan that will protect your family from whatever life might throw at you.

Part Two: How to choose a contractor to remodel your bathroom

As promised, here is Part Two of our article about choosing a contractor to remodel your bathroom! If you missed Part One, you can go back and read it here.

We’re going to continue our interview with Arthur Short of Nothing Short of a Handyman2. We’re going to talk about pushy salesmen, common contractor scams, why buying a foreclosed property might not be a great idea, and the importance of licensing.

Is the contracting company hounding you?

No one likes being harassed by pushy salespeople, right? Arthur said, “Whenever a salesman hounds me to see if I’m ready to sign the agreement, it’s a warning to me.”

We asked him why this was such a red flag. He added, “A contractor should have better things to do than to keep calling customers to see if they have questions about the proposal. If they keep calling me, that tells me they aren’t busy. I only want people that are in demand to do work for me.”

That’s why Arthur has the philosophy of giving a customer a quote that’s good for 30 days. “If they have questions, they have my phone number on the contract,” he said. “I won’t chase them. I understand that sometimes people are just not ready to commit or get started. They’ll contact me when they’re ready. In the meanwhile, I have plenty to do to keep us busy.”

You don’t have to put up with pushy salespeople who want you to sign today. You have the right to sleep on any home improvement contract before signing it when you’re choosing a contractor to remodel your bathroom.

You also might want to keep looking if the contractor that you found:

  • Seems a bit too hungry for your business.
  • Can’t give you a specific start date.
  • Seems anxious or nervous.
  • Changes anything on the contract without discussing it with you first.

Beware of these common contracting scams and homeowner pitfalls

There are plenty of contractors out there that are perfectly willing to take your money and never come back. It’s people like them who give home improvement contractors a bad name. A con artist can quickly talk you out of your money, and even street smart people get hustled every day. That’s why it’s important to only work with contractors that you heard about from family and friends who have had good experiences with them. As a rule, don’t do business with a doorbell ringer. Reputable contractors don’t go knocking on doors looking for business.

Another good tip is to never pay the bill in full until the job is 100% done to your satisfaction. “I’ve had to stop people from writing me a check in full at the beginning of the job,” Arthur said. “I tell them to never pay the job in full upfront. You should hold back some of the money to make sure the job is done to your satisfaction.” Arthur only asks for 50% up front. “I don’t want anything else from them until the job is done and they’re a happy customer.”

Is there a written contract?

Make sure they provide you with a detailed contract that specifies what they’ll be doing and what materials they will be using. The contract should detail what’s included and what’s excluded, and it should also outline your warranty for the work. Never give money to anyone before having a written contract that both of you sign.

If a contractor doesn’t have a professional contract, that should be a warning red flag to you that they are not a serious businessman.

Beware of mysterious change orders.

A change order gives the contractor permission to do something above and beyond what the contract calls for. Remember, you must authorize all change orders in writing before any changes are started. Verbal agreements are not sufficient. Any change must be in the form of a signed addendum to the contract. Some scam artists will give you a cheap price up front and then try to charge you for extras that you didn’t authorize. Never pay for a change order that you didn’t authorize. This way both the homeowner and the contractor are protected.

Sometimes Arthur gets called in to fix bad workmanship from other contractors.

We asked Arthur if he ever has to fix poor workmanship from other companies. He answered, “Yes all the time. Many big box retailers sell hardwood flooring and offer installation. Unfortunately, they don’t stand behind their work. We’ve had to go back and rip out flooring and reinstall it again properly for our clients.”

So, the lesson is to choose a local small business to work with rather than a big chain store when you’re selecting a contractor to remodel your bathroom. This way you’re most likely in contact with the owner, who can address any concerns you might have.

“Sometimes the contractor will leave unfinished work,” Arthur added. “This drives my clients crazy. For example, an electrician may cut holes to run wires to add a light or an outlet. Then they leave without repairing the drywall. Now the customer has holes in their bathroom walls and ceilings. This means they now have to hire a drywall repair guy and a painter to finish the job. It winds up costing them a lot more because they have to pay three different contractors to get the job done.”

You’ll save money if you hire a remodeling company that can do all the work in-house. Ask them if they can take care of everything you need, not just part of the job. And remember to check your proposal for exclusions like drywall repair, painting, and cleanup.”

What could happen if you buy a house without checking it out beforehand?

“One of our clients bought a house without ever having a builder look at it for them, and this caused some major problems later on,” Arthur said. We asked Arthur to elaborate a bit more about home inspectors. He answered, “Sadly, some hired home inspectors don’t point out serious structural issues. In the example I’m thinking of, the home inspector was recommended by the realtor. Apparently, the realtor didn’t want the home inspector to point anything out that would jeopardize closing on the sale. As a result, the inspector pointed out a few cosmetic things that were easily seen. However, the big structural problem due to rain getting behind the siding and rotting out the whole door frame was not brought to the purchaser’s attention. Apparently, the original homeowner also knew about the problem and concealed it.” How did Arthur know the original homeowner must have been aware? “When we pulled the molding off the door that needed replacing we could see there was no header or frame. It had all rotted out. Cosmetic repairs had been made to hide the problem. In the end, it cost the new homeowner almost $6,000 to fix the water damage.”

We asked Arthur if a good contractor could have pointed this out before the family bought the home. Arthur answered, “Yes, all they had to do was check the crawl space to see the rotting floor near the door frame beneath the home.”

There are many foreclosures for sale in the greater Atlanta area. Sometimes a deal that is too good to be true is too good for a reason. There are reports of foreclosures where the contractors were never paid by the builder. When the builder went bankrupt, angry subcontractors cut electrical wires and plumbing pipes to get revenge. That’s why the unwary home buyer looking to get a deal on a house can get stuck with a lemon instead.

Arthur suggested, “Add a good home improvement contractor onto your Rolodex of go-to people if you are looking to buy a home.” If you also want to hire a home inspector, be sure to hire a trustworthy one that doesn’t have a business relationship with the realtor. You want both the home improvement contractor and the home inspector to be looking out for your interests, not the realtor’s or the home seller’s. However, remember that a home inspector doesn’t take the place of a trusted contractor.

Potential problems for bathroom remodels in older homes:

We asked Arthur about any problems that could arise when remodeling a bathroom. “This has become a specialty of ours: we’ll remove the existing bathtub and build a custom 4’x6’ walk-in shower for them. Sometimes there are old galvanized pipes that pose a problem. They need to be replaced with a better product that will last longer.”

Arthur went on to explain, “Other times there are structural issues with rotten floors or walls hidden by tile. The point is that a contractor can only bid your job by what they see. A contractor sometimes can’t get a true sense of what needs to be done until the original things are removed. To repair any hidden problems above and beyond the contract will require a change order signed by the homeowner.”

A wise homeowner will budget a little extra for unforeseen problems. If you don’t, your project may go over budget later on and put you in debt that you weren’t expecting.

Are they licensed to do the work?

Many times, a handyman or contractor will want to do the work for you, but they won’t have the proper licensing. If you don’t check first, how can you be sure that they know the correct way to do it? How do you know if they’ll meet the local laws and codes? If you’re spending thousands of dollars to remodel your bathroom, then you deserve to have a company that is licensed properly. Arthur added, “We carry certifications and licensing for HVAC, electrical, and plumbing. This saves you money in two ways. First, you don’t have to pay twice—in other words, you don’t have to pay someone to come back and fix the mistakes. Second, you don’t have to pay for a plumber, an electrician, and an HVAC contractor separately. One phone call does it all.”

We hope that this two-part article on what you need to know before hiring a contractor to remodel your bathroom has been helpful to you. Here at Atlantainsurance.com we’re focused on providing consumer-based information to help you make good decisions. After all, an incorrectly installed shower head or drain could cause water damage to your home. An incorrectly installed recessed can light or wall mount fixture could cause a house fire. Sure, you have home insurance to help protect you from these things, but the point is hiring a trustworthy company is the first step in protecting your home.

We want to thank Arthur Short of Nothing Short of a Handyman2 for answering our questions so generously. He is available to answer any questions you may have at his website. If you’d like to read Part One of this article, click here.

Need quotes for your home, renters, life, or car insurance? We can help you out! We’ll get you a free quote and help you find the best coverage at the lowest possible rate.

Part One: How to choose a contractor to remodel your bathroom

If you’re looking to remodel your bathroom, read on!

You deserve an awesome bathroom, so we caught up with Arthur Short, whose company, Nothing Short of a Handyman2, has been remodeling Atlanta bathrooms with custom showers and gorgeous vanities since 2000. He’s got some great advice for choosing a contractor to remodel your bathroom!

Arthur told us that he’s always liked to work with his hands. We asked Arthur what’s been the key to his success, and he replied, “We’ve made a success of our business because we know it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. Instead, we work hard to make our clients happy. Many times, they become closer than family. They come back to us or refer friends to us year after year. This is the only way to build a contracting business.”

There are many home improvement contractors in Atlanta that could redo your bathroom. We asked Arthur to share a few pointers on how to select the right remodeling contractor to work with.

He quickly rattled off a few helpful questions to ask:

  • How long have they been in business?
  • Do they have references?
  • What kind of customer service do they provide?
  • What are they going to do and why are they going to do it? Can they explain their plan?
  • How do they handle themselves?
  • Will they use subcontractors or will they do the work themselves?
  • Do they have insurance?

Let’s take these one at a time.

How long have they been in business?

You want to make sure that the contractor you choose not only has the`experience to do the job but will be here to warranty the work later. You don’t want someone practicing on your bathroom plumbing, tile, and electrical wiring, do you?

Here are some things to look for…

  • Good online reviews.
  • A professional-looking, quality website.
  • If they have the same name and business phone number that they started with.

We asked Arthur why it’s so important that the company has had the same phone number since they opened their business. He said, “The only reason someone changes phone numbers is to duck angry customers and bill collectors. We’ve had the same business number since we started in 2000. I have people tell me all the time, ‘You did work for us years ago. I can’t believe you have the same phone number! Can you help our friends out?’”

Do they have good references?

Arthur said, “Look at their website again — it can serve as one of the best references for the contractor. What does it say about them? Is it professional? Their website reflects the kind of work they’ll do for you. Are there pictures on their website of the work they’ve done in the past? I have all kinds of pictures of work we’ve done on my website, and I tell customers that I’ll gladly give them the name and phone number of the homeowner that corresponds to the picture they want to know more about.”

He continued, “Are they confident in their work? Are they proud of past jobs they have done? I treat my customer’s home just like it was mine. I build a really good relationship with them so they are only happy to tell new customers about the work I have done for them.”

So before you hire a contractor, talk to their references and check out any pictures of work they’ve done. You can even use websites like Angieslist.com or homeadvisor.com.

What kind of customer service do they provide?

“Customer service is important to me personally,” Arthur said. “I’ve paid money out of my own pocket to get out of contracts with companies that gave me bad customer service. That’s why I treat my customers like family. I’m a hands-on business owner. I do the sales, proposals, management, and the physical work on the job site. My name is attached to it and so I want it done right.”

Arthur told us that he treats his employees like family too. He added, “When I go on vacation I don’t have to worry because I trust them. They know how I want it done and they have been trained to do it that way.”

Notice how the contractor talks to his helpers and about his employees. Customer service starts within the company itself. A wise business owner understands that his employees are his first customers. They know that if they take care of the employees first, the customer will always be taken care of too.

Returning phone calls.

Another point that Arthur brought up is how the contractor handles phone calls—specifically, whether or not they actually return them. He said, “Think about it. Why would a contractor refuse to return phone calls? The answer is that they are usually ducking and dodging unhappy customers. On the other hand, my business line is forwarded to my cell phone after hours so that I’m always available to my customers. After all, that’s what customer service should be about, right?”

Use how/if they answer the phone as a gauge of how they will do the work in your home. Are they professional? Do they answer the phone? How long does it take them to return your call? If they act unprofessionally when you want to give them money, how will they act when they have your money and you want customer service later on?

Ask them to explain what they’re going to do and why.

If they hem and haw about their plan, that should be a red flag. If they can’t explain it, they might not know what they’re doing, or they could be planning on taking your money and running. Look for a contractor that takes the time to educate you. If they can’t explain your “what” or “why” questions, it’s best to find someone that can. You deserve to feel comfortable with the entire remodeling process.

How do they handle themselves?

Arthur told us that his prospects start examining him from the moment that he pulls up to the house and walks up the driveway for an estimate. He recommends that you do the same. “What’s their appearance? What does their vehicle look like? Is it maintained? Is it clean? Does it look professional?”

He continued, “How do they handle themselves while in your home? If they don’t believe in themselves, then why should you? Trust your gut instincts. Remember, if you don’t feel comfortable about them personally then step away.”

It comes down to this: what does your gut tell you? Listen to your instincts. If your “Spidey senses” are tingling, there’s usually a good reason not to work with that remodeling company.

Will they use subcontractors or will they do the work themselves?

This is something to think about. Who will physically be doing the work at your home? Are they an employee or a subcontractor? Does it even matter? The answer is yes, it does. “The problem comes up if you have to sue the signer of the contract,” Arthur said. “Let’s say the contractor doesn’t finish the work according to the contract. It may be faulty or perhaps the GC takes your money and skips town. If a subcontractor did the work, then you have no recourse to protect yourself.”

Do they have insurance?

We asked Arthur why a homeowner has no protection with a subcontractor. He shared, “The sub did not sign your contract, so he doesn’t work for you. Instead, his contract was with the General Contractor that skipped town. Plus, many time subs do not carry insurance. You want to make sure that everyone working on your home remodel has proper insurance.”

Ask the contractor to see proof of insurance before you hire them. Then ask if all workers on your project will be covered. One of our foremost rules is to only work with contractors who have at the very least general liability insurance.

Do they offer suggestions, ideas, and advice to save you money?

Arthur has asked his clients why they like working with him. These are some of the answers he gets:

  • The other contractors talked down to me.
  • Other contractors spoke over my head, so I didn’t understand what they were saying.
  • Other contractors never offered any ideas. They didn’t have anything to offer even though I like getting new ideas.
  • Other contractors didn’t show me ways that I could save money.

Arthur said, “It comes down to this. You as the homeowner know what you want, but you might not be sure how to get there.”

If the contractor you’re considering fails these tests, you might want to keep looking to find the right company to work with. Look for a contractor that takes a consultative approach to helping you get what you want. Ask them for suggestions to see what they have to offer. A bathroom remodeler who’s done many jobs should have plenty of pictures of showers, vanities, lighting fixtures, and cabinet ideas for you to look at.

This concludes Part One of How to Choose a Contractor to Remodel Your Bathroom. In Part Two, we’ll talk about salesmen, licensing, common contractor scams, and why buying a foreclose might not be a great idea. Special thanks to Arthur Short! You can check out his company, Nothing Short of a Handyman2, on their website.