3 Signs that you might need to choose another Real Estate Agent

Real esate AgentYour partnership with your real estate agent plays a large role in the success of your home sale. To get your home sold quickly and for top dollar, you should follow your agent’s advice about pricing your home and getting (and keeping) it in tip-top shape. You’ll also need to keep your schedule open so your agent can show your home to as many potential buyers as possible.

If you’ve done all your agent has asked of you but you’ve only had a few nibbles while other homes in your area have sold, you might need to step back and figure out why. Take a close look at your agent and their advice, and evaluate their performance in these areas:

Your Agent May or May Not Call You Back—It’s a Roll of the Dice

Good real estate agents are busy people, so it’s not always easy to get in touch with them. But a good real estate agent also knows it’s important to keep in contact with their clients, and they make a point of returning calls as soon as possible. If your communication with your agent feels one-sided, that’s a red flag. Even if nothing new has happened, it’s reasonable to expect your agent (or someone from their team) to contact you every week to discuss strategy and whether you need to make any changes to get buyers’ attention.

Your Agent’s Marketing Plan Is Based on Positive Thinking

You made the decision to work with an agent because you know you aren’t a real estate marketing whiz. You should be able to depend on your agent to develop an effective marketing strategy that will attract buyers. If the plan isn’t working, your agent should also be willing to step up their game and try new methods to reach buyers. Most importantly, your agent should not blow off your concerns and questions about how much time your home is spending on the market.

Your Agent Has More Attitude Than Most Teenagers You Know

That leads us to overall attitude. Do you feel like your agent is super-serving you? Or do you feel like you’re one more box to check off their to-do list? Is your agent showing up late for appointments? Avoiding you altogether (see Roll of the Dice)? Showing a lack of patience with your questions (see Positive Thinking)? Always remember, you don’t have to put up with a bad attitude to work with a great agent who will get your home sold.

You Can Do Better

If you’ve decided your current agent isn’t the right one to help you sell your home, you might need to choose another agent. When you work with an agent you should be confident about these two two things:

1. That your agent has got this! They’ll know what to do in tough market conditions because they’ve been through them before. They’ll know how to price your home to attract buyers, and if they don’t hit the bull’s-eye, they’ll be ready with a back-up plan. You can trust them to base their decisions on solid research, and they’ll be willing to discuss all the details with you.

2. You’ll feel like the center of the universe. Word gets around, and real estate agents with a reputation for poor service simply don’t stay in the business long. An agent with several years’ experience has learned to focus on meeting their clients’ goals, and they’ll work hard to make sure you meet your goals as well.

To read the article as published on DaveRamsey.com, please click here.

Sell Now to avoid the New Competition

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????For the last several years, home sellers had to compete with huge inventories of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales). The great news is that the supply of these properties is falling like a rock in the vast majority of housing markets. Many homeowners are now thinking of selling as the impact of this substantially discounted competition has disappeared.

However, every seller of an existing residential property must realize that there is a new form of competition about to hit the market: newly constructed homes.

As the economy improves, builders will again be bringing their housing developments to the market. Trulia recently reported that the purchaser, given a choice, actually prefers new construction. Here are two charts showing the results of the Trulia survey:



To read the article as published on The KCM Blog, please click here.


Moving? Tips for Packing

Moving to a new home can be exciting, the sign of new beginnings. It can also be an exceptionally stressful time.

Getting all your furniture, clothes, kitchenware, electronics and valuables from one place to another is no simple task – whether you’ve hired professionals or are managing the move yourself.

The specifics of each move are different. Moving down the block, from one studio apartment to another, is less complicated than moving from a 3,000-square-foot home in New York to a similarly sized house in California. No matter how or where you’re moving, preparation and careful planning will make the process smoother.

1. Sort, sell, donate or toss

Why move what you don’t need or use? During the days and weeks leading up to your move, mercilessly sort through every closet and drawer. Organize a moving sale, donate items to a charity like Goodwill, The Arc or The Salvation Army, or list them via an online reuse/recycle-type website. Throwing things away is OK, too; some items will simply be outdated or too worn to be of much use to others.

2. Make lists, check them twice

Organization is the key to any good move. Make lists of all the people and institutions you need to contact before moving: schools, utility companies, government offices, subscriptions you need to change, etc. You’ll need another list that includes the names of everyone who needs to know your new address, from family members to co-workers. Perhaps most important of all: make a list of things that will be moved, room by room. If you’ve hired a moving company, the movers will work with you to put together an inventory. If you’re moving your own stuff, consider getting an app like Moving Day for the iPhone, which allows you to build a complete inventory and create barcodes for your boxes that you can scan with your phone and document damaged items.

3. Over-prepare

If there’s one thing you don’t want to run out of on moving day, it’s boxes. If you’re packing yourself, ask nearby stores, friends and neighbors for boxes. If you buy special moving boxes, ask if you can return any you end up not using. Also make sure you have plenty of tape, furniture padding and bubble wrap to ensure your stuff arrives undamaged. Borrow or rent a dolly for moving heavier items. If you’re relying on friends and family to move you, make it as easy as possible for them. Have all the boxes packed and labeled before they arrive, so all they have to do is pick up a box and carry it to the moving van. If you’ve got professional movers handling the packing, they should come armed with all the supplies you’ll need.

4. Label absolutely everything

Mark your boxes with clear descriptions so you can remember which boxes are fragile and which can wait to be unpacked. Even better: In addition to listing contents, label with a destination such as “master bath” or “basement.” Avoid mish-mash boxes and “misc.” labels – those boxes will cause frustration on moving day and beyond.

5. Pack an ‘open me first’ box

When you get to your new place, the last thing you want to do is sort through a half-dozen different boxes to find the toiletries and clothes you need. Your ‘Open Me First’ box should include a change of clothing for each family member, towels, soap, shampoo, medicines and favorite toys for the kids. If your morning isn’t complete without a cup of tea, include a tea kettle, tea and mug; granola bars or a box of crackers might also be a nice pick-me-up on unpacking day.

To read the original article, please click here.

Flag Etiquette For Flying “Old Glory” at Your Home

According to federal code, here’s how to honor those broad stripes and bright stars as you fly them at home today and everyday!

The patriot’s guide to flying the U.S. flag at home

•Fly the flag outside only from sunrise to sunset, unless it is illuminated for night time display.

•Especially fly the flag on New Year’s Day, January 1; Inauguration Day, January 20; Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12; Washington’s Birthday, third Monday in February; Easter Sunday; Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May; Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May; Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May; Flag Day, June 14; Independence Day, July 4; Labor Day, first Monday in September; Constitution Day, September 17; Columbus Day, second Monday in October; Navy Day, October 27; Veterans Day, November 11; Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November; Christmas Day, December 25; state birthdays (dates of admission); state holidays; and other days as announced by the U.S. President.

•Do not fly the flag outside during inclement weather unless you use an all-weather flag.

•Do not fly another flag above the U.S. flag, or if the other flag is on the same level, do not fly another flag to the right of the U.S. flag.

•Fly the flag with the “union” (the blue field of white stars) at the peak of the staff (unless the flag is at half staff) when flying the flag from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building.

•When you suspend a flag over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, hoist the flag, union first, from the building.

•When you display the flag over the middle of the street, suspend it vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, to the east in a north and south street.

•When you display a flag horizontally or vertically against a wall or in a window, place the union uppermost and to the flag’s own right, or to the observer’s left.

•Display the flag with the union down only as a distress signal.

•Fly the flag at half-staff (positioning the flag one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff) at times specified, often according to presidential instructions.

•When flying the flag at half-staff, it should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

•Never allow the flag to touch anything beneath it, including the ground, the floor, water or other items.

•Never carry the flag flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

•Never use a flag as wearing apparel, bedding, drapery, ceiling covering or decorative element. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.

•Never use the flag for advertising purposes. Don’t embroider it on articles, print or impress it on disposable items.

•Don’t use a part of the flag as a costume or athletic uniform. A flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firefighters, police, and members of patriotic organizations. A lapel flag pin should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

•Protect the flag from display, use or storage that will cause it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged.

•Never place things on the flag or attach marks, insignias, letters, words, figures, designs, pictures, or drawings

•Don’t use the flag as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

•Aged flags no longer fit for flying—like those wind whipped ones on personal vehicles—should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferable by safely burning it.

To read the original article, as published on realtor.com, please click here.

Easements and Rights-of-Way and your property

In certain types of real estate transactions, it’s not not until the middle of the deal that home buyers realize the land they’re purchasing with their home is not 100 percent theirs. They are startled to discover that they must allow their neighbors to “share” part of their land, or that the local utility company has a right to access a pipe buried in their back yard.

How can this be? In both examples, the properties have what’s known as an “easement,” otherwise known as a “right-of-way.” This easement grants other designated people the right to specific types of access. Easements can be granted to another person, such as a neighbor, or to an entity, such as an electric and gas utility.

A property easement is generally written and recorded with the local assessor’s office. The documented easement will show up when a title search is conducted and it stays there indefinitely, unless both parties agree to remove it.

Without getting too deep into legal details, here are the types of easements worth knowing about.

1. Right-of-Way Through Your Property

As a homeowner, you would probably assume that you’re purchasing the land around your home, front yard, back yard and driveway. But that’s not always the case. Often, when you review the preliminary title report, you may discover that someone actually has a right-of-way through your property.

This is common in the case of a long driveway or a home that may be set back from the street. It could have been that in order for a neighboring home to have been built, that property’s owner negotiated with a previous owner to gain a right-of-way through the front of the parcel or driveway for the home you are buying.

In this scenario, you own the land, but the owner of the neighboring property has been granted right to pass through your property. In some instances, the previous owner might have been compensated for granting this access. The important thing to know is that easement carries over when a new owner assumes the property.

2. Right-of-Way Grant

If you’re the homeowner who needs access to a neighboring property, or you discover that the driveway or walkway to your home is actually not 100 percent yours, there’s usually nothing you need to do. It’s just important to be aware of these conditions, and that this is not entirely your land.

Depending on the size of the easement and the type of land it covers, there may be some issues regarding maintenance. For example, it may be your responsibility to keep up the land: Mowing the lawn, shoveling the pathway or maintaining a fence. If there’s a maintenance ambiguity, check with the current seller to understand how she and the other owner worked this out in the past. Many times an easement like this, known as a “Right-of-Way Grant,” has been on title through the course of three or four owners, making the original intentions or understandings not explicit. Understanding how the easement has worked in most recent practice is your best course of action.

3. Other Types of Easements

Anyone who lives in a condominium or some type of planned development likely spends many hours working on property they don’t own outright but have access to. Most likely, the condo or planned development’s homeowners association (HOA) actually owns those areas, but each resident or owner has a right to pass through, which is one obvious type of easement.

But some easements aren’t so obvious and take buyers and homeowners by surprise. A classic example is one in which a utility company, such as an electric and power company or a telephone company, has an easement through your land for the purpose of maintaining the utility.

There was a situation near San Jose, CA, in which the electric and gas utility had an easement through someone’s backyard. It had been on title for many years, but the existing owners didn’t know about it. One day, the electric company showed up with digging machines and materials and made a mess of the yard digging to fix a faulty line. Though the owners were shocked, there was nothing they could do.

Situations like these show why it pays to be cautious if an easement shows up in a property title search. Ask the title company, attorney or your real estate agent to retain all documents pertaining to the original easement in order to review the details. That way, you will know the exact location of the easement, its size and scope and how it’s to be utilized.

Often, there’s not a problem with easements, but it’s still important to check. Any potential red flags might wind up affecting the value of your home.

In the case of the house in San Jose, for instance, what if the utility company had done permanent damage? What would be the homeowner’s recourse, if any? It’s best to vet these things before closing, rather than facing a serious real estate dilemma down the road.

To read the original article, please click here.

How to best showcase your home’s first impression.

Whether you’re prepping your home for sale, or just want it to look good, don’t forget about the exterior — especially the front yard and door!

Here are some great tips from home stagers and curb appeal experts on how to best showcase your home’s first impression.

Walk to the curb

The first order of business: Walk to the curb or street and look at your home from the road.

This will probably be the buyers’ or the buyer agent’s first, real-live impression of your house. Take the time to review the way your front yard looks. Does the front door look fresh and inviting? Is the landing or porch neat and tidy? These are the details that can make a huge difference for that ever-important first impression.

And if you sense something’s off, clip home improvement ideas from books, magazines or professionals who can really help you maximize the appeal of your home and get it ready for the market!

One professional, Michelle Molinari, has the perfect way to consistently spruce up exteriors of listings. She adds flowering white flowers to yards in Louisiana because they “always look great on photos,” she said.

Molinari also recommends a layer of mulch to finish out garden spaces and — a fun little tip — she suggests coordinating the mulch color with the roof color. The match will make the entire front appear more complimentary to the eye.

In lieu of green grass in the U.S. Southwest, xeriscaping is used because of the way this water-conserving method makes use of natural landscape items like rocks and desert-friendly plants.

The money shot: Your front door

One big item: Don’t forget the front door!

A brightly painted front door and decorative house numbers lend to this home’s curb appeal.

Some home stagers recommend using the same exterior color for the front door, but I prefer to a color to complement exterior house colors. For instance, a Tudor-style house with cream walls and grey trim would be great with a hydrangea blue on the door. A gray wall Colonial with white trim would look stunning with a black door. Most of the paint manufacturers have suggested exterior combinations (walls, trim and doors) to help sellers determine which color works well with the exterior paint colors and style of their house. (See: How to Choose Exterior Paint Colors).

In addition to the front door, potted plants and tables and chairs are great additions for a front porch. For the smaller landing, Karen Eubank of Eubank Staging in Dallas, Texas suggests a pot of rosemary by the front door. What a great way to have potential buyers enter your home after taking a nice whiff of rosemary at the door, signaling their welcome.

Numbers add a punch

Last, but not least, don’t neglect the house numbers or lighting. House numbers are best seen with dark numbers on a light background and are very important when selling! Ensure there is enough light to read them comfortably from the road. And if the front of the house is hard to see from the road, place another set of numbers closer to the road so buyers don’t miss the house!

Hopefully all of these tips will help your home make a great first impression!

To read the original article, please click here.

Mowing Your Lawn the RIGHT Way

A chore though it may be, mowing your lawn properly will do more than just improve its appearance.

When it comes to your landscape, one of the most time-consuming summer chores is mowing.At this time of year, under the right circumstances, the grass puts all its energy into growing, leaving you struggling to keep a tidy lawn. But mowing is not just a chore–done right, it’s one of the most effective ways of maintaining healthy turf. Here’s how to mow properly…

Mow more often
It might be more convenient to wait for the lawn to get straggly before mowing, but doing it every 4-5 days during the growing season will keep you from cutting too much off for healthy growth. Aim to take off no more than one-third of a blade’s height at once. This leaves enough leaf tissue so that the plant can continue photosynthesis. If you get behind one week, raise the mowing height to keep from cutting off too much at one time.

Don’t bag the clippings
Assuming you are mowing often enough so that the clippings aren’t excessive, leave them on the lawn to decompose and fertilize the soil. If it looks untidy, redistribute with a rake.

Sharpen those mower blades
Start the season with a sharp blade and replace as necessary. Help maintain sharpness by mowing when the grass is dry to keep wet leaves from clinging to the blades.

Switch directions
It doesn’t actually matter whether you mow in rows or spirals, but switching it up will help reduce soil compaction and turf wear.

Get the right mower for your lawn

- Manual-reel mowers: The best for the environment but requiring a lot of manpower, reel mowers demand keeping the grass quite short, which means cutting more often. They are easier to store for those lacking garage space and are perfect for those with small lawn space.

- Electric mowers: With an electric motor that pushes a rotating blade are second best in turns of minimal effect on the environment because they don’t produce exhaust. They are best for homeowners that have level lawns. Try a cordless one with a side or rear bag to catch the clippings if you chose to bag, otherwise get one that cuts finely enough to let them settle on the yard.

- Gas-powered mowers and lawn tractors: The exchange for power and usability does come with a heavy toll on the environment, so please choose a newer model that produces less exhaust emissions. Also part of the exchange for convenience comes the required maintenance—regular tune-ups, refuels, and oil changes. But for larger yards, they are the most practical solution.

To read the original article, please click here.

Lowering Your Energy Bills during the Dog Days of Summer

As temperatures rise, it’s common for utility bills to do the same.

A whole-house makeover isn’t necessary to begin generating energy savings this summer.Even the simplest changes can save you some serious dough in no time.

Clean filters

Want your air conditioner to run as efficiently and inexpensively as possible? Be sure to put “clean filters” at the top of your to-do list.

Dirty filters significantly block airflow and reduce a system’s efficiency. With normal airflow obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil’s heat-absorbing capacity. Clean your filter and you can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by up to 15 percent.

For central air conditioners, filters are generally located along the return duct’s length. Room air conditioners have filters mounted in the grills that face into your house.

Some filters are reusable; others must be replaced. Clean or replace your air-conditioning system’s filter or filters monthly during the cooling season. Filters may need more frequent attention if the air conditioner is subjected to dusty conditions or you have pets.


Just as it keeps your house warm in the winter, insulation can help keep your home cool in the summer. Insulation can reduce heating and cooling costs as much as 20 percent, according to Energy Star.

If you’re only going to insulate one place, look upward. Attic temperatures can soar to 140 degrees or higher in the summer. That heat will radiate down into your home. Insulation can stop that flow of heat and keep your main living space cooler in summer.

Shade those windows

Shades and blinds won’t actually reduce air leakage, but they can play a huge role in saving energy.

Awnings, for example, can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows. Awnings require ventilation to keep hot air from becoming trapped around the window. Consider installing adjustable or retractable awnings so that sun is allowed to warm the house in cooler months.

Interior blinds can’t do much to control heat gain, but the fact that their slats can be adjusted helps control both light and ventilation. When completely closed on a sunny day, the U.S. Energy Department estimates highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by approximately 45 percent.

Drapes or curtains may also reduce heat gain, but their effectiveness varies greatly depending upon their fabric type, color and backing. On hot days, close draperies on windows receiving direct sunlight to prevent heat gain. Studies demonstrate that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 percent.

Invest in a smart thermostat

Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.

Programmable thermostats have the potential to save enormous amounts of energy. Unfortunately, most users don’t program their programmable thermostats, leading the government to exclude the devices from its Energy Star program.

Never fear, there’s a cool new thermostat available that can actually do the thinking for you. The Nest features a simple dial that allows you to set the temperature you want; the $250 thermostat will learn your schedule as it goes. In about a week, it’s able to track your habits and programs itself. The Nest can also be controlled remotely, via smartphone or laptop.

Best of all, The Nest is aesthetically pleasing and, to quote the MIT Technology Review, “a little bit sexy.”

Turn off, unplug

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average household spends $100 a year on plugged-in devices even when they’re not being used directly. Nationwide, idle gadgets and appliances suck up 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity at a cost to consumers of about $11 billion.

According to the EPA, computers account for 2 to 3 percent of overall U.S. household and office energy use. Sleep mode helps, but your best option is to unplug entirely or use a power strip, such as the Smart Strip, which kills power when it senses inactivity.

Another big energy suck? That garage or basement fridge that’s being used to cool a half-empty ketchup bottle and a package of stale cheese. Pre-1993 models gobble twice as much energy as newer models. Need cold drinks for a party? Plug in the fridge the night before, but don’t keep it running unless you really need it.

To read the original article as published on zillowblog.com, please click here.

Selling Your Home: then and now

homesellingthenandnowOver the last 30 years, the way buyers shop for new homes has changed drastically. From the advent of online listings to the influence of home-improvement television shows, there’s plenty a home seller has to know about catching and keeping a buyer’s interest these days.

Go Where the Buyers Are and Give Them What They Want

Changes in technology have played the largest role in revolutionizing the way buyers find their new homes. Interested homebuyers used to browse newspaper ads and real estate magazines or go to open houses. But once online listing sites began to gain popularity, there was no turning back.

“Open houses were important when I started in real estate,” Dawn Kirkland, an agent in Birmingham, AL, told us. “But they’re no longer useful. Why go out and look when you can stay home in your robe and fuzzy slippers and see everything you want to see?”

Today, buyers of all ages begin their home searches online. The two largest age groups of homebuyers, Generations X and Y, even skip the computer and search using their mobile devices. That’s how many young homebuyers today actually find the homes they ultimately buy.

Overall, 92% of homebuyers searched online for a new home, so if you want buyers to even see your home, you must have an online listing. But, according to real estate agent Bob Wolf, if you want buyers to be interested in your home, you’ve got to outshine the competition. “The information, pictures and virtual tours included in sellers’ listings have got to be stellar,” he said.

A recent National Association of Realtors study of homebuyers backs him up. Homebuyers ranked photos, detailed information and virtual video tours as the top three most useful features of online listings.

Looking Past the Online Listing

Hooking the seller with a fabulous listing is just the beginning, especially with today’s buyer.

“A seller has six seconds to make an impression on a buyer,” Dawn said. The first three seconds are spent at the curb of course, so a neat yard and welcoming entry are as important as they have always been. But the sale really hinges on the next three seconds.

“You have to knock their socks off as they walk in,” Dawn explained. “Because they will either walk through the rest of your home with anticipation, or they’ll walk through with a critical eye,”

“Get a stager to help with furniture arrangement,” Leigh Gillig, a real estate agent in Nashville for 30 years, added. “This was never done years ago. Buyers now expect the home to look like a magazine.”

We’re Not Done Yet

Even making sure your home looks just right often isn’t enough to seal the deal, Dawn cautioned.

Years ago, buyers were more willing to consider purchasing a fixer-upper. “But there’s been a radical change in family dynamics,” she explained. “Today there are more dual-income and single-parent homes than ever before. The children are constantly involved in activities. Buyers today have no time and little inclination to take on a fixer-upper.”

That means buyers have to put in more work to present their home in its best light—ready to move in with no looming repair issues.

“If it needs doing, do it,” Dawn advised. “If you need a new roof, go ahead and get a new roof. Buyers always think home improvements cost more than they actually do, so if they see that your home needs a new roof, it could scare them off.”

Sometimes There’s No Substitute for Personal Advice

Attracting and impressing buyers takes a combination of high-tech marketing skills and old-fashioned hard work. When it comes to pricing your home, however, sellers are better off consulting a professional rather than relying on online pricing estimates.

Part of your agent’s job is to determine the right price for your home so you won’t waste time with a price that’s too high or lose money with one that’s too low. Agents have their own sources of information they use to calculate prices, and those aren’t always available to online pricing websites.

“Sellers may have an unrealistic expectation based on past markets, the media and information overload from the internet,” Bob explained. “That’s why it’s so important that sellers get all the facts about what’s happening in their market from an agent who’s done their homework.”

A good agent won’t stop there. They’ll have a marketing plan that makes use of online and offline methods of getting your listing in front of buyers, and they’ll give you honest suggestions about how to get your home in show-ready condition.

The right agent will also help you negotiate purchase contracts and help you address any issues that crop up between your acceptance of an offer and closing.

If you’re already working with an agent like that, congratulations! You’ve found one in a million. If you need help finding a high-octane, high-energy agent, you can see who Dave recommends in your area today.

To read the article as published on daveramsey.com, please click here.

Modernizing Your Kitchen on the Cheap

Kitchen RemodelWe always hear that remodeling a kitchen is one of the most expensive home improvements. And it can be.
The Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value Report listed the average cost of a major kitchen remodel at $54,909, and even a minor remodel came in at $18,856.

But kitchen remodeling doesn’t have to be that expensive. “If you take it piece by piece, you can do something good on a budget,” says Aimee Grove, a communications and marketing specialist in the San Francisco area. She and her husband have remodeled two kitchens on a budget. “I have my dream kitchen now,” she says. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The choice of materials makes a big difference in how much you’ll spend. Custom-made, solid-wood cabinets with a premium finish and decorative molding can easily cost $1,200 or more per linear foot, which is the way cabinets are normally priced. But you can get attractive cabinets at Ikea or even a local shop for a quarter of that cost if you shop around.

And while granite countertops definitely cost more than laminate, if you visit enough stores, you’ll learn that granite itself varies widely in price. “We went to 10 different marble places until we found the slab we wanted at the right price,” Grove says.

She and her husband remodeled the kitchen of their cottage-style home for about $12,000 after getting a quote from a contractor for $32,000. They chose to paint rather than replace their existing cabinets, but added a marble countertop and a subway tile backsplash, plus two new stainless steel appliances.

They found that it really pays to shop for materials and labor. For example, the price of the marble they wanted varied from $80 to $13 per square foot, and the fabrication quotes ranged from $3,200 to $6,000. Quotes to paint their cabinets ranged from $1,500 to $7,000. Tile, both for flooring and backsplashes, can run $1 to $15 per square foot. You may find the cabinet hardware you liked most in the store for half the price online.

Danielle Colding, who runs Danielle Colding Design in Brooklyn, New York, recently redid her kitchen with sleek, ultramodern gray lacquer cabinets from Ikea. “They’re really affordable,” she says. “You can do a normal kitchen for $4,000 to $5,000.”

Colding, who won HGTV’s “Design Star” competition in 2012 and also hosted “Shop This Room” on the network, says local shops can also be an excellent option when remodeling on a budget.

Grove and her husband chose to act as their own contractors, hiring separate painters, marble fabricators and tile installers. They gathered names from a contractor friend and the marble yard, and then asked those companies for bids and references.

Being your own contractor creates more work because you’re screening multiple contractors rather than just one general contractor for the entire project. Plus, you have to be available during the day to supervise, and you have to shop around to find the best price on supplies.

But for someone whose remodel doesn’t include knocking down walls, reconfiguring the layout or dealing with city permits, appointing yourself contractor can be a way to cut costs. “If you have the capabilities to be the general contractor yourself, you can definitely save some money,” says Jason Kloesel, owner of VK Construction and Remodeling in Austin, Texas. “If you don’t have the smallest construction knowledge, I would not recommend this at all.”

Whether you hire a general contractor or individual companies, make sure the contract is very specific about what is included when it comes to labor and materials.

Here are 14 tips for remodeling your kitchen on a budget.

Know what look you want before you start interviewing contractors. Drop by local showrooms to see cabinets, counter top options and combinations. This will help you get a sense of costs for different options, too.

Keep your plumbing and gas lines in the same place. A kitchen remodel costs considerately less when you don’t change the layout.

Don’t assume big-box stores have the lowest prices. A local cabinetmaker, in some cases, may offer a better deal than the larger competition.

Shop around. Explore all options for both labor and materials, from granite to hardware to appliances. Price varies a lot.

Consider used. Entire kitchens are routinely sold on Craigslist and at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore as well as architectural salvage stores. Hiring a local cabinetmaker to create a piece or two is much cheaper than creating an entire kitchen. “It’s used, obviously, but it’s usually very high-quality,” says Cathie Pliess, design program coordinator for the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

Look for remnants of granite and marble. Most fabricators have stone left over from previous jobs, and they’ll often sell it for a fraction of the original cost.

Make friends with cabinet shops. Once they’re finished with a display, it is sold at a deep discount. And don’t forget about big-box stores. You can score deals on cabinets by being friendly with them, too.

Shop online. Hardware, plumbing and lighting fixtures are all great items to buy online.

Don’t skimp on planning. The exact layout of the kitchen and choice of cabinets will make a big difference in how well your kitchen functions.

Find out where contractors shop. Many of those stores and fabricators are open to the public. Some offer discounts for bigger purchases, and many sell products that aren’t available in retail stores.

Be flexible on materials. If there is a look you want, see if there is a cheaper way to get it. Subway tile and glass tile, for example, are available at many price points, as are granite, marble and porcelain floor tile.

Do your due diligence. Check references of any contractors you plan to use, and make sure the contracts spell out who is responsible for buying materials, exactly what materials the contractor is supplying (down to brand and model number) and what the cost will be if you make changes during the job. Cheaper is not necessarily better.

Paint when possible. Know that paint is cheaper than stain, and that goes for the labor, too. “People shouldn’t overlook what a difference it makes to paint your cabinets,” Pliess says.

Consider alternative materials and designs. You can take the doors off the top cabinets or repurpose old furniture as kitchen storage or to create an island, Pliess suggests. Beadboard creates an attractive, inexpensive backsplash. And you might be surprised at today’s laminate countertops. “Laminate has come a really long way,” Pliess says. “It doesn’t have that ugly laminate look anymore.”

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