Turning Your House into Your Dream Home
You’re probably a little antsy from being stuck at home, so what better time to spruce things up and transform your house into your dream home? Whether you’re considering adding another room onto your house, putting up a garage or shop on your property, redecorating the interior or exterior of your home, or just remodeling your kitchen or a bathroom, there are plenty of local outlets to help you with your next residential remodeling project. We picked the brains of about 10 professionals in Omaha—from the banks that provide loans for your projects to contractors, home technology experts, bathroom remodeling specialists, and electric, heating, and plumbing gurus—to get you the advice you need to get started.
Rounding Up the Funds
Unless you’ve been saving your money like a rock star, you’ll probably be looking to take out a loan to finish any substantial remodeling project, and there are a number of ways you can approach it. The choice you make will depend on a number of things, including the size and estimated cost of the entire project and the amount of equity you have in your house.
Lincoln Federal Savings Bank Senior Vice President and Chief Lending Officer Dan Walker said they offer three primary lending tools for funding a residential remodeling project, including home equity lines of credit, home equity loans, and construction loans.
“If you’re looking to work on a long-term project and need flexibility to continue to draw money out as you go along, a home equity line of credit might be a good choice for you—especially for smaller projects, when you don’t know the full cost out of the gate,” Dan said. “We have equity lines of credit available with a five-year draw period, so you can draw on the credit line throughout that period until you get everything done. At the end of five years, the outstanding balance is amortized over 15 years.”
A second option is a home equity loan. While the line of credit basically works like a credit card, the home equity loan gets you the money upfront, but you have to start paying it back immediately.
“It’s for a specific project with a set cost,” Dan said. “For example, if you have $100,000 in equity and want new windows, you can get the amount you need to complete the project, so the home equity loan works well. It’s a separate loan from your mortgage, usually in a second-lien position, with a separate payment.”
The third option is for the biggest of remodeling projects—the demolition-to-reconstruction types of jobs that require a general contractor and can cost as much as several hundred thousand dollars. A construction loan requires significant monitoring and costs on the bank’s side and home equity lines of credit and loans typically involve more risk for the bank, so the interest rates on these lending tools generally are a bit higher than a traditional mortgage loan. For example, mortgage rates hit some of the lowest rates ever in June 2020, at about 2.5% and lower for 15-year terms and less than 3% for 30-year loans. That compares to interest rates in the 4.5% range for construction and equity loans and credit lines.
Dan’s biggest piece of advice is not to try to do residential remodels on your own: “Hire a pro,” he said. “Let a contractor come in and line up the subcontractors and get everything done to code. It’s going to be done quicker and better in nearly every case, and you’re just not going to save much, if any, money by trying to be your own general contractor.”
Home technologies are ever-changing and ever-improving, and Echo Systems has expert hands on the pulse of every latest-and-greatest going. As the region’s leader in residential and commercial technology and lighting, the company offers entertainment and lifestyle solutions, including systems that provide audio, video, home theaters, home automation, and much more—and from the onset of the COVID crisis, attention to technology has reached new heights.
“The COVID crisis has forced many homeowners to take a much closer look at perceived inadequacies in their homes,” said Doug Dushan, sales and marketing manager at Echo Systems. “Dependence on technology is at an all-time high, and with the advent of restrictions on public gatherings, demand for backyard amenities have been on the rise.”
Echo Systems is the region’s largest residential audio-visual company and the 30th largest in the world! That makes them uniquely capable of responding to clients’ needs 24 hours a day, and as clients depend on online meetings to conduct business these days, the company’s rapid and remote support has been critical. Also in line with social-distancing concerns, Echo Systems has developed a service whereby clients can have preconfigured landscape speaker systems delivered to their door or simply set up in their backyards for a trial period, with no human contact required. For clients who are permitting entry into their homes, Echo Systems has seen increased demand for improvements in home-entertainment systems, such as surround sound and home theaters. More concealed technologies are popular now, too.
“Hidden technology seems to be the rage,” Doug said. “Samsung’s Frame TV has been extremely popular, but many residents don’t know that it is just scratching the surface on items that can blend into their environment. If your home’s aesthetic is important to you, be sure to involve a professional from the start.”
Since the COVID quarantine started, Centris Federal Credit Union has witnessed a significant increase in applications for first mortgages, as the interest rates dropped to all-time lows. The largest percentage of the applications has been for refinancing of mortgages, many of which include adding money for home improvements.
“If you have equity in your house, now is a great time to do a loan to renovate your home,” said Assistant Vice President of Retail Financial Services Kasha Wilson. “With first mortgages, the type of loan we would provide is a cash-out refinance to build the monies to do your remodel.”
If you want to increase the valuation of your home, some remodeling projects add more value to your home than others.
“You can never go wrong with updating the curb appeal of your property,” Kasha said. “Kitchens, bathrooms, and finishing basements also give you an extra boost in your property value. Kitchens are a great way to add value to your home, especially in aesthetics that make it more updated and appealing to buyers.”
Whatever your motivation for remodeling, Kasha warns that it’s important to take care in hiring the right contractor for your particular job: “When you’re checking out contractors, make sure to ask for examples and testimonials from other clients they’ve worked with on projects. It is not a bad idea to verify their company rating on a website, such as the Better Business Bureau. Make sure you get several bids from different companies for the project you want to undertake. Lastly, do not pay for the entire project at the beginning. It is good to give a deposit for materials, pay another portion midway through the work, and then a final payment once the work is completed.”
Big Changes without Disruptions
Bathroom remodels are on-trend in 2020, but you don’t have to remodel the entire room—or disrupt your life for days or weeks—to make tremendous upgrades in your bathroom’s visual and functional characteristics. Bath Fitter has more than 35 years of experience installing the bathtub you’ve always wanted to upgrade the look of your bathroom…and quickly!
“We specialize in tub solutions and tub-to-shower conversions that can be completed in as little as a day in most cases,” said Brandon Delaney, branch manager of Bath Fitter in Omaha. “We offer a better way to replace your bathtub and cover encompassing walls, plus add new bathroom fixtures. Clients are constantly amazed at how quickly we can make their entire bathrooms look completely new and modern.”
Bath Fitter’s acrylic bathtub liners go over your existing tub, eliminating the need for tub removal, so there is no demolition required. The company also can convert your tub to a shower area, per your preference or if you need to achieve easier access. You can also choose from their collection of faucets, shower rods, soap dishes, ceilings, wainscoting, and more to achieve the look you’re going for.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to bring a home solution to people in Omaha that doesn’t require disturbing their lives or draining their pocketbooks,” Brandon said. “The customers we serve are always impressed with the quickness of our process, the look of the final product, and how we make sure to clean up when the job is done.”
Enhancing Your Curb Appeal
When you’re looking for professionals to help you with your remodel, be sure to consider Morton Buildings, because repairs and renovations are one of its specialties. Regional Service Manager Corey Lindeland said their service specialists boast extensive on-the-job experience and vast knowledge to ensure that their customers are satisfied when their work is complete. Morton has found that making exterior upgrades has become increasingly trendy in the remodeling world, which bodes well for the company, as their specialties include steel-roof replacements, steel siding, and skylight installations. From a small garage to an elaborate workshop to a home upgrade, Morton Buildings are one of a kind, customized, designed, and constructed to suit your specific needs and design preferences.
“Using the latest superior construction materials, Morton provides a wide variety of exterior service options that will provide the boost your home or building needs,” Corey said. “Whether you’re looking for new siding, wainscot, doors, or a roof that utilizes Morton’s time-tested Hi-Rib steel, Morton will deliver on the promise to make your home or building feel like new all over again. Morton will work its magic on all brands of buildings, too. Even if you didn’t build a Morton from the start, we’ll be happy to provide the repair or renovation you need!”
Corey offers a word of caution for anyone considering remodeling their home—especially first-timers: “Talk to a professional first to ensure you completely understand the services they will provide and what your responsibility will be.”
Fencing It All In
Another popular remodeling trend that will boost your home’s curb appeal is fencing. Whether your old fence is worn out and coming apart at the seams, you want a whole new look, or you want to put a fence around your yard for the first time, Fierro Fence is there to help! Owner Jake Fierro takes customer service and craftsmanship very seriously, so you’re sure to be happy with the process, the high-quality materials he uses, and the final product.
“I am very customer-oriented,” Jake said. “When someone calls, as the owner, I answer the phone and deal with customers directly from the start through to the finish. I’m also very on-task with my schedule, so I won’t schedule more than a couple of weeks out. I don’t want people waiting months to get their fence done, and we always finish on-schedule, too.”
Trending materials include wood, and Fierro Fence uses only the highest-quality products, including red cedar. Also popular are PVC fences, which come in various colors, including white, tan, and a dark-gray adobe. Finally, if you’re looking for something a little more luxurious, you might want to consider black steel fencing, which you can get in 4-, 5-, and 6-foot options.
Because Fierro Fence uses only top-of-the-line materials, they come with tremendous warranties, including a lifetime warranty on steel fencing and a 25-year warranty on PVC. Plus, Jake adds a one-year craftsmanship warranty and will take care of your fence if anything related to building quality were to happen during the first year.
Cornhusker Bank has witnessed increases in loan applications for residential remodeling since COVID struck, and Vice President and Manager of Mortgage Lending Mike Barrett said cash-out refinancing is an excellent lending tool for remodeling projects: “We have seen an increase in loan applications for remodeling lately as some homeowners have had more flexible schedules and have the time to plan or begin projects. Long-term interest rates are at historical lows, so a cash-out refinance is a great option because you can add cash on to your loan as you refinance to fund your projects.”
Of course, there are other lending products for financing a remodel, including home equity loans and lines of credit.
“Traditionally, the most common avenue to finance a home improvement is a home equity loan or a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC),” Mike said. “These also are very attractive of late because they are typically tied to the prime interest rate, which is at an all-time low.”
Some remodeling projects can add value to your home, with the ones that tend to generate the highest returns including adding a wood deck, replacing windows, and making kitchen and bathroom upgrades. Just be sure to budget wisely.
“Regardless of how you finance your remodeling project, one excellent piece of advice is to stay within your budget,” Mike said. “The best way is to figure out how much you can afford to spend, and then allot 80% of that sum to your project. Save the additional 20% for contingencies, including unforeseen problems that may arise.”
Plumbing with Aplomb
If you’re thinking about remodeling a kitchen or bathroom, adding on to your home, or you just need to overhaul outdated plumbing throughout your home, it’s crucial that you hire professionals who can do the work right the first time. Big Birge Plumbing is a great place to start. It’s a reputable Omaha company that focuses on both high-quality, professional work and the best customer service.
“We pride ourselves on honesty and truly caring about the results we deliver,” said Co-owner Lallenia Birge. “A lot of people and owners say they care, but we deep-down want to do the right thing and always have. We hire the people on our team who are honest, hardworking, qualified, and care about others.”
Big Birge Plumbing handles all types of residential plumbing services, including repairs and remodeling. Whether you need help with the entire project or just certain aspects, their team of experienced Omaha plumbers can help. Remodeling services include installations of everything from drains to faucets, sinks, grease traps, pipes, sewer lines, sump pumps, toilets, and water heaters. In addition, Big Birge will help design and plan your plumbing remodeling projects to yield the most efficient and effective upgrades with the function and the look you envision.
“When you decide to remodel your home or invest in an addition, there are many aspects of the project that should be handled by a professional,” Lallenia said. “While there may be some steps of the job you could attempt on your own, you are better off leaving it in the hands of experienced service professionals who know how to handle installations according to code. When you trust our family-owned and operated company for the plumbing needs of your remodel, you can count on us to go the extra mile to ensure you are happy with the finished product. We aren’t satisfied unless you are!”
Taking Advantage of Equity
If you own a home and you’re looking for a way to pay for that roof repair, or for upgrades you’ve been wanting to make—maybe putting in a pool—West Gate Bank Vice President and Consumer Loan Manager Nancy Johnson said a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) might be the right financial product for you to consider. With social-distancing recommendations keeping people at home more, she said lots of folks are making the time to check off some of those projects that they been putting off, so home equity lines of credit have been quite popular of late.
“A Home Equity Line of Credit is a great product because it gives you the flexibility to access money when you need it,” Nancy said. “You might not know the exact cost of all of the upgrades you want to complete over the period of the credit line—five years, for example—so you can decide as you go what fits into your budget and your list of priorities.”
The amount you can access or draw upon from a HELOC will be based on the amount of equity you have in your home, among other considerations. When your upgrades are complete or your credit-line expires, West Gate will amortize the amount you spent for you to pay out over a number of years following.
“Current rates on home equity lines are a bit lower than other loans since they are a variable-rate product that fluctuates with the prime rate,” Nancy said, “so it’s a great time to get started on that to-do list you keep putting off. Of course, be certain that you get multiple estimates if you’re considering a remodel, and talk to your banker to identify the best financing route for your particular situation.”
When you’re preparing to complete a remodel in your home, don’t forget to strategize your energy needs and upgrades, with an eye toward maximizing energy efficiency and functionality for the long term. To accomplish this, you’ll want to be sure to hire a professional who can ensure that your electric upgrades are compliant with all codes and are safe for you and your family. Langer Electric is a good place to start, and they can update you on all of the dramatic changes and options in lighting and electrical technologies that will enhance your remodeling project.
“The hottest trend is upgrading everything to LED,” said Owner Chris Langer. “It seems like they keep coming out with easier products to install. It’s not such a big, bulky product anymore. Plus, LED’s use 90% less electricity than the standard incandescent bulb, so you’re getting more light for less power. Also, Wi-Fi switches are continually improving. People can install and control everything throughout their house, including security cameras. It’s like a one-stop shop that can all be controlled through an app on an iPad or phone. It’s becoming almost standard these days to have 24/7 surveillance of your home sent right to your phone.”
Langer is a licensed, bonded, and insured electrical company serving the Omaha region. They pride themselves on delivering exceptional customer service and building relationships with customers.
There’s nothing like having your home at the perfect temperature—YOUR perfect temperature, that is. If you’re constantly nudging your thermostat back and forth to maintain a consistent room temperature, you might consider “remodeling” your heating and air-conditioning systems. Getzschman Heating has everything you need to achieve seamless heat and cooling management to make your home your true comfort zone. They offer G-Verify testing and system efficiency diagnostics to ensure your installation or upgrade runs at its best.
“We do a test drive for every installation we do,” said Scott Getzschman. “We use a program that’s called G-Verify, and we verify that your system is installed and tested before and after to make sure it is running at the same efficiency that is recommended by the manufacturer. With this program, we make sure that when it’s up and running, it’s not only safe and comfortable but that you’re going to receive the full benefit of the efficiency that you paid for.”
Getzschman offers a 100% customer-satisfaction guarantee that they back in writing, and all of their G-Force technicians are highly trained and background-checked. They provide free estimates on equipment replacement, and you can talk to a real person 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. What’s more, Getzschman can handle your financing needs, and they are fully licensed, bonded, and insured.
“We’re the company that you can trust with your house keys,” Scott said.
The possibilities for transforming a room in your home or overhauling your entire interior or exterior are endless, and you can achieve your dream home, even if you don’t know yet what that looks like. That’s because there are so many experts in Omaha who can walk you through every step from conception to completion. Go after your dreams!