Planning renovation work

Although it may seen odd to talk about spending money on your property during a recession and a credit crunch, this is the time when you may be most at risk if you start changing things around. Let's start with a simple question. One of the results of this downturn has been a dramatic increase in the level of unemployment. So many more people have either found their hours cut or they are out of work. But what to do? The bills are still there to be paid. The obvious answer for some is to start running some kind of business from home. Even if your efforts only produce a few dollars of profit a week, that's a few dollars more than you would have had. Except that's changing the use of a part of your home from residential to commercial. So think about what business you might try. It might be turning your kitchen into a catering operation to sell cakes and cookies. You might look to do some woodworking in the garage. Your spare bedroom might become a home office. The idea is to convert an existing hobby or skill into money. Except your home is currently insured as a residence. Adding in commercial woodworking or cooking operations may increase the risk of fire. More people may come into your home to buy goods or services. If they are injured by slipping on your floor tiles or tripping over a loose carpet, are you covered against third party liability claims? So here comes the headline: always tell your insurance company if you are going to change the use of your home. If you do not, the insurer could refuse to pay out on any claims!

Another possible way of raising money is to convert a part of your home into a self-contained flat and rent it out. That rental income could make a big difference when it comes to paying those monthly bills. Except that your policy will be limited to occupation by you and your family. Almost all policies have terms requiring you to tell the insurer if you increase the number of occupants. Again, failure to alert the insurer will lead to a refusal to pay out on claims.

Finally, let's say you have a little cash but negative housing equity. In better times, you would have traded up and purchased a bigger home. Now the best option looks to be adding to or renovating your home - being forced to stay does not mean the building must stay small and uncomfortable. Now remember the rebuilding value you declared when you got your home insurance quotes. That was the price per square foot of putting your home back into its then condition. If you increase the size and quality of your home, the price per square foot of reinstatement also goes up. You must tell your insurer about the proposed increase in value and whether any changes in the materials used will affect the risk, e.g. using more wood will increase the risk of fire, replacing a wood-burning stove with central heating reduces the risk. Remember home insurance quotes are only good for the home as you had it. Always tell your insurer when you change the size or building materials used.

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