HFB Blog

How to Spot a Potentially Fraudulent Basement Contractor

There’s someone in every industry that ruins it for the rest. Basement finishing and remodeling is no different.

There have been countless stories in the news about Omaha Basement Contractors who talk a good talk, but then fail to deliver on any work.

In this story, a basement contractor had a couple wire him $17,000 upfront to finish their Bellevue rental home. He never performed the work.

In another recent story involving the same contractor, he changed his name and business name to yet again scam homeowners.

The underlining message is even if you use such services as HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List,  Porch, or Thumbtack- that doesn’t ensure that you won’t become a victim. While most of these sites are legitimate (as are the reviews) we encourage homeowners to look more towards suspicious behavior.

Here are 3 ways to spot a potentially fraudulent basement contractor:

Requiring a Large Upfront Payment

Let’s say that the total cost of a basement finish is around $40k. If the contractor requires half of that amount before any work is done, it could be suspect. They may be totally legitimate, but it is risky to give that much amount of money without having any work to show for it.

We encourage homeowners in this instance to ask “why.” If they fail to answer a believable story then you may want to pass on working with them. Any basement company that requires that much amount to even start a project may have unforeseen financial troubles.

No Contract in Place

In the construction industry, we realize that many contractors work off of verbal agreements or even use estimates as binding contracts, which aren’t the same. The purpose of a contract is to protect the mutual interest of both parties in the event things go awry.

If a basement contractor never presents a contract, we would encourage you to ask them why. Basement finishing projects are usually a large financial investment so why would you avoid a contract? It’s a sign of professionalism and accountability to have a contract in place. Consider avoiding basement companies that “don’t believe in that sort of thing”.

Look for Personal Recommendations

Finding reviews off sites such as Angie’s List, Google, or HomeAdvisor can be helpful, but it can be hard to determine if those reviews are legitimate. This is where your personal social network comes into hand.

Ask for recommendations on Facebook, with your neighbors or even through NextDoor. It helps to talk to people who have personally worked with these basement companies and can give you an honest opinion.

Summary

Choosing someone to finish your basement, come into your home, and ultimately receive your money is a big deal. Be wary of suspicious behavior and don’t be afraid to ask to see documentation (such as license and insurance).

Even still, they may have all those things in place and have a good standing with the BBB and still be fraudulent. Look towards personal recommendations (or companies to avoid).

If you’re ready to get started on your basement, give us a call at (402) 321-5260!

When is the Best Time to Finish a Basement?

The best time to finish a basement is when you have financing for it.

I’m kidding. Mostly.

You’re probably looking for a season where it would make the most sense to finish your basement, right? Well, I’m going to answer your question with some questions and explain the different reasons.

What Do You Need the Basement For?

There’s usually a reason for completing your basement. Whether it’s in preparation for Husker Football in the Fall, March Madness, your kids entering middle school, or your mother-in-law moving in soon- there’s a reason.

Therefore, try to allocate about 3-5 months if you plan on using a basement contractor or 1-2 years if you plan on doing it yourself. You think we’re kidding about that last part, we’re not.

Another important consideration is when attempting to sell your home. If the market is in favor of the buyers and all the surrounding homes have completed basements then you may need to complete your basement.

Obviously, it looks good on your listing to increase the finished square feet and many people love turnkey homes.

When Are Basement Contractors Most Available To Work?

The construction industry is most thriving during the Spring and Summer with favorable conditions. This prompts much of the workforce to concentrate on exterior projects.

Your basement, however, can be started and finished at any point in the year. This past Winter, many Omaha basement companies had slight delays because of blizzard-like whether that made roads impassable. While minor in the grand scheme of things, weather delays are more prone in these seasons.

So again, Fall or Winter is a great season to start a basement project since the demand for construction decreases. But truly, any time of the year would be ideal for a basement project.

I’m Ready to Finish My Basement, What Next?

Much like other basement contractors in Omaha, we usually need an onsite visit to your home to understand your needs.

Once there, we need our drafting team to create a rendering of your basement that we can use to pull a permit and bid out each piece. To understand our pricing model and how we’re different than other Omaha basement companies, see here.

When all parties agree on the numbers, then we can sign on your project and begin work. Give us a call at (402) 321-5260 to get started to email hello@hawthornebasements.com.

 

Do I Need to File a Permit For Basement Finishing?

**These are current as of 3/2019.**

As basement contractors, one of the questions we’re often asked regards filing permits. Instead of going from our experience, we went straight to Omaha’s Chief Inspector, Mike Wilwerding, for these answers.

Below are his responses and what is listed on the Omaha Planning Department’s website so you’re hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth.

What is a Permit?

A permit is an official approval by the City of Omaha Planning Department allowing contractors or homeowners to proceed with a construction project- such as a basement finishing.

Why Do I Need a Permit?

A permit is a way of providing reasonable controls for the design, construction, use, occupancy, and maintenance of buildings, their facilities, and various components. The permit document shows that a building project is being constructed under processes for insuring code compliance and public safety.

In other words, the permit is the well-being of the community in a broader sense (and not because the government wants a reason to charge us).

Do I Need a Permit for Finishing My Basement?

In short, yes. The list provided by the City of Omaha for work that needs a permit includes anything structural such a room additions, new dwellings, roofing or siding, decks, fences, basement finishing (or basement remodeling), garages, antennas or towers, sheds over 75 square feet, window replacements, retaining walls over 6 feet high, front yard parking, fireplaces, and wood stoves.

Do People Finish Basements Without Filing a Permit?

Mike said it happens all the time, but it’s illegal. The consequences of getting caught after the fact aren’t worth it.

For instance, he said that if they find out you finished a basement without a permit, they can charge you 4x the amount you would have paid otherwise. Additionally, you’ll have to tear out all the finishes (flooring, appliances, walls, etc.) so that the city can see the structure (plumbing, electrical, etc.) and properly inspect it.

The monetary penalty and the huge inconvenience of tearing out a newly finished basement simply aren’t worth it.

What Happens if My Basement Contractor Doesn’t File a Permit?

For the basement finishing company that is caught without filing a permit, the city will assess a quadruple fee. Whoever pulls the permit will have to pay this fee. In short, the homeowner is free and clear if they unknowingly went forth with a basement remodeler who didn’t take the proper steps.
Additionally, the city may revoke or suspend their contractor’s license for up to two years.

How Are People Caught If They Didn’t FIle a Permit?

Mike said they find out about permit violations in several ways. The most common source is from neighbor complaints. Sometimes it happens when home inspectors see signs of work and further investigate.
Either way, it’s not worth it try finishing a basement without a permit.

How Much does it Cost to File a Permit?

The cost of a permit is directly proportional to the cost of the project. For instance, the fee for the first $2,000 cost of a project is $44.28. Then it’s an additional $10 for every $1,000 in estimated project cost.

Additionally, there is a (fairly negligible) tech fee of $1.60 upon online registration.

Who Files a Permit?

When filing a permit for remodeling or finishing a basement, it’s often the basement contractor who files a permit on behalf of a homeowner. In many other instances, however, the homeowner who is doing the work themselves will file it as well.

How Do I File a Permit?

You can file a permit for finishing your basement either in person at 1819 Farnam St. Omaha NE, 68183 (room 1110 on the 11th floor) or online by clicking here.

Summary

At Hawthorne Finished Basements, we simply like to do things by the book. This includes doing all the things required by the City of Omaha for basement finishing. Integrity is one of our core values and obviously, this will serve to protect the interest of homeowners.

If you want to work with us, shoot us an email at hello@hawthornebasements.com or give us a call at (402) 321-5260.

Ways to Pay For Finishing A Basement

If you’re considering finishing your basement, you may be wondering what are some ways to pay for finishing a basement.

It’s good to have some sort of an idea before you call any basement contractors to start gathering some quotes.

Here are some popular options to pay for finishing your basement:

Pay for a Basement with Cash

Maybe you’ve been listening to some Dave Ramsey and love paying for things outright. Or you possibly came upon a small inheritance unknowingly (I know of people this has happened to).

Paying for your basement with cash (or check) is the best option if you can swing it. Nothing stands in the way of getting started and you have complete control over how the money is allocated.

Plus, you may have some bargaining power with your basement company if they know that to be the case.

Pay for a Basement with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A HELOC is a line of credit approved by a bank that is secured by your home. These types of loans are often used for larger expenses such a basement remodeling or basement finishing.

The HELOC borrows money against the equity of your home which means your home’s worth is the collateral. Much like a credit card, the money can be replenished when you re-pay back the funds.

This is a popular option for lots of homeowners because the interest rate is often lower than other loans and in many cases, the interest is tax deductible. Here are some conditions for tax deductions, though:

  1. You have to itemize. This would mean that you have greater than 24K in itemized deductions for 2018 (with only 10K max towards state taxes paid — property and income tax).
  2. You are limited to 750K of qualified residence loans. So if your mortgage and your HELOC are greater than 750K, the amount you can deduct will be limited.
  3. The HELOC cannot be used to pay for personal expenses (ex. To pay off student loans or credit cards).

Once the project is complete, you’ll start making payments back on the line of credit- usually 20 years.

Pay for a Basement with a Credit Card

This is probably one of the least recommended ways to pay for a basement for a couple of reasons:

  1. The interest is really high on a credit card negating any “points” benefit you may receive in return.
  2. Many basement contractors in Omaha (or in general) don’t accept credit cards.

Listen, we know you want the points and you’re so used to putting most of your transactions on plastic.

When it comes to high-dollar items such as a basement finishing project, very few contractors will want to eat the cost of the credit card fees. As such, many won’t accept it. If you intend to pay this way, make sure your basement contractors gives you the thumbs up before proceeding.

Other Financing

Have some cash stashed away in a shoe box buried in your backyard? This may work!

Or perhaps you have a generous family member that will loan you money for the project? That may work, too!

Have a few high asset items that you can sell? That’s an option!

There are plenty of ways to personally finance finishing your basement or remodeling your basement.

Summary

At Hawthorne Finished Basements, we can help work with homeowners to understand the costs of basement finishing or remodeling.

Additionally, we have preferred partnerships with area Omaha banks to help homeowners our clients get the best deal.

To get started on your basement remodeling project, give us a call at (402) 321-5260 or email hello@hawthornebasements.com.

How Basement Contractors Should Pick Their Subs

You have many choices when it comes to Omaha Basement Contractors. But what many homeowners need to realize is that there is more going on behind the scenes.

Very few (if any) of these companies can fulfill the entire basement finishing on their own. Thus, they rely on subcontractors who are specifically licensed to do that very kind of work- such as electricians or plumbers.

Furthermore, there are other trades that don’t require licensing including framers, drywallers, tilers, cabinet makers, and carpet layers.

Here’s the important thing.

Your basement contractor should be discerning enough to know how to select the best ones to work on your basement.

Here’s how Hawthorne Finished Basements screens our crew

Knowledge and Expertise

This may be the most important factor we use to screen which subcontractors we choose for your basement. The company must be experienced and knowledgeable about their trade.

What this means is that they are able to do the job well, efficiently, and often consequently for the best price.

We often cross-check with other people within the industry about their reputation, especially when it comes to knowledge about the trade.

For the homeowner, this translates into a subcontractor that can understand long-term implications of the work they do on your home and code requirements (so we don’t encounter a violation during inspection).

Reliability

Have you ever known anyone who’s remodeling project took way longer than expected?

Nothing can ruin a basement finishing timeline quite like an unreliable sub. The timeline of the project is often structured with contingencies so if subcontractor A doesn’t do his job then subcontractor B can’t do his/hers.

Part of this falls on the project manager to diligently communicate with all parties so everyone is working as efficiently as possible.

As a homeowner, this means your project will often get delayed. And often times, with very little reason or understanding why. We have selectively picked subcontractors that we know are reliable.

This means they show up when they say they will, respond to our messages (often urgent matters), and do the work that’s required of them. And this is exactly what all homeowners want.

Price

This often is the first factor that many basement contractors use to select a subcontractor.

While price is important to consider, it’s not the end all, be all. At least we don’t think it should be.

When we are bidding out your basement remodeling, we’re looking for the best value. This means they are able to justify the cost- either way.

If they’re significantly cheaper than other subcontractors, we want to understand why. If there is any indication that they are cutting corners (inexperienced workers, cheaper products, shortcut methods) then we won’t use them.

On the other hand, if they are significantly more expensive than other subcontractors we will ask why. It may be that they’re shorthanded and need to “overprice” work in order not to get it or that they are inefficient and therefore need to charge more. Either way, this also doesn’t work for us.

We gauge price as a factor when ultimately choosing who works on your basement, but it comes with a  lot of thoughtful consideration on value.

Summary

Selecting the right basement contractor means trusting that they are select the right subcontractors. We hope you’ll take the time to diligently screen and understand how your basement company chooses subs.

The construction industry is riddled with horror stories. Our goal at Hawthorne is simply to give you the best experience and change your perceptions on how basement remodeling can be.

Give us a call at (402) 321-5260, email hello@hawthornebasements.com, or fill out our contact form to get started!

 

What is the Best Basement Flooring?

If you’ve recently embarked on finishing your basement, you may be wondering what basement flooring would be your best option.

You’re looking at function, pricing, durability, and aesthetics. Above all, it helps to understand the lifestyle of the homeowner to make a good suggestion.

Here are some basement flooring options to consider and the purposes they each serve.

Is Tile a good basement flooring option?

Tile is a great option that many homeowners will use in their basement. It looks good, has durability, and is cheap.

But here’s the thing to consider with tile.

It absorbs the temperature of the floor beneath it and oftentimes, basements in Omaha are colder than the rest of the house. This means that tile will often feel colder in basements, especially if your HVAC system has issue regulating the temperature.

Tile is also a cheaper material, however, the installation and labor costs of tile can make the same overall costs as other materials.

Tile has some redeeming qualities too! It does hold up against moisture well compared to some products (wood, engineered hardwood, etc.) and some people prefer the aesthetics of tile.

If you plan on using tile for your basement flooring, it’s great around wet bar areas or for bathrooms.

Is Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) a good basement flooring option?

LVT has been around for almost a decade, but within the last 2-3 years, it has been increasing in popularity.

If you think about “vinyl flooring” your mind immediately goes to your Grandma’s outdated kitchen flooring. This is not the case with LVT.

With the advances if printing technology and imaging, vinyl tile has come a long way. Whereas in the past it was one large sheet of vinyl, manufacturers are now printing them in planks. They’re created to mimic wood and marble while being much more affordable and durable in composition.

In fact, to an untrained eye, you may look at LVT and mistake it for the real thing. This is why it’s now such a popular option for flooring, especially in basements. Additionally, many LVT products can be installed directly onto cement flooring making even the labor costs significantly cheaper.

We recommend homeowners use LVT for the bar areas or bathrooms. You’ll be impressed with the looks, durability, and pricing. To learn more, check out Adura Vinyl Planks.

Is Carpet a good basement flooring option?

Carpet has long been a popular choice for many homes. In basements, especially, since you’re going from hard, cold cement to soft, cushy, and warm carpet.

We all know that carpet is great for basement flooring, so here are really the things you should consider (besides color).

Nylon or Polyester carpet? All carpets are composed of either one of these two products. To understand which you would want to choose for your basement, it helps to know how they differ.

Nylon is a more durable product and easily will last 20 years in a home. The way it’s threaded leaves it retaining the “new” form for much longer period of time. Accordingly, you pay for the price difference.

Polyester is a more commonly used product because of the price point. It shares many of the positive attributes of Nylon, but a much cheaper price. The downfall is that over time it will get matted down with heavy traffic. Vacuuming and carpet cleaning will “fluff” it up again, however, only for a short period of time.

To choose between the two, it might help to understand what you want out of your basement carpet. Do you think that you may want to change it in a few years after wear? Stains from kids or pet (or adults if we’re being totally honest)? To update the interior look of your home?

In that case, polyester carpet may fit the bill. However, if you like durability and expect to stay in the home for a long time with little change to design then nylon carpet might be the better option.

Is wood a good basement flooring option?

Wood, unfortunately, is probably not a good option for basement flooring. Solid would is susceptible to moisture and will often warp or buckle under enough exposure. (This is especially a concern for basements since cement is porous)

Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, is a good option. It’s moisture-resistance and far more durable than real wood.

The only real downside is the cost. It’s about double the cost of LVT in both raw materials and labor. The differences are so subtle that we often recommend LVT to homeowners, especially for basement floors.

Summary

There are several types of basement flooring options that homeowners can choose from. We suggest you pick a knowledgeable basement contractor that can walk you through your options based on your lifestyle and future plans.

If you want to work with Hawthorne, give us a call at (402) 321-5260 to get started!

What Sets Us Apart From Other Omaha Basement Contractors?

When you’re researching Omaha basement contractors, it’s hard to tell what makes each company different.

Everyone says the same things, has the same types of picture and offers the same types of service.

At Hawthorne, we wanted to be very clear on what sets us apart. We’re not just another basement finishing company in Omaha and here’s what makes us different:

We’re Female Owned

Nothing against the fellas, but we think women bring a unique perspective that you won’t find with other basement contractors in Omaha.

Each of us contributes separate skills and knowledge to this industry. Our attention-to-detail, high level of communication, and use of technology will create a better experience for the homeowner.

Thoughtful Basement Plans

Each plan and layout is created with your family in mind. The way we see it, your basement is a blank slate and we work with you to help design it.

Entertain often? Let’s put in a drink fridge.

Like watching movies or sports? Let’s do a killer AV setup.

Lots of pets and kids? Let’s make sure to incorporate a stain-free carpet.

Is your Mother-in-Law moving in? Let’s make sure we set her up comfortably.

You tell us what’s important and we make sure to incorporate it.

Over Communication

Back to point #1, we’re women and we like knowing what’s going on. We assume the same of you.

You’ll often find that we respond to emails, calls, or texts within the same day (sometimes the same hour). We’re accessible, communicative, and might interject some sarcasm along the way.

We’re easy to reach during business hours. And even after you’ve sent in your last payment, we’re still easy to reach.

Total Transparency

We believe that trust thrives in transparency. This is partly why we use cost-plus pricing over fixed pricing and why we operate with “open book”.

But on top that, we believe in owning up to mistakes (we’re human!) and being truthful even if the news isn’t great. The basement finishing industry still has a long way to go, but we’re excited to be part of the change.

Summary

Does Hawthorne sound like a basement contractor you’d like to work with? Great! We’d love to chat.

Fill out our contact form or give us a ring at (402) 321-5260.

Advantages of Cost-Plus Basement Pricing

So let’s say you’re out looking at several Omaha basement contractors to get a bid on your basement finishing.

You’ll get numbers all over the place from the low end to the high end of pricing.

Most basement companies in Omaha will actually offer fixed pricing. Many homeowners don’t realize that there is an alternative through cost-plus pricing.

What exactly is cost-plus basement pricing?

In short, we charge a fixed percentage of the overall cost of the project. We will determine at the early stages the exact estimate of your project and calculate a management fee percentage on top of that. So whether you choose a $300 microwave or a $3000 microwave, we don’t stand to make any more.

So while fixed pricing is a good option, here’s why you should consider a cost-plus basement pricing:

More Control

As a homeowner, you always get to call the shots (outside from building code rules, etc.). This means that while you may have a certain budget allowance for lighting, you may find a better option at Wayfair. Great! You purchase those lights and then we can adjust scope accordingly.

This is especially advantageous for homeowners who are savvy shoppers and like to be involved in the process.

Complete Transparency

This is an open book process. You get to see what we pay the subcontractors or vendors and so you know that we’re not marking up pricing. This is what we mean if we ever talk about “true pricing.”

Plus, we get the builder pricing on most things and pass those savings directly to you.

Additionally, changes are a much more seamless process because you often know the price differences in any upgrades you make. So you’re negotiating with your spouse (and not us).

Summary

Interested in a refreshing basement contractor relationship? One with transparent pricing, proactive communication, and more flexibility.

Fill out our contact form or call us at (402) 321-5260 to get started!

Should I Hire a General Contractor For My Basement or Do It Myself?

Should I Hire a General Contractor For My Basement or Do It Myself?

This is a totally valid question and one that homeowners ponder a lot.

Do I try to finish my basement myself or hire a basement contractor?

While we can’t make that decision for you, we hope that understanding the pros of each might help you make a better decision.

Here we go.

Benefits of Finishing Your Basement Yourself

With the knowledge of the internet, there are more resources now than ever to learn to do it yourself.

The obvious benefit is cost savings. So whether you’re simply general contracting it yourself or doing some of the physical labor, you will no doubt save money.

In fact, some estimates say you can save anywhere from 10-20k+ when you manage the project yourself.

It helps to be available (i.e. work at home) and being extremely organized. There are tons of resources on Youtube and websites that can help you if you plan on doing it yourself.

Plus, many people enjoy the process of acquiring a new skill that goes along the process.

Definitely doable and great for those who are tenacious, adaptable, and handy.

Benefits of Hiring a Basement Contractor To Finish Your Basement

The obvious benefit is the experience. Any Omaha basement contractors will usually have experience dealing with permits, working with any subcontractors, design/layout/selection experience, and project flow.

As such, the project will often move much faster and with little snags than someone finishing their basement themselves. We can employ several hands at various stages of the project so there’s a very little downtime.

We have screened all of our subcontractors and can stand by their work.

And the other benefit? We take on the burden of oversight and time management which many homeowners would prefer.

Summary

There’s really no one-size-fits-all approach to finishing your basement.

You can do it yourself and save money, however, you’re trading convenience and time. On the other hand, you can hire a general contractor get time and convenience at a higher price tag. It just depends on your basement budget and personal preference.

If you decided on the latter, then we would be HAPPY to help you out. Please fill out our contact form or give us a call at (402) 321-5260.

 

 

 

 

Starting an Omaha Basement Finishing Company

Why Basements?

The construction industry has room for improvement. Homeowners are used to miscommunication, missed deadlines, and generally, having an unsavory experience.

But we realized it doesn’t have to be that way. So we decided to do something about it.

As fellow Elkhorn residents we came to the realization that with the boom of housing, there would rise a need for basement contractors. Some key players exited the market so it was a ripe opportunity to enter.

Lindsay + Cam

Lindsay and I have been friends for almost 9 years now. Our oldest kids were literally babies when we first met and now we have both added 2 more each. Yes, we’re busy, but we’re also passionate about making an impact in the professional world.

Lindsay has long had experience with construction and custom home building. As mentioned, she is a third generation builder so it’s been second hand for her. She knows the ins and outs of construction and has had her hand in all types of residential and commercial builds.

I, on the other hand, have limited experience with Construction BUT I know project management. I owned and operated a web design company for nearly 8 years. During that time, I was able to work on some complex projects and really hone in on my project management skills.

We both bring separate and unique strengths into Hawthorne Finished Basements, but we believe this to our advantage.

Oh yeah, and we believe our XX chromosomes will serve us well in a male-dominated industry.

Wanna Work With Us?

Head on over to our Contact page to give us a few more details of your project and we’ll get back to you lickety-split.

Let’s work together.