For many consumers getting estimates on home improvements can be a daunting and confusing task. Homeowners can be left wondering why there is such a wide range of prices and whether the high price is a rip-off or whether the low ball guy is even competent. With this in mind, a lot of homeowners just aim for the middle of the pack and hope for the best. Unfortunately this kind of a strategy is no guarantee to get a good project at a fair price. So what is a homeowner to do?

Each year Remodeling Magazine, one of the leading industry publications for home improvements, publishes their "Cost Versus Value" report. This report is sort of like the Kelly Blue Book of the remodeling industry and is meant to help both homeowners and contractors alike have a baseline for what a given project should cost. A copy of this report can be found here. There is also a cost versus value app available for the iPhone and iPad which can be useful for more technologically savvy contractors.

In order to create their annual Cost Versus Value report, the people at Hanley-Wood, the publisher of Remodeling Magazine, define different types of both high-end and mid-range projects. These include projects such as kitchen remodeling, replacement windows, new roof, adding a deck or a new front door and many other types of projects. The projects are then further broken down by region to allow for differences in the material, labor and housing markets in various parts of the country. Finally, each project includes a general breakdown of what work and materials the job would entail, allowing for a meaningful "apples to apples" comparison to estimates a homeowner may get. This has the effect of allowing someone in middle Atlantic region (defined as New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) to get a pretty good idea of what they might pay to add a master suite to their home for example. Cost Vs. Value Report

Another aspect of this report which can be very valuable to consumers is an estimate of what portion of the cost of a given project a homeowner can expect to recoup should they later decide to sell the property. This figure is determined in conjunction with the The National Association of Realtors and Realtor Magazine. By having a general sense of what a project may later return on the investment a homeowner is better positioned to decide if a new master suite or a new basement remodel would be a better investment for them.

By utilizing this report, contractors are better able to demonstrate how their bid compares to a neutral baseline for their region. This can give homeowners a better sense of comfort when deciding whether or not to move forward with a bid they have received for a given project. It is however important to remember that when evaluating a project, price is only one part of the calculation. The reputation of a given contractor, the actual specifications for what they are offering and your own comfort level are all also very important parts of this decision.