Get free DIY advice. Go to youtube.com and type in “askthebuilder” for how-to videos on simple procedures, like replacing a faucet or a light fixture. See when to do it yourself when to hire a pro to help you decide if you should take on a project.
Be flexible. "Ask a tradesman if he has a hole in his schedule, then inquire about a discount if you book during that time," says Amy Matthews, a licensed contractor and the host of Sweat Equity, on the DIY Network.
Learn the lingo. Before calling a contractor, check out sites like moneypit.com and diynetwork.com. You’ll be better informed―and less likely to get taken―if you can speak his language.
Don’t succumb to “Your roof is falling” tactics. If your basement floods, say, a cash-hungry contractor might try to talk you into a drainage system that costs around $7,500. But in the majority of situations, you can guard against indoor deluges just by cleaning and extending gutter downspouts and grading soil away from the foundation. That’s why you should solicit at least three quotes. And if you anticipate spending more than $10,000, hire a home inspector (find one at ashi.org). He will help you figure out exactly what you need done and how to avoid hidden costs.