Would you enjoy your house more if you made a few changes? Maybe you don’t know where to start? My wife, Anna, and I have flipped 2 personal homes in the last 5 years and helped dozens of clients plan and complete renovations of all kinds—even new builds.
Home projects of any size can be scary, especially when you are talking about major financial investment in your home. Here are a few tips and suggestions we’ve learned over the years.
Have a plan
This seems like a no brainer, but I can’t stress it enough.
Knowing exactly what you are going to do, estimating time generously and selecting as much of your finish material as possible up front can save huge amounts of time and money. A plan takes vision and often is strengthened with a professional opinion on feasibility and value.
Scope creep—the idea that a $20,000 kitchen remodel easily turns into a $35,000 main level remodel—is a real problem with home renovations. Only through careful and informed planning can you ensure every aspect of the project stays in check. As a rule of thumb, give yourself at least twice the amount of planning time as building time. For example, if your kitchen remodel will take 2 months, give yourself at least 4 months to plan it out.
If you are not in a hurry and can plan appropriately (see tip #1), you should be able to save anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent on materials and labor for your project.
Contractor’s prices fluctuate seasonally, so set up work in the slow season and give your contractors plenty of notice to ensure you get the best deal. Suppliers usually have an old-stock or returns section—even for tile, trim, windows and cabinets. The discounts can be as much as 70 percent off retail prices. Get to know your suppliers and ask about sale schedules. You can easily get entry-grade granite countertop for the same price as laminate, if you are patient and informed.
There are definitely things you can and should do yourself.
Demo day, for example: Do it yourself. It’s likely a good idea to outsource plumbing, major electrical upgrades, anything foundation/structure related and roofing. Get a few quotes and don’t be afraid to negotiate a bit. The good contractors are set up to work quickly and they make good money only by staying busy. Figure out what you are comfortable tackling and get bids for everything else.
When you decide to sell your house, buyers are going to look at the permit history—especially since it will be so beautifully upgraded.
Pulling permits for your project can be a headache. You deal with the building department and inspection deadlines, and it adds some cost to your project. If you don’t pull permits, however, the penalty is 3x permit costs, plus inspections that could require walls to be opened up to ensure proper building code. It is an absolute nightmare to retroactively permit work that is already complete. Just do the right thing and pull the permits upfront.
Choose Classic Finishes
Finishes can seriously date a house.
Even trends that were so fresh 5 years ago have grown stale. I can walk into most houses and guess when they were updated, give or take 3 years. The best homes, those that sell for the highest price on the market, are the ones updated with quality and timeless finishes. Whites and cream colors, stone tile and real wood trim, floors and doors—these finishes will still be used 100 years from now. I have installed high-grade laminate flooring in two personal homes, but it looks like wood—no patterns or textures.
We know you can do this. How? Because we’ve done it, and we’re just like you. If you need help with the vision or the contractors, or really any of it, give us a call. We can handle anything from a simple design consultation to a full-house remodel design—complete with 3D renderings. We will help you make wise choices so that when you do decide to sell, buyers will come by the dozens.
In the meantime? Your home will work beautifully for you.