Preparation is key when planning a home renovation
If you are new to home renovation, the prospect can seem daunting. It’s is not something that most people are practiced at, unlike buying a car.
It’s important then to learn all you can about the process before taking the first step. Preparation is key, no matter the project’s scope. We cannot overstate this. How prepared you are will impact the process and your budget.
The first rule of thumb is to give yourself plenty of lead time. Depending on the size of your project, we recommend six months to a year in advance – from envisioning your renovation to start date. You will need time to select a contractor and fit into their schedule, and secure loan and – if needed – permits approvals.
If you are considering a home renovation, the following is a step-by-step guide to help you.
Step One –Creating a Wish List
We encourage you to begin by developing a wish list – a concept of what you want to achieve. It’s the first thing we ask for when approached by a prospective client. Do you require more room? Do you wish to improve the aesthetics of your house? What is the renovation’s specific purpose? Often we run through a question and answer process to help clients develop a workable wish list.
Images from home magazines, Houzz or portfolios can help you define and articulate your vision.
The more detailed the wish list, the easier it will be to determine if the scope of your dream renovation matches your budget.
Step Two – Determine your Budget (phase one)
At this stage, you should have a rough idea on what you can afford – either through money saved, what the bank will lend you or personal sources of financing which is usually family based loans. Even if your renovation is a year away, we encourage you to meet with your source of financing to foster a relationship.
They will advise on options such as mortgage refinancing or home improvement loans. They may even confirm how much the bank would be willing to loan you at that time.
Once you have a rough idea on vision and budget, choose the right home renovator for your project. We recommend doing this prior to approaching a design/build contractor. Too often clients approach us with drafted plans that do not match their budgets.
Step Three – Choose your Contractor
Referrals are always important and no more so than home renovations. Eighty percent of our work is repeat and referred business. Choosing the right design/build contractor for one of the biggest investments you will likely make is essential for your peace of mind.
We recommend that you ask your network if they recently underwent a home renovation and if they’d recommend the renovator and why. Research reputation, customer service and warranty on completed work. Also find out if the companies are members of their local home builders association, such as the London Home Builders Association. Members are accredited professionals who uphold a code of ethics.
Also look for renovators who are appropriately experienced in the work you require. Some focus on new builds, others on renovations and specific types such as decks or kitchens. You may also want to confirm their reputations by consulting the Better Business Bureau.
After you determine which contractors you’d like to see, invite them over to your home. They will review your wish list and explain their company process which will vary from company to company. The better companies will charge for plans and some will charge for estimates.
They will also inform you if the scope of your envisioned renovations matches your rough budget. Costs broadly breakdown as follows: trades, labour and materials. Soft costs must be factored in too, such as plans, permits, and engineering and municipal fees, depending on the project’s scale.
Trades and material costs are fairly consistent. If you receive an estimate far lower than the others, you may want to inquire why their price is so low. Ensure in your review of the different quotes that the method of pricing is the same.
Comparing costs is weighed against how you feel about the contractor. Do they “get” you? Do they understand your vision and value your input? Do you like them? Does your spouse? Do you like them enough to have them in your home for several months?
Choosing a renovator is a balance between the objective and subjective, price and feeling.
Step Four – Specify your Budget
Once you select your renovator, they can provide you with a proper plan, estimate and cost breakdown. We like to say: The quality of information provided equals the quality of information out. The more detailed you are on your renovation, the more detailed the quote.
If your budget does not match your estimate, your renovator will walk you through options. You may want to wait a year or so to save more money, or break up your renovation in phases. This is when you return to the lender to secure your loan.
Always budget at least an extra 10 percent for cost overruns. These could include surprises behind the walls, and decisions to upgrade appliances and features. And don’t forget the HST, which adds 13 percent to your project.
A Note about Design
Your renovation may require architectural designs. If that is the case, much can be said about working with a renovator’s in-house design team who are aware of the project’s budget and will design accordingly. A collaborative approach on design and build – as opposed to coming in with drawings from an outside designer – better manages costs.
The more prepared you are, the more seamless and cost effective your renovation will be.