Home Renovation Guide: Tips To Avoid Getting Duped When Renovating Your First Place
Congratulations on crossing another milestone in life – getting your first home! But amidst all the excitement you are probably feeling jittery about the home renovation process. Fret not. In this guide, we will share some insider tips to avoid getting duped for your first home renovation project. Choosing your ideal contractor or interior designer, the theme, getting a loan and more, we got you covered.
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Take time to plan your renovation
Start planning your renovation the moment you get the floor plan, and not till you get your keys. Because with more time on hand, you’ll be able to ask around, meet different interior design companies and compare offers carefully. Since you’ll likely be spending a 5-digit sum for your first home renovation project, never rush into making a decision!
In addition, with more time on hand, you can prevent unnecessary mad rush and save more money too. After all, unexpected delays practically happen all the time.
Consider an interior design theme that suits your lifestyle
We understand that almost every new homeowner wants the interior design of their home to be as up to date as possible. However, don’t try to incorporate too many trends into your home. It is essential to consider an interior design theme that fits your budget and lifestyle instead of following trends blindly. Do choose a pragmatic style that suits your needs, or even increase the value of your property should you rent or sell your home in the future.
Choose the right contractor or interior designer
In case you didn’t know, hiring an interior designer (ID) typically costs more than a contractor. Why? Because an ID is really a project manager, who will oversee the entire renovation project from ideation to completion. On the other hand, a contractor is a person who can carry out your specific requests.
Thus, if you are going for basic renovation and know exactly what you want, hiring a contractor may be the safer bet. It certainly makes sense to hire a contractor directly to save money. However, if you prefer an easier time or still unsure of what works for your home, it is best to hire an ID for peace of mind. Just remember to follow up on the timeline and get updates on the progress regularly from the ID.
Beware of renovation packages that sound too good to be true. It is also advisable to check the contractor or ID’s background. To avoid risks, choose from the list of HDB approved contractors, and CaseTrust-accredited ID firms. You should also check up the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE)’s blacklisted contractors (renovation and interior design). By choosing a trusted contractor or ID, if the firm doesn’t deliver on its promises, you will still be able to receive compensation or recover your deposit.
Don’t rush your renovation
Never rush through your renovation, especially the design phase which is the most time-consuming. Once the renovation commences, any changes will not only result in exasperating delays but also likely to add on to the cost. Furthermore, do evaluate carefully what your ID proposes. You don’t need to oblige readily just because the renovation package sounds attractive.
Shop around for the best renovation loan
As mentioned earlier, renovating your home will easily cost a 5-digit figure. For most of us, this isn’t exactly a cheap sum to begin with. Just to give a rough idea of renovation costs in Singapore, the average cost of renovating a 4-room HDB flat is about $53,000. While we discourage getting a renovation loan as far as possible, if you really need to, do shop around and compare the rates offered by different banks carefully.
One crucial point to note is that the maximum loan you can get is $30,000 or 6 times your monthly salary, whichever is lower. If you prefer to pay a flat rate interest on the total loan amount, get a renovation loan from RHB. All the other banks offer only loans with monthly interest based on outstanding amount. You should also be mindful of the loan coverage in order not to stretch past your original budget too much.
Scrutinise your renovation contract before you sign
This may sound like common sense, but there are many who do not examine the contract in detail before signing. We understand you may be too tied up with other commitments, but surely this big investment is worth the time and effort scrutinising all the fine print? Your ID may be industry famous or highly recommended by your best pal, but never let your guard down. It is important to fully understand your renovation contract details. Ensure that there is a comprehensive breakdown of the scope of work and costs for each project stage, such as:
- Space planning / design fees
- Project management fees
- Coordination fees
- Labour costs
- Charges of materials, accessories, fixtures etc.
- Workmanship warranty
- Dispute resolution clause
In addition, always check both the schedule and payment terms before you sign the contract and negotiate if you need to. It will be difficult to make any changes to the schedule and terms once the contract is signed. No matter how much you trust the ID or contractor, please make payment only to the company, and not too early. After all, this is a business transaction. The last thing you want is to end up with delayed completion or worse, non completion for your renovation!
Be watchful of extra renovation costs
Besides the obvious interior design charges, there are many costs involved in renovating a home which you need to look out for. These can be quite significant if you are not watchful.
a. Electrical works
How many electrical points are you installing in your home? Refrain from requesting the installation of too many power points, just for the convenience of powering up your appliances easily. Because the current market rate for each additional electrical point is at least $60! So if you are only using regular household electronics, using a power strip extension cord or adapter is the more economical option.
b. Concealing electrical, phone and LAN cables
We know the numerous electrical, phone and LAN cables get in the way of a beautiful and neat home. Nonetheless, try to strike a balance between hacking the walls to insert the cables and burning a hole in your wallet. Furthermore, imagine the trouble you have to go through to hack the wall again if there are electrical problems that affect the concealed wiring. Be creative in concealing such wiring with your furnishings instead, so as to save some money. Google cable management tips and you’re good to go.
c. Flooring specifications
Make sure you ask your ID or contractor for the specifications and cost when choosing the type of flooring for your home. Check the exact pricing and dimensions of the tiles instead of just knowing the range. A more affordable and time-saving option is the waterproof Vinyl flooring as it is also easier to install. Other materials such as marble, mosaic or homogenous tiles require hacking of the floor which will be more expensive and time-consuming.
Remember, hacking the wall = more cost involved. Therefore, try to go for designs that do not require hacking the wall as it is a laborious and pricey job. To cut down unnecessary spending on installation of feature walls, get your creative juices flowing by using furniture pieces to liven up your home.
As for whether you should paint your walls or use wallpaper, think long term for practical reasons. Painting your home with a light neutral colour is a hassle free option, and it also brightens up and makes your space appear larger. Or if you prefer using wallpaper, go for high-quality wallpapers that do not curl or fade out easily in our tropical weather. Instead of trending wallpapers, classic ones are a safer bet as you won’t know how long the trend would last. You wouldn’t want to spend money on revamping your walls within a short time, would you?
It is common that your ID proposes more storage than you need in the proposal, because storage is normally charged based on per foot run. Thus, do evaluate the amount of storage you really need, and not just agree blindly to the proposal, just because it looks so beautiful. Never spend on something that becomes a white elephant in the future.
f. Haulage fees
After all the renovation, there is bound to be debris to be removed in your home before you move in. If you are staying in a HDB flat, ensure you call up the town council to check on the haulage (debris removal) fees. For private property, do get a few quotes yourself instead of simply accepting whatever your contractor quoted, as they will definitely outsource the haulage service. As a benchmark, haulage fees typically range from $300 to $600, depending on how extensive your renovation is.
g. Chemical wash
Last but not least, for a major overhaul of your home involving large-scale flooring and painting, you will need a chemical wash to remove cement stains and dirt throughout the home. It is usually included in the contract for any major renovation works. Do check all the water holes to ensure your contractor doesn’t chuck any cement or sand inside, as this will result in unnecessary chokage in the future.
Spend a few days in your newly renovated home before making the final payment
Finally, the renovation is done and it’s time to tour your newly renovated home! Before you make the final payment, spend a few days walking around the house with as many friends and family as possible. This is so that little things such as a cabinet door that doesn’t close properly, uneven flooring or malfunctioning power points can be spotted. Ensure your ID settles all these problems before closing the project with the balance payment!
Hope the above tips are useful for your first home renovation. Share them with your friends and family if you like these tips!