The renovation business is booming. North Americans are increasingly spending more money to update their homes rather than purchasing new ones. And even those who are purchasing homes are still spending money on renovations (both minor and major). So if you are one of the many homeowners tackling a renovation this year make sure to put these renovation resolutions at the top of your list.
You may recognize this from my Real Estate Resolutions post, but it bears repeating. Budgets exist for a reason and there’s no point in making one unless you’re going to stick to it. Renovations can be exciting and it can be tempting to add things on throughout the process, but all it takes is one unexpected reno surprise to throw your budget completely out of whack. That’s why it’s really important that you make a realistic budget before you start, so that you can minimize the chances of going over budget. Be honest with yourself about the final result you’re looking for and don’t budget for the cheapest option if you think you’ll be tempted to upgrade later on in the process.
I cannot stress this enough – renovation surprises WILL happen. No matter what you budget for, there will always be something unexpected that comes up and ends up costing you more than you bargained for. Even the best home inspector can’t see behind the walls, so you have to come to terms with the fact that there may be something unpleasant lurking behind them. A healthy contingency of 20%-25% should protect you against a lot of these unexpected additions.
A scope of work (SOW) is a detailed account of everything that will happen over the course of the project. Both you and your contractor need to agree to these terms and sign the scope of work before starting. Too many people start a project without fully understanding what it is that will happen, and what exactly they’re paying for. A detailed scope of work ensures that both you and your contractor are on the same page and committing to the same things. For details about what should be included in a scope of work check out my post about How to Work with Contractors.
A scope of work is a starting point, but over the course of any renovation you can expect that there will be additions (either because you’ve changed your mind about something, or your contractor has found a renovation surprise). No matter what the change, it should be documented with a change of work order (COW) which includes the new work that has to be done and an invoice from the contractor. This document protects both you and the contractor from any misunderstandings after the fact. Attach this to the original scope of work so you have everything together.
Too many people start renovations without doing enough research. No, you don’t have to be an expert in home renovations, but you definitely should know the basics of how your house works and what you want done to it. The contractor you hire is your partner in this project, and while you need his or her expertise and know-how, you also need to know what questions to ask and what to look for. Your home is the most expensive purchase you’ll ever make so you need to know how it functions and how to take care of it.
For more information and renovation tips check out my collection of design and renovation articles.