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Thread: How to save thousands of dollars on home renovation

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default How to save thousands of dollars on home renovation

    How to save thousands of dollars on home renovation

    No one likes to be overcharged and you can avoid this only if you know the prevailing costs of items or services that are available in the market

    Tan Ooi Boon

    Jan 9, 2022

    SINGAPORE - You don't have to splash out big bucks to buy a new home if you want to enjoy the latest interior designs and features. You can, in a word, renovate.

    With careful and smart planning, you can turn your 20- or 30-year-old home into a modern and comfortable abode with the best amenities.

    The best part? Just like picking a good investment after you do your homework, renovations do not have to bust your budget if you know how to choose the best package that your money can buy.

    Here are four tips that can save you tens of thousand dollars plus a lot of heartache if you plan to make improvements to your home.

    1. Get quotes from at least two different companies

    There are good reasons why government agencies and companies make tender exercises compulsory for most projects. No one likes to be overcharged and you can avoid this only if you know the prevailing costs of items or services that are available in the market.

    It is not true that a complete overhaul of a three-bedroom apartment, for example, must cost at least $100,000 or even more. You could get the same work done for $60,000 to $70,000, or 30 per cent savings, if you have good insights on how companies set prices.

    What this means is that if you do your homework, there is a potential to pay substantially less for all kinds of makeovers.

    Some owners like to believe that they have to pay top dollar because they engage award-winning designers whose services must surely cost more. But this cannot explain why you have to pay a lot more for basic items and services that are not exceptional.

    These examples taken from quotes of licensed companies listed in the Housing Board's directory of renovation contractors show the often huge disparity in quotes. For instance, one company charged $6,000 to hack and dismantle the old tiles and fittings of an apartment while another might ask for over $8,000 for the same work.

    While the demolition work requires skill and care, you certainly don't need to pay a third more to get to the same pile of rubble.

    Similarly, if you have obtained quotes from more than one party, you would know that some charge $50 for installing a single power-point while others charge double. As a home would need 20 or more points, you could end up paying over $1,000 extra just for this item.

    Now add up all the charges for lights and other electrical work and you can either pay about $5,000 all up or $10,000 or so for another contractor.

    The price disparity is even more stark when you ask for custom-made fittings, such as for wardrobe and kitchen cabinets. Granted, there are ready-made designer cabinets that can cost tens of thousand dollars, but there is no reason why you should not negotiate on carpentry work even though it seems like a steal at just a few thousand dollars.

    Make sure you deal only with companies on that HDB list; you certainly don't want to work with an unlicensed contractor with the lowest price and risk having your home uncompleted and in a mess.

    It is also worth checking with more than one vendor for other big-ticket items such as your curtains so that you won't get blind-sided and pay a few thousand dollars more if all you want is just something nice that can block out the sun.

    2. Good service is paramount

    Another reason to talk to more than one home designer is to allow you to judge who is more diligent and trustworthy because you are handing over your most valuable asset to a complete stranger.

    Getting a good price is great but finding someone who can get the work done to your satisfaction is even more important because there is no home sweet home to go back to if you end up with a bad one.

    Yes, most designers are charming and obliging when they are eager to get your business but there are still many tell-tale signs that will allow you to sieve out the bad ones.

    For instance, a good designer truly listens and he won't leave until he literally measures every nook and cranny that you want him to make-over.

    And to show you he really knows what you want, his proposal will be so detailed that he covers even the minor work that needs to be done.

    So like grading an exam paper, such proposals can be a good gauge on how reliable your candidates are; if they are sloppy when they want your business, you can expect them to be worse once they have you in their pockets.

    If you think it is fine to be less strict with quotations because it is still in the exploratory stage, just remember this - if you select your designer based on a half-baked proposal that looks cheaper, it means that the cost of many other jobs have not been considered and you will be at their mercy when additional costs start to appear once the work starts.

    Just like investing in financial products, you should not be swayed by any offer of free gifts because these will not make up for signing a bad deal.

    You are not shopping in a bazaar where haggling is needed. If you sign a proposal that says $71,900, you should just need to pay for this unless you request changes during the project.

    Of course, if the designers don't even bother to get back to you on time or always postpone appointments without good reasons, drop them because it is risky to let irresponsible people babysit your home renovation.

    3. Have a date and stick to it

    While it is hard to get everything settled at the proposal stage, you should at least ask for the estimated start and end dates to gauge whether you are comfortable with the timeline.

    The response should give you some idea on how many jobs the designer is handling and whether your project can really be completed on time.

    Ask about the deployment of manpower as we are, after all, living in Covid times.

    You need to check whether the company faces problems in getting workers if there are sudden disruptions that are not within their control.

    Also ask if the carpentry work will be done locally because any items that are imported, even from across the Causeway, could face delays due to shipment issues.

    Unless you have more than one home, never let your designer have a free hand in deciding the timeline as this means you have to spend more renting a temporary residence.

    To be fair, good designers also don't like delays because it means it takes longer to bank in their proceeds.

    4. See what you are getting

    Once you have made your choice, ask to see the simulated pictures of your proposed make-overs before the work starts so that you won't get a nasty shock later.

    Technology means these are now standard fare that come with the package without additional charges in most cases.

    It is important to see these drawings, especially in cases where some walls need to taken down to make way for new features and you need to see if you are pleased with the design. After all, some things seem like a good idea in theory but appear a real eyesore when you see it in a simulation.

    When it comes to renovation, you need to be happy with the outcome or you will live with the mistakes for many years.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default Re: How to save thousands of dollars on home renovation

    Don't stint on critical renovation items such as air-con and toilets

    Choose the best and most energy-efficient air-conditioning units that your money can buy so that you won't need to replace it for a decade

    Tan Ooi Boon

    Jan 9, 2022

    SINGAPORE - The reason you save and invest is to enable you to have a good life and this naturally means a better and more comfortable home as well.

    Not all items in your home are equal though. So even if you are working on a tight budget for your renovation, here are four areas that you should not stint on.

    Cool and clean air

    All of us look forward to the day when we can simply buy and install air-conditioning units easily, without the need to tear up the ceiling and all its pipes.

    Until that day comes, some of us will renovate our homes just because we need to change these units, a process that involves extensive work.

    Don't believe eager salesmen who tell you that you can just change the units without changing the pipes. Most new systems require special pipes as well so if you put in new units without replacing the pipes, you are merely postponing the problems.

    Not only will your new cooling system not work efficiently, you risk having leaks if the pipes have been used for a decade or two. You certainly don't want leaks in your newly renovated home as it means tearing up the ceiling again.

    Don't be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to air-conditioning: choose the best and most energy-efficient that your money can buy so that you won't need to replace it for a decade. And why buy just a cooling system when you can consider special ones that come with clean-air technology that can inhibit even the coronavirus.

    It is really quite troublesome to change such units so you should spend time on research and choose the best products that suit your family's needs.

    Comfort where it matters

    If you spend a lot of time in the bathroom, you will understand why comfort is paramount here. So it is bewildering why some people who buy resale homes would keep the previous owners' fittings, including the toilet bowls, just because they "look new".

    Frankly, this is another item that can give you a nightmare if you choose not to replace it during the renovation. If you think air-conditioning pipes are bad, imagine the stench or worse, the mess you have to bear, if your bowl leaks or cannot flush properly.

    So don't choose based on the cheapest price.

    And don't let your designers make such decisions without you going to the showroom yourself. While you don't have to buy a throne that is fit for a king for your modest bathroom, you should buy one that meets the needs of you and your spouse, especially if you have more than one bathroom.

    Safety first at home

    Your make-over plans should "future-proof" your home by including some elderly friendly features, especially in your bathrooms and kitchen areas.

    Indeed, this is an important part of retirement planning if you expect to remain in your existing home for the near future. For instance, make sure you choose non-slip tiles for bathrooms and kitchen areas as marble and similar materials are deadly slippery when wet.

    Accidents at home are more common than you think and the more critical ones usually happen in the bathrooms when owners slip, fall and injure themselves, sometimes fatally.

    So between beautiful marble tiles and plain-looking safety tiles, choose the latter for your bathrooms - even if you spend a lot of time there, you are probably reading and not admiring the tiles.

    And while you are at it, consider installing grab bars in the showers, bathtubs or near the toilet as well. These bars are useful for young people too, especially when they suffer back aches due to sports injuries.

    More importantly, just like undertaking financial planning for retirement, it is never too early to think ahead what you will need around the home when you become older.

    If you do some checks online, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that many of these items are very nicely and cleverly designed and they sometimes serve more than one purpose, such as for support as well as a place to hang towels or clothes.

    Sight and sound

    If you are still using a doorbell, it is time to upgrade to an intercom system, especially you are into online shopping and many delivery folks come knocking at your door.

    Such devices are especially handy if you prefer not to open doors to strangers: You can just speak to them and ask them to leave your parcels by the door.

    It is also useful when you are not at home. Some of these devices will capture images or videos whenever someone presses the bell so you will know who has dropped by.

    But buy a decent one that comes with a monitor and get the vendor to install the system for you, using your doorbell's existing power line.

    In this way, your system is always working and there is no need to replace any batteries.

    Finally, it's a no-brainer that you should pay attention when it comes to improving your home as it is after all your most valuable asset.

    It is ironic that many people work hard to earn money but when it comes to spending it, they let others make all the decisions for them.

    The buck should stop with you so make sure it is well spent in creating a comfortable home that suits your needs.

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