I purchased my first home in 2003. It was a decent sized town house in a great area of Phoenix. When I purchased the home, my plan was to live in it for a few years and then turn it into a rental and purchase a larger home.
I hate moving and didn’t want the hassle of dealing with renters, so I never actually got around to purchasing a second home. When I married Aaron in 2010 he was in the process of building a home, so I moved in with him and we started renting my home.
We wanted to sell, but the housing market was still fairly weak, so we decided to give it a few years and then sell the home. During those years we discovered that we both really hated being landlords.
When our current tenants gave notice we decided it was finally time to sell out.
We had a little problem though. The home was built in 1997 in the southwest style that was so popular at that time. As in it still had those ugly pinkish style cabinets, laminate counters (also pinkish tinge) and old style tile. I’ll admit, I had kind of forgotten how ugly the color was until I went over for the final inspection – it was pretty hideous. I just wish I could find some old pictures to share.
I was willing to sell the house as is and just take the loss, but Aaron sells custom cabinets for a living and didn’t mind managing the project.
Home renovation projects are always very tricky. They never stay on budget, are never finished on time and always end up being more work then expected. Our house wasn’t any different.
What I learned from our minor home renovation project.
1. Walk the home and make a detailed list of everything that needs to be repaired, replaced or updated
This list needs to be incredibly detailed. We thought we had all the items listed, but very quickly realized we had forgotten a lot of little things. For example, do the door nobs, electrical/light switches, power panels or fixtures need to be replaced? Is their water damage anywhere? What about mold? Also remember that just because you were willing to put up with a minor little blemish doesn’t mean the future owner will feel the same. Little blemishes can drastically decrease the selling price for your home.
2. Provide detailed requirement to contractors
Once you’ve determined your needs, break down the list for the various contractors. You will need to provide them with exactly what you want done with detailed directions in order to get accurate quotes. This is your wish list. You may have to tone it down based on price, but start out small and then shrink the project as needed. Your return quote should incorporate you lists of requirements and should be signed off by both parties.
This step will actually be done twice. We did our first budget based on Aaron’s knowledge and the initial calls to contractors. Once the contractors had actually meet with us and provided their quotes we redid the budget. Remember to include all the little things you’ll be doing yourself as well. Out list wasn’t as detailed as we needed and next thing I knew I had spent 600 at Lowes on a bunch of little stuff. Light bulbs, cleaning supplies, screen repairs and minor patching all added up very quickly. Also include an estimate on your time. You may find it is more cost effective to hire people for the final cleaning and miscellaneous stuff.
4. Speaks with and receive bids from multiple contractors
Take the time to research each contractor. Verify they have an active ROC license and are bonded and insured to do the contract work they are being employed for. Speak with previous customers. I don’t really trust Angie’s list and some of the other online review companies, but it is a good place to start.
I was able to skip most of this step since Aaron knew the contractors personally and had worked with all of them in the past. Most of the work was actually done by his team at Homedge (if you are local give them a call – they do cabinets and granite)
5. Never Pay in Full Up Front
Never fully pay a contractor until the work is completed. Deposits vary by industry and you’ll need to do at least a partial deposit to order products and get the process started. However, if I contractor is insisting on full payment up front start running. This is a huge red flag. In the cabinet industry most companies require a 50% deposit at time of order, 40% at time of delivery/install and the remaining 10% upon completion. Personally I would try and use this payment method with as many contractors as possible.
6. Calendar out everything
Be very clear as to your time expectation with the contractors and set a specific timeline for your remodel. The timeline will end up getting shuffled, but the important thing is organizing the timing based on the needs of the next contractors. I doesn’t work to have the plumbers in prior to setting the sinks and cabinets. If you get the process out of order you’ll end up incurring additional costs to have a contractor return to finish things up. Speak with the contractors, they will know the best methods of managing the different groups.
Double check that all of your supplies are in stock and ready to be used. Don’t just assume that your received the right product either. Check all your boxes prior to beginning the remodel. I had a friend who ordered tile from out of the country. The tile arrived she started demolishing the kitchen only to discover the most of the tile was broken. She lived out of a partially renovated kitchen for weeks.
7. Be involved
Speak with the contractors regularly and make sure that they know you will be monitoring their work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and hold them to a high standard of work. Be very, very accessible. You want them to feel comfortable contacting you when there is an issue instead of just making a judgment call because you are rude and difficult to work with.
And on that note, don’t be crazy. There is a little known up-charge in the charge in the contracting industry called a COA (Cover your Ass), this is a little charge that contractors add when they know they are going to be working with a difficult customer. This primarily applies to trades like cabinets, carpet, tile and granite. Every time they have to send someone to your home to deal with your complaints it costs them money. They get a pretty good eye for those type of customers and during the bidding process will typically add anywhere from 10-50% to the cost of the job. I know it sounds harsh, but after hearing about some of the crazy customer’s Aaron has dealt with over the years, I can understand why they do it.
8. Personally inspect everything
Just because they say the job is done, doesn’t mean it is really done. Don’t just do a surface level inspection either. We had the plumbers out reset everything only to discover that one of the sinks hadn’t been set properly. This meant yet another plumbing visit which put everything else behind The plumbing sink looked fine at a distance. It wasn’t until the plumbers tried to do the next step that we realized there was an issue.
9. Do your research
You should become a miniature expert on the remodeling process. Don’t just assume that your contractors are going to be honest. Know enough about the different areas to be able to spot poor quality work, inconsistencies in pricing and stories. Don’t be the stereotypical dumb blonde who gets taken advantage of. Ask a lot of questions, takes notes and do you research.
Home renovation isn’t fun, it is a miserable experience that I still cringe thinking about and I wasn’t even trying to live in my home while doing the renovations. However, if you do the initial research and take the time to set everything up right you should be able to alleviate the vast majority of your stress. I must say the finished product made it all worth while. I wish I had done the renovations when I still lived in the home rather then wait until I was selling it.
Receive Our Newsletter
Subscribe To Get Bi-Monthly Content On Personal Finance, Parenting and Successful Living