This blog a special guest post from our friends at Alair Homes – custom home builders and renovators with offices across the lower mainland and North America.  I asked them, “What do you wish clients knew before you started renovating their home?” As you can see from the below, they had a lot to say! Here’s the inside scoop on what builders want you to know about the renovation process. 

Spending all this time at home this year has many of us thinking about upgrades and renovations. Plus, with the money saved from canceled vacations, it seems like a good time to reinvest in your home. 

At Alair Homes, we’ve built hundreds of homes and completed even more renovations. From condos to cabins, to country estates, we’ve done it: We know construction. And after dealing with thousands of clients over the years, we’ve learned some hard and fast rules about what it takes to complete a project on time, on budget, and to the client’s complete satisfaction.  

Embarking on a renovation is a two-way street: Homeowners are an integral part of the process, and we work with them to ensure they’re prepared for what’s in store. 

Here are thirteen things we think every homeowner should know before starting a renovation. 

1. Is what you’re trying to do legal? You’d be surprised how many owners want to start on projects that go against zoning bylaws. Before you go too far down the dreaming and planning road, be sure to talk to your builder to understand local zoning regulations. You may also need to factor in the costs of working with engineers and code consultants.

2. If you’re financing the project, get preliminary approval from your bank before you start anything. Some people are hesitant to reveal how much they can spend because they want to ensure they get a good price. But think of it this way: The car dealer needs to know if you’re in the market for a Mazda or a Maserati. Setting the budgetary parameters early on makes decision-making easier.

3. Yes, we know you’re excited to get going, we are too! But thorough planning takes time. More time than you realize. Most problems and overages come from racing into construction. With our Client Control™ system, we budget out every single cost before we start work. Time spent at the start translates into serious cost savings in the end.

4. Build a contingency plan into your budget. The older the house, the more unforeseen surprises that can crop up during demolition. So be sure to plan for a higher contingency for older homes.

5. Smaller jobs and tasks are not billed out by the square foot, but by the number of trips the contractor and trades will need to make to your site. The minimum bill-out rate is 4 hours. So smaller jobs can estimate a lot higher than you would expect.

6. When you’re hiring a contractor, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Are they all quoting on the same thing? If a contractor expects a large deposit and wants to jump into the demolition asap, that’s a definite red flag for future overages and unexpected costs.

7. Want to do some of the work yourself or have a friend who can help out? Ensure the “helper” is licensed, skilled, insured, and contracted (formally) to avoid any issues during the construction process.

8. Make sure you’re seeing all the costs in the quote. Some builders will only give you the cost of the renovation, but what about city service costs, site upgrades, security deposits? 

9. Maintain and keep a paper trail. At Alair Homes, we use a proprietary management program that tracks every communication and quote, so you can simply log into your account to check the details at any stage of construction. It’s a great way to follow along on the progress, monitor expenditures, and hold everyone accountable.

10. Have you considered where you will live while the project is underway? While some smaller projects may be doable with the owners still living in the home, it is always preferable if you can move out during the renovation. It often means the job can get done faster and more efficiently, which translates into cost savings.

11. Whether you’re moving out or not, plan to put your furniture and belongings into storage. This helps avoid damage and can help speed up the renovation. It’s important to note that some sub-trades will not work with furniture in the room as it becomes too difficult to work around it and constantly move it. 

12. Think ahead. Yes, turning that third bathroom into a walk-in closet may be a good idea right now, but what does it mean for resale value? Devaluing your house can affect bank appraisals and future investments. 

13. Consider working with a designer. As builders we’ve seen it in action: their value can often far outweigh the cost. Homeowners often don’t know what they don’t know. A designer’s expertise can save you time, introduce you to new ideas and new products, and identify potential problems and costly design mistakes before they happen. 

Oh, and did we mention plan, plan, plan? That’s something that we’re exceptionally good at Alair Homes. Clients get full transparency on their project, from how much things will cost to how long it will take, all before we start construction.  We share firm quotes and discounts so you know exactly where your money is going.  Our software allows you to easily track every component, scheduling decision, and expense as your construction progresses, with real-time updates.  We want the only surprise to be just how much you love your new renovation.

Want more information? Contact my friends at Alair Homes today!