You’re finally ready to embark on the Great Homeowner Adventure: renovation. Before you get started, read up on some tips and ideas to help the project stay on time, on budget, and mostly sane.
Prioritize. Make a plan, make a wish list, and make a real list of stuff you can live without. Make a list of what you want and discuss it with your designer. You’ll probably have to narrow things down and become more realistic once you see the projected budget. Once you’ve finalized what you want done, don’t get sidetracked along the way. It’s easy to want to add things as the project progresses, but each new water feature or revision may add to your overall budget and timeframe.
Plans, meet 2022. You might have heard that the pandemic has caused a real supply chain problem, and almost nowhere is this worse than home building supplies. Lumber, labor, and lots of other elements are scarce while also being in demand. Keep this in mind when reviewing your estimates and asking your contractor how they have prepared for supply shortages. Make sure you use a contractor who is established and has a good reputation, with supplies on hand and that has planned to have items in stock.
Depending on the project, the season can be in your favor (like shopping for a sweater in Summer). For example, if you’re doing an outdoor remodel or planning for one, consider starting in the low season (Nov-March). Think of the whole project as an investment since housing prices are going up and look to stay that way for a while. In the end you’ll get your return on investment that you’ll be able to enjoy for years!
Find contractors. Where does one find good designers and builders? A good source can be design magazines like Dwell and their online resources, and online resources like Houzz. A good web search will yield local design firms that you can then research further for reviews and pictures. As always, word of mouth is great - if you know someone who recently did a renovation you can ask them for their choices. And a good walk or drive around the neighborhood will probably show you a few houses that are recently renovated or are currently being renovated, and often there will be yard signs that advertise the builder. With some research you can steer clear of contractor red flags.
Get a few estimates. Once you’ve decided on which companies look good, it’s time to call them and set up on-site visits to get estimates. Plan for each visit to be at least an hour, as the designer will want to walk through your space and hear what you’d like. Sometimes they’ll be able to give you an estimate right on the spot, but more likely they’ll need to go back and calculate roughly what they think it will cost to complete your vision. Also, make sure your builder is comfortable filing permits and working with the city departments.
Nail down the timeline. Have an honest conversation with your contractor about timelines. Once renovation has started and your yard has been disturbed, it’s a pretty bad time for them to take another job for a week and leave yours. Impress upon them that the schedule is very important. Whatever you do, don’t pay for the entire job upfront. You’ll want to ensure every detail is right before sending in that final payment.
Secure financing. There are a lot of options to pay for a renovation. Your first step can be to contact your mortgage lender to see if they have construction loans. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, many other financial institutions offer some form of construction loan. Some more established companies offer their own special financing and a variety of options to fit your budget such as low-interest or deferred payments.
Have patience & hunker down. It’s important to go into it with your eyes wide open: this will be disruptive, and your yard will look like a mess for a little bit and the result may be hard to visualize. But just be as patient as possible and be ready for little setbacks or bumps in the road. It’s never a perfect process, but when you’re working with a trusted contractor, you can trust it will all be perfectly great upon completion.
Stay on top of it. Once the contractors are on site, you’ll want to keep in the loop with everything that happens. No matter how much you planned, each day will bring surprises and questions that need your decisions. From utilities that ended up not being what they’re supposed to be to inclement weather throwing a monkey wrench in your schedule, it’s never a dull moment. So be ready to answer the phone and be decisive about what needs to be done.
Sit back and enjoy!
Renovating your home’s outdoor areas can be a big undertaking, but once it’s all said and done you can be confident your new space will be a dream come true. You not only increased your home’s value you created a space you’ll love living in for years to come, and that’s priceless