Homes are like bodies, to look their best, maintenance is critical and sometimes a makeover is necessary. If neglected for too long, the time and cost can be prohibitive to repair. Lastly, calling on a team of experts to help will increase the chances that the job will be successful.
I recently spoke with three women who live in the San Francisco Bay Area about their recent home remodels: Jane lives in the Noe Valley neighborhood in San Francisco, Lucy lives in the town of Piedmont in the East Bay, and Marcy lives in the Lakeshore neighborhood in Oakland. I wanted to gather some tips on how to make the process less costly and cumbersome. I think their feedback will be invaluable to anyone who is thinking about a major home project.
Jane likened the process of the major remodel of her San Francisco Noe Valley home to being pregnant, “once it happens, you are on the ride until the end, and it’s different than what you expected, at least in some ways. Try to avoid disaster; a little luck helps.”
She recommends hiring a designer especially if the remodel involves a kitchen or bathroom, even though she acknowledges “it’s another significant cost to have one.” Designers will act as the go-between with you, the architect and the contractor and if the designer is good, can help to cut down on problems afterward. Jane offered that it helps if all three know one another or have worked together before, but that they don’t necessarily need to work for the same construction company. Lucy agreed on this point and added “I interviewed three general contractors, and I was very glad that I chose the one the architect had a close working relationship with – the partnership has worked out very well, and that is one of the reasons that there has been no drama throughout the construction.”
Another key piece of advice from Jane: move out. The mess and disruption make this a must-do in her mind. Of course, you have to plan for the extra cost of rent and the storage of household items.
Lucy, who took her aging home in Piedmont down to the studs added some valuable tips about controlling costs:
– Read the contract carefully, and make sure all items are accounted for. Try to have an allowance for all the things for which the price can’t be determined, pending owner’s election.
-Fees for the architect, surveyor, structural engineer, permits, rental, moving cost, etc. can add significantly to the total cost of the project – be sure and add these to your budget.
-Watch out for “scope creep” -many times when walls come down, contractors find things – rot, drainage issues, support issues, etc. and work cannot continue on the original project until these are fixed. It’s best to add these to your time and cost budget in advance.
Marcy experienced scope creep in a big way, in fact, she estimates that it added 30% of costs to the original bid. Hers is an older house built in 1925 with many structural and drainage problems that required repair before the remodel could begin.
All three women warned that you need to be prepared to make a ton of decisions both big and small and it can be overwhelming at times. Given all this, one wonders whether undergoing a home remodel project is worth it? When asked this question these were the responses:
Jane said: “I don’t know. I think it’s all worth it in the end, but you have to get beyond it in a way before you can really settle in and enjoy it. And since it’s all new, depending on what you do, there’s a learning curve to being in your own home.”
Lucy said: “Yes, I am glad that we did it. A lot of pain though, and a lot of money, like 60% more than what we thought it would be. But yes, glad I did it. Now the house performs very well, and the design is more modern and contemporary.”
And Marcy said: “I’m glad we did it but wish we hadn’t spent so much money.”
It’s clear from these women’s experience that being realistic about the cost is critical and so is choosing the right people to do the job. Please take a moment to share your own experience with remodeling. Was it different or the same from these Bay Area women?