The biggest headache after getting your BTO or EC is the renovation. The average renovation is one of the big-ticket items for Singaporean couples costing around $55,000 for a 4-room HDB. Understanding the huge concern of Singaporeans, we approached four of the top renovation experts in Singapore to get their advice on how we can save money on renovation.
Three Key Takeaways
- Reputation: It is always important to research the credentials and history of your Interior Designer before committing.
- Price vs Quality: Cheaper packages usually come with a price. Being thrifty may be a virtue, but compromising on quality may not be that wise a move.
- Realistic Budget: Set a realistic spending budget and fully equip yourself with information on sales and promotions.
Question 1: What are key considerations before signing a renovation deal?
Geraldine: There are three key things I will look at. Reputation, Cost, and Portfolios
Reputation of the renovation firms: Nobody would want their future home to be in the hands of unreliable and shady firms. After all, renovating a house is a remarkable milestone. Everybody wants to do it well and probably do it once. Not forgetting the fact that renovation usually costs up to 5 digits, this sure is a big amount and a long-term investment. Just like when you purchase a product, be it a hand phone/laptop or whichever item, people would always consider the brand and reputation first, isn’t it? Same goes to the realm of renovation. A reliable and trustworthy firm would save you tons of unnecessary trouble from haunting you.
Cost: Apart from the reputation of the firms, the cost is always the major considering factor before signing a renovation deal. Renovation does not come cheap. All the materials, furniture, carpentry, plumbing and many more other relevant works are not little items you can purchase off the shelf. Summing up the total cost, it is often a big shock to homeowners who are not careful with their budget planning. In order not to burden themselves with loans, many homeowners keep the cost of renovation at the top of their priorities.
Portfolios: I believe all of us have once imagined how our future home should look like. Customized walk-in wardrobe, open concept kitchen, a bathroom with bathtub, cosy living room and a conducive home office are just some of the examples. In the housing scenes of Singapore, space is always a problem. As such, by referring to interior design portfolios of the interior designers serve as a source of ideas and inspirations. Searching and viewing portfolios are homework homeowners do, willingly and extensively. Hence, looking out for interior design firms’ portfolios play a huge role before signing themselves up for that particular renovation deal.
Zac: Is the deal too good to be true? Because it probably is
One of the most important things to look out for is whether the interior design firm you’re signing the renovation deal with is a reliable one. A little research goes a long way. Scour social media reviews and read forums for reviews on the firm. Don’t just go to a single source for information. Also, make sure the company is a legitimate business by checking if it’s registered under ACRA.
Read the terms and conditions of your renovation deal in detail before signing. Have they listed everything you wanted (materials, brands, design work)? Ensure that the payment terms and renovation schedule are stated clearly. The terms that were agreed upon during the discussion should be recorded. Also, ensure that the deal covers clauses on how to handle unforeseen changes. There is a likely chance of such incidents occurring during a renovation.
James: Focus on the comfort level in working together
The company background and designer portfolio are some of the main considerations before making my decision. On top of that, renovation payment to an interior designer should never be an upfront full amount. It should be a progressive payment.
Qanvast: Lookout for sub-par quality materials and fine print
Check that the materials used are not sub-par in quality: A renovation quote that seems like a steal may not be the best. At a glance the materials used may look fine, but they may not be able to withstand the most basic wear and tear, and you may end up paying more for repair and maintenance in the future.
Look out for the fine print: If not, you may realise some things you initially thought were included in the package, are not – Lights? Window grilles? Plumbing and electricity works? Additional renovation costs could pile up to a large sum. For example, the promised length for kitchen cabinetry in the package may not be long enough for your kitchen, and you’ll have to top up for the additional length.
Question 2: Common mistakes Of Singaporeans
Geraldine: Five key mistakes first-timers commit
Following the crowd: Instead of embracing their individuality, many people tend to follow trends, blindly. Yes, even in the interior design of their own home. Trends come and go, which is why following them are not advised. Chances are, homeowners get sick of the trend after a few years. After which, they need to seek for alternatives which incur a cost, time and effort. Instead of following trends, embrace your individuality and make your home uniquely yours.
Not planning in the long-run: Whatever homeowners want may be practical for the time being but what about in the long-run? A good example would be having children themed room for the kids. The designs may not be applicable in the future when the children grow up. After which, another massive renovation would be required.
Cutting cost in an unwise way: Being thrifty is indeed a virtue, but you got to spend on things that are of quality and sustainability. For instance, homeowners may opt to purchase furniture, decorations or materials online. In the end what they get may not be what they want. Moreover, most purchases made online do not come with a warranty. The method of cutting cost through the use cheaper material is a common option adopted by homeowners. Foresight is vital, it is always important to think in the long run.
Going for cheap renovation packages (unaware of hidden costing): There are many unauthorized or rather unscrupulous renovation contractors who tend to use cheap renovation packages to lure unsuspecting homeowners who thought they had gotten a good deal as the prices offered are much lower than the other quotations. Usually, these are one of the tactics that scammers ID firms will use. After signing the agreement with the ID firm, homeowners are required to make a deposit of more than 50% of the full amount. Upon receiving the payment, the following will usually occur.
- Auto disappearance of the ID firms
- Work delay and always giving the excuse of HDB not approving the hacking permit
- An addition of items and asking you to pay up as without these items the renovation cannot be complete. For example, u need to hack off existing kitchen cabinets so that you can replace with the new ones. However, in the agreement, there is only fabrication of the new cabinets. The cost of hacking off the old cabinets are not factor in.
Homeowners paying deposits/payments to their designer’s account or giving cash to them: Many times, HomeSavv had come across many homeowners who had unwittingly give cash payments or issuing a cheque in the name of their own designer instead of to the company. Instances where designers abscond with the cash or the payment into their own bank account is of no surprise. Such incident will only be discovered when the ID firm press for payment with the homeowners, which is usually too late. These are some of the examples where the designers are in the wrong BUT dragged the company’s reputation down because of their own mistakes. Our advice to the homeowners are, NEVER give the cash payment to designers. Issue cheque payable only to the company’s name and nobody else.
Zac: Problems with permits and trends
When it comes to renovating their flats, many Singaporeans fail to obtain the necessary permits or approvals from HDB. Not everything is actually legal to do in an HDB flat. While your interior designer or contractor should be able to advise you, it’s best that you exercise due diligence on what can or cannot be done to save you from inconvenience down the road. It’s also wise to engage an HDB-approved contractor or interior designer to ensure that your professionals have the necessary know-how. Any illegal structure might actually affect the integrity or structure of the building. Ensuring of permits and approvals are a safety precaution as well.
Another common mistake Singaporeans tend to make is to follow trends without being mindful of their own lifestyle and needs. While it’s great to keep up to date, avoid incorporating every single trend into your home. Instead, implement trends that best suit you and adapt them if necessary. Trends also tend to come and go just as quickly, so invite trends in your home in small ways, through furnishings or even a paint colour that can be easily swapped out when a new trend sets in.
Finally, never skimp on the costs of your materials, whether it’s for your built-ins or furniture. This is particularly true for hard working areas like your kitchen countertop or sofa. Using inferior quality materials just means your pieces will not be able to withstand the test of time or wear and tear, guaranteeing that you will spend more in the long run.
James: Choosing wrongly between Price vs Quality
Singaporeans make their decision based on the figure instead of design and head straight to the cheaper option blindly. This may result in them getting a renovation way lesser than what he expects. Another mistake is that they head directly to contractors instead to save cost.
We have seen homeowners try to save money by heading over to Malaysia or online buy sanitary wares, lighting without proper research. Many times, the size of their purchase came back wrong or damaged. This leads to homeowners having to pay double the cost and wasting more time.
Qanvast: Invest in quality materials
Purchasing their furniture before planning their space: Always measure your space, and give some leeway – it’s better to get smaller furniture than something too big.
Cutting cost on materials: For items that you’ll use often, invest in quality materials that will survive the wear and tear faster. Do a lot of research on what’s the most suitable, and get advice from a home professional if necessary. You should also consider other factors such as your pets or how easy it is to maintain.
Sticking too closely to your budget: If the investment was not planned for, but is a bang for your buck, why not? Remember, you’ll be staying in that house for at least a few years, so do what makes you happy and comfortable.
Question 3: Top Renovation hacks for better decisions and saving money
Geraldine: Do your own due diligence
Get more renovation quotations (advisable about 3-5): Spoiling yourself with an array of options is better than being stuck with just one. Talk to all the reputable IDs and compare the quotes given. Choose the one you are comfortable with.
Set a realistic budget: The cost of a full renovation project is indeed difficult to set a fixed price because the houses differ in size and homeowners’ preferences are also different. There are chances of unforeseen circumstances popping up, and you may or may not be able to stick to your budget if the budget is set just right. Set yourself some buffer amount to cushion any price changes.
Fully equip yourself with all the sales & promotions details: In this digitalized age, you can access all the deals and promotions as easy as ABC. Make sure to look out for warehouse sales, IT fair and renovation open houses. Equip yourself with all the knowledge and bag yourself home with a ton of savings.
Zac: Compare, Compare, Compare
Always do your research and compare prices across the board. When it comes to hiring an interior designer, get a few quotations to see if a particular interior designer is overcharging you. When it comes to shopping for your appliances or furniture, visit different shops to see which ones have the best offers. At times, getting items in bulk with your neighbours and friends can help warrant a better discount. It is a good habit to check with people around you if they’re interested in the same thing.
Another good way to save money is to have custom pieces at home. While custom pieces are usually more expensive than ready-made designs or furniture, they can be tailored made to do more than one function. A multifunctional custom-built TV console that comes with a detachable drawer that acts as a coffee table, for instance, means you won’t need two separate pieces of furniture that might cost more.
If you’re looking to go the DIY route, make sure you do a cost-benefit analysis to see if it will help you save money in the long run. Going DIY for your renovation might not actually save you more money, unlike what some people believe.
James: Get advice on cutting cost
Always seek advice from the designer on the alternative materials or design that can help cut cost. This is provided that you did your research and knows that the designer is knowledgeable.
It is always good to source around for more ideas before jumping right onto one. Sourcing for more ideas from other designers and other firms can help you explore more is always the way to go.
Qanvast: Keep an open mind. Preference of others may not be suitable for you
Map out your ideal floor plan with correction fluid: When you remove the outlines of hackable walls, you’ll get a better perspective of the space you have, and how best to plan it.
Plan your power points: Think of where you use your electrical devices and appliances, and how many. Remember that you’ll be putting in your furniture, so don’t place sockets at positions that will end up hidden or positioned too far off.
Taking in too many opinions: Opinions and advice from well-meaning friends and family may be overwhelming – keep an open mind, but also take note that their preferences might not be suitable for you. It’s your home, after all, not theirs.
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