A checklist for first-time NYC renovators

Not everyone has the mettle to renovate in New York City, but for strong-minded homeowners willing to work a bit more to live in the exact home of their dreams (not someone else’s) it can be extraordinarily rewarding. The challenge is extreme, with, in the event of a delay, alternative housing potentially running a few thousand dollars a month. 

“First-time renovators are more vulnerable since they can get a number of close friends and relatives who have already renovated acting as advisors for a project. Everyone has a friend that is or knows an architect,” says Anna Karp, co-founder of Bolster.

Below, advice from the experts at Bolster that every renovation newbie should heed:

1) Have a plan, and enlist help as early as you can

"Timeframes matter," says Anna. "The sooner you get planning, the more prepared you will be for the entire process and the myriad elements beyond your control such as Department of Buildings and landmark codes, regulations and permitting, as well as, if you are in a co-op or condo, the approval process of your individual building. Your architect and contractor can help provide this crucial information, and in the unfortunate event that you discover you cannot do the renovation you hoped, it’s too expensive or too complicated, you will still have the opportunity to renegotiate."

Getting ahead of the process at the start can save you significant money (and grief) on the back end. Closing and moving costs are common expenses overlooked when calculating the cost of a move. But carrying costs—such as paying for two places to live and storage for your belongings when you can’t move in because your renovation is delayed—can be both significant and painful.

Other individuals to reach out to include the building super (whose buy-in will be crucial to making sure your renovation goes smoothly) and other residents in the building. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors and ask to see how others have used and/or adapted the space, as well as any issues they might have had with their own projects.

TOP TIP: Reach out to your board to find out if they allow renovations of all types. Sometimes, building co-ops can halt renovations due to matters that are unforeseen to homeowners.

Living in any space undergoing any kind of major renovation isn’t manageable, so be sure to make arrangements for where you will stay while work is being done.

Finally, says Anna, "One of the smartest things you can do before your renovation begins is make all your decisions—on design, fixtures, etc.—in the pre-construction phase. That way, there are no surprises in price, materials, labor and time. By using Bolster’s Design and Build product to help plan and manage your renovation project, you can guarantee that your budget determines your design, not the other way around.

2) Hire a team, not individuals—and do it simultaneously  

To manage costs and keep your renovation streamlined and efficient, it’s best to hire an architect and a contractor at the same time to work together.

"In a traditional renovation process, it’s common for people to hire architects first, and then a contractor when design is complete—a game plan which can lead to considerable costs and delays," says Anna.

In the regular Design, Bid, Build model, for example, an architect might submit a design for a project for owners that expressed having a a $500,0000 budget, that a series of contractors invited to bid at a later date price out at $800,000 or $900,000. Dealing with a discrepancy like that takes time, and often requires making decisions about what to cut from your initial, ideal design. (Not a pleasant experience.) That cut in scope can then cause a ripple effect on the design, leading to re-designing at a cost for the homeowner.

"Bolster enables the owner, architect and contractor to work together from the outset of a project, with a client’s preferences for a job simultaneously informed by the knowledge, experience and expertise of those professionals," says Anna. "For example, if a contractor is involved with the design process, they can offer real-time pricing, as well as valuable real world experience executing architect’s designs and a cultivated network of suppliers. This dynamic and transparent process not only saves money—an average of $58,000 per project—but also reduces delays."

Bolster’s vetted contractors also price jobs to complete them, not win them. "Our contractors don’t low-ball an estimate just to secure a contract," Anna says. "This means you get detailed, realistic and accurate estimates before work has begun and the risk of change orders during the building process is significantly reduced."

Continue reading on Brickunderground where this post was originally published.

About Us

Bolster is a data-driven team of experts on a mission to eliminate risk from major home renovations by being radically transparent across everything we do. We hire the industry’s best talent and use a continual improvement process to financially guarantee that your major home renovation is designed and built beautifully, on-time and on-budget. From the first sketch to the final handshake, our homeowners know the cost of every line item and have full visibility into project milestones.