3 things every first-time renovator needs to know

Buying a home in New York City can be nerve wracking - from picking the right property to surviving the bidding wars and navigating the closing process, the pressure is always on. 

And so the last thing you need is to be tasked with decoding the nuances of home renovation: Carrying costs, moving costs, renovating and decorating expenses can all add up bringing unnecessary stress to an already complex process. Here's what you need to know, and why: 


Timeframes Matter

The renovation process requires time and input from the right professionals in order to be successful. Do the following to help get time on your side:

  • Engage design professionals as soon as your offer has been accepted. It’s critical to get your sketching and pricing process started early on. This will give you more time to be prepared to make the right decisions for you.
  • Learn about DOB, Landmarks and the building’s compliance process early on. These requirements are out of your control and can certainly delay your renovation.
  • Seek advice from the super and your neighbors. Look at floor plans from similar apartments in the building and don’t be afraid to knock on their door.
  • Plan to move out while the renovation is taking place. Trying to remain in your home while it's undergoing a renovation can add time, cost and stress to your life as professionals try and work around you. 
  • Make all your decisions in pre-construction . You want to avoid having change orders and laborers on site doing nothing on your dollar.


Design Decisions Matter

You will make hundreds of decisions during your renovation. Some of these can be deferred to your professionals (in fact, the bulk of them), but a lot of them will be up to you and you will have to live with them every day.

  • Do your research. You are likely to choose a ton of appliances, fixtures and fittings. Even if you're the greatest online shopper, make time to go see them in person.
  • Challenge your architect's design. Don’t be shy to ask why things matter and keep a written record of these discussions. This will help you remember why you made which decisions. Remember that you are absorbing a ton of information, and it may be that you can not retain all the details if you don’t write things down.
  • Your plans are your play book. Your set of plans will be the outcome of all your hard work with the architect. Be sure to understand the dimensions of every part of the house as well as the implications of the decisions you are making before signing off. Not doing so can cost you money on design led change orders.
  • Understand cost.  Try to understand why and how bids are put together. Be sure to be clear on all costs and get detailed bids so you know where every penny is going. Your budget should lead design decisions. If it doesn’t you are probably in the hands of a starchitect and you are not reading this post.  


Early Contractor Involvement Matters

In order for you to fully understand the two key topics above, you need to have a contractor involved in your Design and Build process from the get-go. Here’s why:

  • It’s better to have two technical brains instead of one. The right contractor will provide construction solutions that are practical and cost effective. His/Her ideas will build on your architect’s approach. Remember, your plans are your playbook.
  • Your contractor can act as a third party consultant. When making costly decisions such as HVAC or window selection, your contractor may be able to guide you on the pros and cons of certain suppliers. Good contractors have several projects going on at any given time and are always getting first-hand feedback on the newest products and what does and doesn't work. They also have a network of suppliers they can connect you with, so you can do your fixtures and fittings research directly.  
  • You will get real time pricing. Your contractor will be able to alert you if you are going down the route of overdesigning. Remember, the traditional design process is antiquated and too expensive.