Busy Season

How to Plan Your Next Home Reno

Right around groundhogs day a contractor starts to see the first signs of the busy summer season coming over the horizon. For me I was working in a wood shop and kept getting interrupted by the dinging of my iphone. I went home for lunch and when my wife, Cynthia, asked me how my day was going she could tell by the look in my eyes that I was irritated slightly.

“I totally get why teachers make students put their phones in a box at the beginning of class. Its hard to focus on the task at hand with all the dinging and buzzing in my pocket. I’m not complaining that the season is booking up but I just wish it could be a little more quiet about it.”

It was this realization that motivated to me write a little blog about when and how to plan your next home reno.

Stop comparing your home to HGTV

Nobody renovates their kitchen, never mind their entire home, in just two weeks. Yet, the home shows on TV can leave us with the impression that renovations can be done either quickly or cheaply or both. If you find your the type that likes to compare your house with the glossy mags the home reno reality shows then stop. Turn off the TV and put the magazines away. Now, consider why you want the renovation and what problem it will theoretically fix. Answer these questions and you’ll have a much better idea of what needs to be done and what budget you can afford.

Answer questions honestly

Are you handy? If so, you could cut some costs by doing the work yourself. But be honest with yourself: Do you have the time or the aptitude? If not, then you’ll need to pay someone to do the work. That means taking all expenses into account—not just labour and materials, but also permits, as well as additional overhead. Remember, the people you hire will make a profit. That’s their job. If that doesn’t sit well with you, consider learning how to do the job yourself.

Always add more

There are always extra costs. That’s because home renovation planning takes a little bit of guess work. How do you know if you have lead pipes or that your oven in a potential fire hazard? To avoid blowing your household budget, due to unexpected reno costs, add a contingency fund. Most contractors suggest adding 10% but larger projects may need a 20% contingency fund. Talk to your contractor for a better understanding of what this extra money could potentially cover.

Use a home equity line of credit (HELOC)

This is a loan that’s taken out against the equity you have built up  in your home. Under current regulations, a lender will only let you borrow up to 65% of your home’s value. That means on a $500,000 home you could borrow as much as $325,000. So, if you already have a $300,000 mortgage, you could qualify for a $25,000 HELOC.

Use rebates

If you’re doing extensive renovations, consider making upgrades with energy efficiency in mind. Upgrades, like insulating the basement or upgrading windows and the home’s furnace, can help you qualify for municipal, provincial and federal rebates that can quickly add up. If you live in rural communities and find yourself on a very fixed budget talk to your municipality to see if you qualify for grants.

Credit cards are not an option

If you’re really in a pinch—although you shouldn’t be—you could refinance your mortgage to pay for the renovation. But we don’t love this payment strategy as you run the risk of adding costs to your renovation if interest rates rise.

Summer is not the only time to renovate your home

Contractors see this trend year after year, when spring hits everyone gets the home reno bug and they book their renovation for the summer. Sometimes this makes sense, such as if you’re getting a new patio installed or windows and doors replaced. But the majority of interior renovations can can be done all season. In fact because of this trend you can often save money by booking your renovation in the off season.

If  you’re thinking about doing renovations I’d love to hear from you and work with you to get the job done – any time of the year.

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