If you’ve put remodelling and redecorating plans on hold because of the economy and thinking you can’t afford to do it right now, it’s definitely time to rethink that position, for a variety of reasons.
If you’re like many people, you’re likely spending more time at home these days instead of out and about, eating out, going to theater and concerts, travelling, etc. So why not be sure the space you’re spending all this additional time in is your dream place to be?
Unlike the money you spend on vacations and the like, which brings fleeting joy, the money you invest into your home may pay back when it comes time to sell, but just as importantly (or even more so), it will also reward you psychically and emotionally every single day you live there by making your home even more comfortable for every day living. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come home at the end of each day and feel that thrill of being in a space that you love and that nurtures you no matter what else is going on in your world? To have a home that you actually don’t even want to leave?
You don’t have to spend a lot of money, if you don’t want to or really can’t afford to – even just a fresh coat of paint, some new throw pillows, a new painting or area rug, or moving the artwork or furniture you already have around to different locations can give you a facelift and needed boost. New lighting, new fixtures, and new hardware for your doors and cabinetry are other inexpensive upgrades that can pack a lot of punch.
Don’t know quite what to do, and can’t afford to hire a designer to do the whole thing? Most will consult on an hourly basis to give you any needed advice that can help you avoid expensive mistakes, and to get you pointed in the right direction to complete the job yourself.
However, if you can possibly come up with the cash, now is very definitely the time to go ahead those more major remodelling projects you’ve been putting off, or to remodel a home you’d hoped to sell but now find you have to remain in.
If you’d planned to move before the crash and now find that you can’t do so, remodelling can go a long ways towards helping you still enjoy where you are now, along with solving many of the problems that cause people to want to move in the first place, like too little space. A thoughtfully designed remodel can add anything from more bookshelf space to more kitchen space to entire rooms, or reconfigure a poor arrangement into one that works well within the existing space, and turn a house that was too cramped or not functional enough into something perfectly suited for your needs.
If you can come up with the cash, this really is the best possible time to go ahead with the more major remodelling projects you’ve been wanting to do, and to do them right. You’re actually going to be in the driver’s seat because it’s now a buyer’s market. Once the economy starts to improve again, this advantage will soon be lost.
Prices for both labor and materials have come down dramatically, and according to a recent article in the New York Times, you are likely to find that bids are going to come in now at a lot less than when you may have obtained them before, and you’re going to get callbacks from the more desirable contractors who may not have even wanted to bid on your job at all before if it’s small. On average, you can expect savings of 10-15% off most typically, although certainly some people are even finding bids coming in at as little as half or even less of what they were quoted before the downturn.
The greater savings might indicate cutting too many corners, though, or leaving too much out on the initial bid and hoping to make up for it later with change orders so make sure you’ve got a complete set of plans and specifications from a competent designer or architect before going out to bid, so that you can be sure you are comparing apples to apples and getting bids that are taking all of the same things into account – and all of the details. (This advice applies in any economy, actually, and not having all of this documentation up front before getting bids is one of the primary reasons that consumers are most likely to find their projects going over budget and not getting what they thought they were.)
The money you spend up front in design fees will more than pay back in overall savings because a design professional will know the best contractors, what to look for, and how to get the job done most efficiently in exactly the way desired, including finding the best cost savings while still in the design phase, where changes are much easier and dramatically less costly to make than once construction starts.
What’s more, even the best contractors are now scrambling to find any work they can, so you’ll be able to hire the best now instead of having to settle for something less like you might have before, as well as possibly even do more work, or get much higher quality materials, within the same budget than you thought you could.
Contractors are also getting more efficient, and able to complete work faster and with fewer employees, a strategy that Regev Amir of Diamond Building and Construction of San Rafael, CA says is working well for him. He’s realized that one person can usually accomplish almost everything he used to think he needed two people for, so he’s cut back – and discovered that this is also dramatically improving accountability on his jobs, which increases quality as well as effortlessly decreasing his costs. Many contractors will be cutting margins to the bone in order to get more work, but the ones who are also cutting the fat they may have had on board before and finding they can accomplish more – and more quickly, with fewer problems – with a leaner team, will most benefit you without sacrificing quality. Ask your contractor how he’s able to give you a lower bid than before, because the ones who are doing it by getting more efficient in one way or another are much more likely to still be around when the economy picks up again – which means they’ll be much more likely to still be here later to take care of any warranty issue or other problems that might arise. The ones who are cutting their margins to the bone or below cost may be more likely to be out of business.
Alternatively, in some situations, some contractors may put more people on the job than usual and might be able to get it done faster than before. Make sure he’s still using people he’s accustomed to working with, though, and whose work he trusts, or this strategy can really backfire in a big way and leave you holding the bag.
You may also be able to take advantage of tax savings and rebates on upgrades such as energy-efficient new windows or low flow toilets, which will decrease your costs still further. Ask your local utilities what’s available where you live, and consult your accountant. Often these rebates are for fixed dollar amounts, regardless of what you actually spend, so that will translate to an even higher percentage of money saved now than in times when prices are higher. Your utility bills will also be lower, resulting in even further savings on an ongoing basis.
Likewise, for furnishings and artwork and many other movable interior elements, prices are coming down in many areas, and stores and showrooms are much more likely to be willing to accept less than they were before. Don’t be afraid to ask if whatever you are quoted is the best they can do, because often there is still a little bit of wiggle room (but please don’t expect to haggle like you would in a third world country where that’s par of the culture.). Here is yet another place a good interior designer can be your best friend – in any economy, actually – because even suppliers who will sell to the general public as well as to the trade are much more likely to give a designer a better price than Joe Q. Public, if they do have room to move, because they know they’re going to get other business from the designer as well and likely already have well-established relationships.
So what are you waiting for? The sooner you get started on that remodelling or redecorating project you’ve been putting off, the sooner you will be able to enjoy the fruits of your efforts!