Whether you’re a homeowner starting your first remodel or an investor starting your fifteenth, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the work. Don’t panic. We’ve got you covered. These four pro remodeling tips will help you schedule your home renovation timeline, work with your contractors, and ensure everything goes smoothly and stress-free.1. Slow down before you speed up.
What does that mean? You need to plan the project out.
1. Slow Down
The best home renovation tip? You need a renovation plan.
One of the first things beginner real estate investors do as soon as they buy a house or start a project is to immediately start doing. You want to tear things out and renovate. Now. You’re hiring crew as fast as possible—and before you know it, you don’t know what’s going on.
Don’t start demolition until you’re prepared. Last thing you want is jumping into DIY and ripping out sinks you shouldn’t have ripped out. You have change orders in the bathroom because you didn’t understand the true challenges of the project. Maybe you didn’t get building permits, or installed cabinets prematurely without measuring for appliances. Perhaps in your rush, workers put a scratch in your new floor. With so many moving parts, you’re stuck playing catch up.
How do you avoid that? First, you’ve got to plan the project out—so slow down. If you speed, you’re going to crash.
Look at the project. Know what you’re going to do to it. Plan it out.
2. Understand Your Statement of Work
A statement of work—often call an S.O.W.—is the task list you provide to contractors, telling them exactly what you expect them to do and when. Some real estate investors don’t like to go into more detail. They think that’s the contractor’s job. But if you don’t explain exactly what you want, there’s going to be confusion.
You’ll spend more money, too, because the contractor will do whatever they want. They’ll either do more than you want… or less than you want. Maybe the shower will be a foot skinnier than you expected… or the countertops significantly fancier, leading to unexpected costs. When you don’t specify, things never go well.
When you create a scope of work for your rehab or remodeling project, be as detailed as possible.
For example, your line item for your electrician shouldn’t just say, “Upgrade the electrical service in my house.” Say, “I want you to upgrade the electrical service in my house to 200 amps. We want a new electrical box. We want new breakers—AFCI breakers or GFCI breakers.” And if you need any new lighting fixtures installed, be explicit about that, too.
For beginners who may not know all these details, have electricians, plumbers, or specialty contractors do a walkthrough and provide recommendations—and ask questions. That way, when you get further down the road, you know the right questions to ask and details to include on the S.O.W.
You ask questions, you learn, and you provide better scopes of work.
We used to keep all the scopes from past projects and past bids even if we didn’t approve them. That way, when we started work on the next house, I could reference the bids, use the correct terms, and sound smart in front of the contractor. (That way they think that we actually know what we’re doing a little bit.)
Google is your friend. All this information is out there. You want to know everything there is to know about the electrical service in your house? Go on Google and type in “how does electrical service in your house work?”
I also recommend The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs by J. Scott.
3. Be Prepared
Pick out your finishes early. Make decisions made before the project starts. Too often a contractor will come to the worksite—a tile contractor, let’s say. “Hey,” they’ll say, “We’re ready to install the tile. What cut? What tile am I supposed to use? Where am I supposed to get it?”
You now need three days to pick out tile. But the contractor says, “I was expecting to be done in three days. I’ve got another job to do. I’ll be back in two weeks.”
All this because you didn’t have the tile picked out. You weren’t prepared. You’ve now lost two weeks on that project due to preventable delays.
Make all your design decisions up front—from your toilets to your backsplash. Pick your finishes and materials. Decide on your suppliers. Even better: Actually have those materials on site by the time your contractor is ready to start. That way, your contractor is not waiting for you.
4. Trust but Verify
No one is blindly trustworthy—always verify. You have to do quality control on your projects. We love the people we work with, but we want to trust and verify those things.
Either us or our team members take at least 100 or 200 photos weekly of our current projects. We take pictures every single time we walk into the house, so that we can see what’s happening. As part of our quality control process, we then put those photos in Dropbox or Google Drive.
I can easily say, “On December 10th of 2018, we were at that project,” and know exactly what the contractor did. When the plumber tells me that they finished, I can say, “In reality, you didn’t—because here are photos that show you haven’t even connected the sink plumbing.”
This is a great quality control process.
An alternative measure: Make sure that somebody is on-site at your project at least a couple times a week. And don’t tell your contractors when. If I tell my contractor I’m going to show up at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, you can bet the contractor and every relevant subcontractor is going to be there at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.
That’s not what I want. I want to know what’s going on when he doesn’t expect me.
None of us ever got into real estate investing because we wanted to manage construction and rehab and all that great stuff. But these four tips come from years of experience—and we’ve learned that practicing them it is a requirement for remodeling success.
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