A renovation is an exciting yet nerve-wracking experience for some, especially first-time homeowners who are tight on budget. Hidden costs can burst your budget so fast you don’t even know what hit you.
A case in point is the couple who saw their original budget of $60,000 swiftly rise to $95,000 for a 4-room minimalist home in Mediacorp reality series Designer In The House. This got the internet up in arms over the shocking price tag, condemning the interior designer firm involved for exploiting the situation.
Whether or not the couple got bamboozled (the internet later uncovered that the husband is an employee of the firm, so maybe not), it is very common for renovation budgets to exceed by 20% or more. Why? It’s partly because of seemingly small things that we tend to overlook that may creep up on us.
Don’t forget these essential things that may lead you to exceed your renovation budget!
1. Electrical works
Like clothes, power points never seem to be enough. If you are anything like me, you’d want power points at every corner of the house so I can charge my phone and laptop anywhere. But every power point costs extra as the electrician has to pull and rewire the cables to each location.
According to Qanvast, “In general, electric works, including supplying and installing parts like your data, telephone, SCV (TV) cables, lighting and fan points will take up a couple of thousand dollars in a renovation.”
Plan properly so you don’t have to pay extra for points you don’t end up using.
2. Kitchen hinges and runners
Most carpenters will use their own brandless hinges and runners for your kitchen carpentry but they may first ask you whether you would like to upgrade to brands like Blum. For my case, I had to top up $100 for each set of runners. If you have a lot of storage, the amount can quickly add up.
However, don’t compromise on quality as we eventually changed our only two brandless drawer runners to Blum due to the significant difference in quality.
If we could do it all over again, we would go down to Blum to have our kitchen customised with their products for aesthetic and also quality reasons.
3. Tiles upgrade
When your interior designer (ID) or contractor gives you a quotation, they would put down a price range of the tiles you can choose from. When you go down to the showroom, you might quickly realise that most of the tiles you love, whether it’s due to the design or country of origin, don’t fall within that price range.
If you are unable to “unsee” and resist the nicer tiles you like, you will have to top up and it can be quite a significant difference, especially if your floor area is big.
Before you commit to anything, go down to the showroom to have a look at prices of the tiles you prefer. Ask your ID or contractor to factor those costs in when they provide you with a quotation so that you can ensure that your budget account for that. That way, you can see where else you can move your budget from to pay for the tiles.
4. Lighting fixtures
A 4-room flat will require at least 12 lighting points but we rarely think about how much and what type of lighting we need at the start of the renovation process.
Again, plan early, do some research on where to buy them, and include the costs into your budget.
5. Bathroom accessories
If you would like to have luxury or quality bathroom fixtures and accessories, be prepared to spend a bomb on them – around $1,000 or more per bathroom! That’s not including the fancy water heaters you may want to have for the house.
6. Glass anything
Glass doors tend to automatically make your home look more sophisticated. They make great kitchen and bathroom doors. However, a tempered glass door costs around $600 compared to $400 for a veneer wood door.
For the kitchen, glass backsplash also costs more than tiles. They are easy to clean but be sure you have the budget for it.
7. Air conditioners
Air conditioners are really expensive and that’s a fact no matter which brand you purchase. Decide whether you need air conditioning in every room and try not to exceed the length of piping provided by putting your air conditioners far away from the compressor. It costs extra and your air conditioning would be less cold.
Also, it’s often cheaper to order air conditioners yourself than going through your ID or contractor.
Related: 8 Ways to Save on Home Appliances
When I did my home painting, I went directly to Nippon Paint that sub-contracted a company to do the job. It’s still cheaper than doing it through my contractor as Nippon had a promotion for better quality paint at around the same price. They did a great job but I ended up topping up to apply a layer of sealer/primer before painting. Another unexpected renovation cost!
9. Curtains and blinds
Most homeowners typically don’t think about curtains and blinds until the last stage of their renovation. Surprise, surprise! They cost quite a bit as well! Take some time to search for suppliers and find one that fits your needs and budget.
10. Renovation cleaning
There’s a mountain of cleaning to do before moving in and it can be quite overwhelming. Engaging a professional post-renovation cleaning service costs between $400 for a 4-room flat to $800 for an executive flat. Don’t forget to add this to your budget if you need help with cleaning!
Best credit cards for renovation
Some homeowners might pay for everything through their ID or contractor, and make a bank transfer to them. But if you are slightly more hands-on like me, or your contractor has asked you to do your own shopping, that’s a chance for you to earn rebates or miles with your credit card from your renovation expenses.
Painting, curtains, fixtures, etc
These don’t fall into any category that gives us bonus miles or bonus cashback. Hence we’ll suggest using a cashback card like the HSBC Advance Credit Card or Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback Card. That’ll earn you at least 1.5% cashback on all spend, with no minimum spends. The HSBC Advance Card may earn you up to 2.5% cashback if you spend more than S$2,000 in the month, but there is a cap of S$70.
Air conditioners, fridges, TVs, washing machines
We did our research on the prices of electronics and white goods in the smaller heartland shops, and then got Gain City to match it. This allowed us to use our Citi PremierMiles Visa Card to earn miles. But if you’re doing the same thing, use the OCBC Titanium Rewards instead, because it will earn you 10X rewards for electronics from stores like Courts, Harvey Norman and Gain City.
One last thing to note, if you opt for interest-free instalment payments on your credit card for your electronics, white goods or renovation costs, you don’t earn cashback or miles from those purchases!