Renovation, It’s All in the Details

April 8th, 2011 | No Comments
By: Jen

After years of renovating, I consider myself a bit of an expert on the do’s and don’ts of renovations. With every new project comes new challenges, new experiences and new lessons learned. When I renovate for resale, the bottom line is the most important factor in all decisions. There are very simple rules to renovating for resale: invest in elements with the highest return on investment, use neutral design to appeal to the masses, and know your target market.

1) ROI
Return on investment is all about knowing where to spend your budget. The safest investments in home renovations are kitchens and bathrooms. Kitchens have always been the heart of the home, but recently they have become the hub of every house. These new multitasking family spaces incorporate cooking, eating, entertaining, work, and play. Bathrooms, especially master ensuite bathrooms are reaching a whole new level of luxury and tranquility. For both kitchens and bathrooms the ROI is high, but the sky is not the limit. If the neighbourhood caters to middle income families you should too.

2) Neutrals
No matter how much you may love the colour purple, others may not. When choosing paint, tile, cabinets, hardwood, siding and counter tops, always chose neutral colours that are clean and contemporary. Check out design magazines for inspiration. Another element to consider is metal. When choosing hardware, light fixtures and other metal finishes, simple is better. White metal tends to be universally appealing and cost effective. If you are dying to express yourself through colour, towels and toss cushions in you favourite shade may be your safest bet.

3) Know your target market.
Everyone in real estate knows that location is the most important factor when hunting for a home. Knowing your location is just as important when you are renovating for resale. If your house is a four bedroom, three bathroom house in suburbia, you target market is the family. If your project is an industrial, open-concept loft in the downtown core your target market is a single professional or a couple without children. If you aren’t sure, take a walk around the neighbourhood, talk to your real estate agent or read the community newspaper. Once you have determined your target market, renovate and design accordingly.

Renovation starts out as a plan, pretty pictures clipped from magazines, sketches and paint chips. If you follow the rules and watch your bottom line, the plan can become a reality and make you a significant profit. Good luck!


P.S.- We would love to see your renovation before and after photos!

Park Place - Before

Park Place - After

Renovation and the Art of the Deal

September 14th, 2010 | No Comments
By: Jen

I have been renovating houses for around fifteen years and I like to think that I have learned a few things along the way. It didn’t take long for me to realize that while there are many jobs that a homeowner should leave to the professionals (plumbing, electrical, etc.), there are even more projects that can be tackled by amateur renovators willing to learn. The more work that can be done by a homeowner, the lower the costs, and the higher the potential profit margin. . For me, the work starts long before demolition day. As soon as I commit to a property I start sourcing our building materials. One common mistake that people make is having their contractors provide the supplies for the renovations. Nobody works for free and you can be certain that a significant percentage of what you are paying for is your contractor’s mark-up. I start with the big box stores as a basis for comparison and then I expand my search.

One of my favourite places to find great deals is the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. This fantastic organization not only helps build homes for families in need, they also accept used and new building material donations to sell in their stores. For one of my projects I found a cast iron claw foot tub for only $150! The staff at these stores is always friendly and really helpful. Don’t forget to donate your unwanted building supplies.

Another great way to save money is to check out local garage sales. For my first house, I found a great chandelier for only $10, including new lightbulbs! This year I found an antique dressing table for $30 that I plan to fit with a new top, a sink and some plumbing and it will become a fabulous one-of-a-kind bathroom vanity in my new house. Garage and yard sales can also be great places to find tools. We are always on the hunt for power tools for great prices.

In my opinion, one of the best places to shop is in bed. Over the years, I have spent countless hours sourcing building materials in my pyjamas, on my laptop. I have saved literally thousands of dollars on plumbing fixtures and lighting as a result of on-line bargain hunting. I LOVE Ebay, Craigslist, UsedOttawa, and Kijiji. We just bought a giant soaker tub in mint condition for $40, from a local seller on UsedOttawa. The retail price for the tub is $825 + tax, what a find! We always start our search locally, to avoid costly shipping charges.

I consider myself an on-line ninja. I love a good bargain and I strive to find interesting items that make my home unique. By saving money on building materials, I reduce my costs significantly and increase my profit margin. At the end of the day, a little extra money in my wallet can always become new shoes in my closet.

[photo credits: carlosgomez and ikes on Flickr]

Planning Your Next Reno? Here are Some Tips

April 20th, 2010 | No Comments
By: Jen

Spring is here, and what better time to start those renovation projects you’ve been putting off all winter! Getting started with a renovation project can sometimes be a bit daunting. It’s hard to know where to start with a project, how far to take it, and how to do it without breaking the bank. Many people end up procrastinating on getting that new bathroom tile installed or fixing up the kitchen, simply because they are fearful of it costing too much, taking too long, or not being what they envisioned. Here are a few ways that you can get motivated to get moving on your next renovation project.

Dream big, dream often. Every good reno project starts with a vision, but if you haven’t even got that part down, then the project might never get off the ground! Looking to renovate your bathroom? Pick up some magazines (not just home decor mags, either!), grab your scissors, and start a book of clippings of colours, furnishings, and styles you love. Visit web sites and save pictures of fixtures, paint, tile, and linens. Watch home renovation and design shows (like The House Healers!) and get inspired. Record them on your PVR so you can refer back to them. Surround yourself with the kinds of design and decor features that appeal to you. You’ll start to see some patterns emerge and begin to zero in on your preferences. Most of all, don’t rush it. Inspiration takes time. Yours will come, with patience!

Live in the space. Many people are in a huge hurry to get their home in perfect condition the second they move into it. But often, it’s better to wait. If your home is new to you, then take some time to live in the space for a while. Figure out which rooms you use the most, and for what purposes. Make note of the parts of the space that you love, and what doesn’t work well for you, either aesthetically or functionally. Keep an ongoing list of issues, and determine ways to improve upon the spaces. Taking some time to really understand how you and your family function in a space can go a long way to helping you to make it work.

Design your dream space, but keep resale in mind. Once you’ve been inspired, and figured out how to design your space so it’s functional and beautiful, it’s time to really get the plan down solid. You’ll need to start thinking about what kinds of materials and finishes you want, and how you want the space to look and function. This is often the point where budget becomes a concern. Let’s face it, we’re all working with limited resources, but by making good decisions on finishes and features, you can not only maximize your enjoyment of the space, but improve the resale value too. Always get the best quality finishes you can find within your budget.

Do your homework. Take the guesswork out of your renovation by finding out how much it’s really going to cost, and what it’s going to take. Start by perusing the big box home renovation and decor stores. Not only will this be a source of inspiration, you can get a really great sense of what your materials will cost. Also, there are plenty of experts on hand at these places to answer your questions. Maybe sign up for a workshop or two, too! For kitchens, IKEA has a wonderful online planning tool that will not only help you design your dream space, but will tell you exactly how much it will cost to do the job! It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Planning a renovation doesn’t have to be scary. All it takes is a little inspiration, research, and preparation. Once you’ve got it all planned out, getting underway is a breeze!

What are some of your best tips for planning reno projects?

Photo credits kevinmarsh and kpwerker on Flickr.