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How to Mitigate the Risks of a Reno Project

Planning a facelift or major reno? Whether it’s for your home or an investment property, you need to go in with eyes open. Be aware of potential unknown risks and mitigate those in your control. My best advice: include a 25% buffer for your budget AND timeline.

The fact is, you can’t know what’s hiding behind your walls. Will wiring be up to code? Are there structural issues you just don’t know about? These are some examples of unknown risks. Also in this category: tradespeople who aren’t available when they say they are. There’s not a lot you can do about these scenarios. But you’re ahead of the game if you’ve at least budgeted for them.

Known risks are the things you can actively manage or avoid. I’ve broken them down here depending on whether you have a contractor managing your reno, you are managing it yourself, or are DIYing the whole kit and caboodle.

Managing Contractor
• If you’re hiring a company to manage the project, select the right firm for the job. Look for someone or a team with lots of specialized experience in the work you need done. A web search is a good first step. Don’t forget to look at reviews too.
• Ask all your questions, no matter how dumb sounding, before signing a contract. If your contractor isn’t forthright, keep shopping!
• Get a few quotes. Meet with three companies for estimates for work required.
• Go with a fixed price quote over pay-as-you-go estimate. Paying for materials and labour as the project progresses likely will cost more. Also, a detailed quote means the contractor is taking the time to sort through all the specifics of your job. Not only do you get an itemized list of what costs what, this demonstrates that the contractor is dedicated and professional enough to take the time to create one.

Managing the Project on Your Own
• Do your research so that you understand exactly what needs to be done and by whom. This will help you select the best licensed and certified tradespeople for the job.
• As you design your project – pick finishes and materials – don’t get too creative if this isn’t your day job. Leaf through magazines and visit as many showrooms as possible to talk to the staff about choice, design and aesthetics. Get samples. As tempting as it may, if you’re designing your project yourself, go with tried and true designs and layouts. Especially so if this is a rental property. For non-pros, creative ideas aren’t likely to turn out the way you imagine.
• Project management isn’t for everyone. It’s about keeping track of lots of details in the context of the big picture. This means understanding how all the pieces fit together (you have to have the countertops delivered before the installation team arrives!). With multiple tradespeople, changing schedules, materials on back order, this can get tricky. List everything that needs to be done, with a timeline, then run through the reno in your mind. Did you miss anything?

The DIY-er
My best advice, after being impressed with your skills and go-get-‘em attitude, is to honestly ask yourself if you’ve got what it takes to get the job done. If you’ve never done plumbing before, YouTube videos aren’t enough training to gut your master bath. Be sure to protect your own safety and those working alongside you. Have the proper workplace insurance in place before you begin.

Good luck with your reno! We hope you get the home of your dreams!

About the Author: Sabine Ghali is director at Buttonwood Property Management and an entrepreneur at heart who endeavors to help investors create wealth over time.

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