By Lauren Fernandez for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
There is a 1980s movie called The Money Pit. The lead character, played by a young Tom Hanks, is a man who buys a decaying mansion from an aging millionaire and his nubile young wife (surprisingly played by Tetchie Agbayani). Hanks’s character launches into an ambitious renovation of his new home in a futile attempt to save his souring marriage. But the sprawling mansion is way beyond repair, and in spite of investing his life savings into the project, his workers abandon him. In the same scene, a tub crashes through the ceiling to prove a point.
Hollywood plot aside, there are many money pits in real life, especially when home renovations go awry. When Chechel Briones (not her real name) got a big bonus, she decided to renovate her mother’s 120-sqm home in Antipolo. “We didn’t hire an architect, so I just got workers and we kept on expanding [the house].” The house was extended to almost 250-sqm, but eventually, Briones’s budget ran out. Seven years later, the house remains unfinished—the walls are of unpainted, rough cement, and there is no ceiling, making the second floor unbearable in the summer. Upon inspection by an architect, the estimated cost to finish it would amount to more than P800,000. “I don’t have that money, and I don’t see anything coming in, so we have no choice but to live with it,” Briones says resignedly. She is currently unemployed.
As a homeowner, it’s expected that you will spend a bit for home maintenance. But sometimes, life-changing events such as having children, taking in relatives, or moving house would entail a costly renovation. Here are five, money-sucking renovation pitfalls to avoid.
Pitfall no. 1: Building a house that’s too big for your needs. Be realistic with the size of your renovation, vis-à-vis your budget. If you want a ballpark figure, it costs an average of P15,000 to P20,000 per square meter to build a house from the ground up, and this could cost lower or higher, depending on the actual design.
Ask your builder or designer to compute how much you’d be spending per square meter based on his design, and work from there. You might be surprised that your family can live on less floor area than you’ve imagined.
Pitfall no. 2: Not sticking to your budget. So you have candy-colored dreams of trimming your house with marble, crystal chandeliers, and exotic wood—but your budget doesn’t even hit six figures. “Any extra ornamentation—like mouldings, mirrors, special finishes, carvings—also add up to extra renovation costs,” explains Romeo Clemente, a finishing contractor.
“If it’s unnecessary to the overall design, don’t put it.” Keep things simple, and be transparent about your budget to your designer or builder. This way, he will come up with a design or renovation plan that won’t bust your bankbook—and always be open to making compromises.
Pitfall no. 3: Making too many revisions. We hire a designer, agree on the final design, and once the renovation starts, we decide that maybe it would look better with just a few more changes. Stop yourself at once!
Any revisions done during the construction stage are almost always subject to additional charges on the contractor’s (and even the designer’s) part. It is more cost-effective to make the revisions on paper, during the conceptual stage.
Pitfall no. 4: Taking too much time on your renovation. It was once in vogue to have a stay-in carpenter to make endless renovations and maintenance projects. For those who could afford it, such an arrangement would have been ideal back then, but now, it would only mean exorbitant charges for labor, and an unfinished home. DIY-ers take heed—depending on the scope of work, you may end up spending more in the long run.
“[Homeowners] who know a bit about construction can hire workers na arawan (on daily wages) and supervise them,” advises Clemente, “But those who don’t know anything about construction should consult a contractor, because if you make mistakes, it can take longer, and become costlier if you have to repeat a renovation.”
If you fear that your budget might run short in a fast-paced renovation, most government agencies and banks offer housing development loans or personal loans that will help you get by so that you won’t incur any extra construction costs.
Pitfall no. 5: Prioritizing the wrong things. Renovating a home is always exciting for the owner. This is why they often dash out to buy the best lamp, a lot of eye-catching pillows, and collectible paintings, even if their condo unit is completely bare, without a kitchen or a flight of stairs!
In the end, they’ve blown most of their budget on frivolous décor, with nothing left to spare for important pieces of furniture or paint (unless you want that minimalist look). Set your priorities in the renovation—making your space comfortable, well-lit, and functional always comes first—before heading out on a buying spree of things you don’t need yet.
The bottom line: it’s all about setting your priorities (and limits), and keeping your renovation simple. Then perhaps you’ll still have some decorating money left over, and your ceiling won’t cave in.