How to Save on Home Renovations

Whether you’re renovating a home in preparation to sell or simply to enjoy living in it, it’s best to go into the process with clear goals in mind. A well-planned project will typically cost less and look better than a rushed job. Sleeping on big decisions is a great way to avoid impulse-buys that leave you with pink granite countertops instead of the gray ones you wanted, for example. Here are some more tips to keep projects on track and expenses down.

1. Budget Wisely

Rather than creating vague estimates, it’s best to do a detailed budget. How much can you afford? What, exactly, do you want to accomplish? What are your must-haves and what can you live without? With a clear budget in mind, your emotions will have a harder time carrying you away.

2. Hire the Right Contractor and/or Service People

One of the most important decisions you will make when renovating your home is choosing the right contractor and/or service providers. In a small town like Ukiah, it’s worth getting recommendations from your Realtor, neighbors, coworkers, friends and family. Learning from their experiences can save you a lot of heartache. While price is an important consideration, it shouldn’t be the only one. Sometimes, it’s a lot more expensive to hire a “cheap” contractor because of the expenses you’ll incur from cut corners in the long run.

In many renovations, you’re mostly paying for labor, so you may as well get the best available materials if you can afford it. By hiring quality labor and using quality materials, the work will last longer, sometimes a lot longer. And there’s also an emotional cost to dealing with sub-par contractors.

3. Consider Recycled Materials

Not only are recycled or reused building materials good for the planet, they can be good for your pocketbook. You can purchase high-quality materials for a fraction of the cost if you’re a bargain shopper. For local lumber, check Mendocino Redwood, Recycled Lumberworks, and North Cal Wood Products. Sometimes you can find deals on Craigslist and local Facebook groups like Ukiah 4 Sale or Trade.

4. Pay Cash When You Can

Sometimes you can receive a discount for purchasing materials and contractor expenses with cash, and even if you don’t, by paying cash you can avoid interest charges from your credit card.

5. Don’t Rush

Rushing the renovation process often leads to poor decision making. When you take your time, you can wait for materials to go on sale. You can wait for your favorite contractors and service providers to become available. You can sit with decisions for a bit to be sure you’re going to be happy with them.

6. Consider Doing Some Work Yourself

Clearly, for major home renovations, you should leave complicated work to the professionals—gas and electricity, major structural work, etc. But if you want to save a little money, consider doing some work yourself—basic demolition, painting, and other small repairs are usually pretty straightforward.

7. Reuse Existing Materials

Sometimes, rather than buying new kitchen cabinets, for example, you can get away with painting them and replacing the knobs or pulls. While water-stained oak cabinets from the mid-1980s may look dated, a coat of white paint can give them new life.

8. Sell Old Appliances

If you don’t want to reuse old appliances or other materials that still have value, sell them! Maybe you’re moving from white appliances to black ones, but your white fridge has plenty of good years left. I’m willing to bet there are people who would be happy to get a deal on your old white appliances.

With these thoughts in mind go tackle that renovation and enjoy the benefits of your good decisions.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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