12 of the Biggest Renovation Mistakes First-Time Homeowners Make

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You bought a house - congratulations! After sorting out your mortgage, met with your legal adviser, now comes the hard part - make it your home. From small redecorations to complex renovations, there are many steps along the way that could go wrong. We're sharing this so that if you're carrying out a home renovation for the first time, you can plan for it.


1. Underestimating costs

It is unfortunate but statistically speaking, most projects will cost more and exceed the time planned to completion. Therefore, it may be useful to build in a buffer when you are estimating the costs of your work. This will keep your level of stress in check and if all goes according to plan, you will have saved some money. If that means you cannot afford to carry out the entire renovation now, that is fine and you can discuss with your architect or interior designer on reducing the scope of work instead of compromising on quality. 


2. Underestimating completion time 

As above, underestimating completion time will have many knock-on effects. Not only does it mean you may have to move out of your rental home by a certain date, but it also means you now do not have a place to move into. This is highly stressful to sort out a last-minute accommodation, as well as having to pay extra rent and move twice. So in this case, if it’s a simple renovation, build in a minimum of one week buffer time. 


3. Hiring a professional that's a bad fit   /   Not hiring a professional from the start

Hiring the right architect or interior designer is not a straightforward task. From project expertise, the track record to local knowledge, just because someone in your circle of friends recommends them, you should still carry out your research to ensure your design aesthetic, budget, and expectations can be met by a design practice. Carry out your due diligence, one good way is to compare a few shortlisted professional practices before hiring them. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking to make significant changes to your home during the renovation process, not hiring a professional from the start may pose many unaccounted issues and increase your project's risks. Having a professional run the project will ensure things are run smoothly, eg. timely liaising with Building Control and serving notices required to carry out a complex renovation. If your budget is small, discuss this early on and minimise the scope of works rather than trying to carry out everything yourself as your time can be better spent elsewhere.


4. Not asking for past references

Related to the due diligence process mentioned above, asking for references including seeing a past project should give you a good indication of the type of project and the quality a professional is comfortable in delivering. Yes, it may not be easy to gain access to a past project, however, other ways to do this include asking to see photos of their work-in-progress and completed projects, asking if they came across any issues and how they dealt with it, and if you could speak with one of their past clients, team or supplier that they have worked with.


5. Not hiring a project manager   /   Realising too late that your architect or interior designer is not project managing the project

Project management of any project is vital in ensuring the daily operations of a project is controlled and any potential issues are de-risked before problems even surface. Post-design stage, I have come across projects whereby the client is fully in charge of project management. For first-time homeowners, it’s easy to fall into the trap where

(i) you are unaware that no one is responsible for the project management of the project

(ii) you think it will only take an hour or two a week to do it yourself

Project management is a time-consuming and detail-oriented task, so unless you have the time, strict organisational skills and a willingness to learn ahead of the task, it will be sensible to discuss with your appointed professional about project management.

Ask: Do your professional fees include project management? 


6. Not focusing on key areas

One of the mistakes is working on too many areas at once. When it is your first project, it can be overwhelming to multi-task and juggle the renovation process, especially if you are carrying out many tasks on your own. If your hired design practice has minimal involvement and you do not have much time to focus on the renovation, think about focusing on a few key areas and do it well. The secondary areas can be planned in the background and then realised on a later date. 


7. Not asking enough questions

Sketches, drawings and even three-dimensional drawings can be quite complex to understand, especially if it’s your first project and if your strengths lies elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure you are on the same page with your architects, interior designers, or contractors. 


8. Making many changes on the way

After you sign-off a proposal, a lot of planning needs to happen to realise a project. Often, many items are interlinked and have a knock-on effect. So if you’d like to make any changes on the way, ensure you speak first with your architect, who can then evaluate any risks as well as time and cost implications with you before they then instruct the changes. Hence, take your time to understand and agree on the design during the design stages, then avoid making changes on a later date. 


9. Not focusing on quality or at the wrong places

As much as we could, I know we’d like to splurge on top quality items throughout the house. However, that may not be possible and in some areas, it could frankly be too lavish to splurge on. A rule of thumb is to spend on quality items that you touch daily. They range from door handles to kitchen taps, a well-made mattress for a night of quality sleep - you get the idea! As these are heavily utilised items, a well-designed and quality product will elevate your home into a joyful place to be. 


10. Underestimating the importance and cost of interior design

A well-built house is incomplete without considered furniture and interior design pieces such as curtains, etc. Start thinking about the interior design elements from an early stage to plan for the overall design and cost to plan for a timely move-in as many furniture companies operate on eight weeks lead time from order date to your doorstep. 


11. Not understanding measurements 

Through our memories, a space remembered may easily feel smaller or larger. Even professionals do this so it may be wise to have your architectural drawings handy and buy a measuring tape to help you make a decision when purchasing furniture and decorative items. 


12. Not setting up a definite timeline

One of the key things that you should discuss and define with your design professional is the timeline of the project. During the project, your architect, interior designer or project manager should regularly update you on the progress of the project, in line with the timeline. For example, if an item is delayed, what is the implication to the timeline? What sort of overall delay will it entail? Are there cost implications too? If you do not receive this update, as a client, you have the right to request this and you should!


If we can assist you in finding design and price comparison for your project in the UK, get started today by filling in this Google Form.


Best of luck with your first project! 


Pitch Your Concepts (www.pitchyourconcepts.com), an online marketplace to find architects and interior designers for property renovations and SME developments. A semi-finalist at the 2019 Mayor's Entrepreneur Award, organised by the Mayor of London.