12 renovation mistakes first-time home owners make and regret

You have received your keys and you can’t wait to move in – yay! And now you move on to the most exciting – but also the most cumbersome – part: renovation.

Here are a list of common renovation mistakes that new home owners tend to make. Make sure you don’t fall victim to them:

1. Simply going with a friend’s recommendation

Word-of-mouth is definitely important, but remember that while the contractor or interior designer has done a great job on your friend’s house, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be satisfied with his/her service too. Before you go with your friend’s recommendation, find out a few things:

  • Is your friend’s home design style similar to what you want? His contractor/interior designer may be an expert in the Scandinavian style design that your friend loves, but it doesn’t mean he is going to be great at completing your vision of an industrial-style home.
  • What is it about the contractor or interior designer does your friend like? Your communication style and your friend’s may be different, which means you may not necessarily have chemistry with the same contractor/interior designer. One potential problem, for instance, is if your friend is good at Mandarin and speak primarily in Mandarin to his contract/interior designer who can’t speak English well. If your command of Mandarin isn’t as good, chances are you’re going to have a hard time communicating with the service provider.
  • If you have no problem with the above two points, there’s one last question to ask yourself: is your budget size similar to your friend’s. If it is smaller, you should not expect to get the exact results as your friend’s home. It’s important to manage your expectations; the same contractor/interior designer can’t produce the exact same work with less budget.

2. Not asking for more quotes

Because it’s your first time engaging a contractor or interior designer, it’s always wise to speak to more vendors to get a better understanding of the industry and market rates. Comparing quotes is also a good way of seeing if you’re being over-charged.

3. Going for the lowest bid

Now that you’ve compared quotes, it might be tempting to simply go for the one that gave you the lowest quote. Remember that when something is too good to be true, chances are it isn’t true. If a quotation looks too attractive, find out exactly item-by-item if there is any hidden cost and if the materials and design are cut back to fit the budget.

Other than cost, also remember that you’ll be working with the vendor for a few months to build your dream home. So it’s also very important to find someone that can understand your vision and is professional to deal with.

4. Sharing your exact budget

When communicating with the contractor or interior designer, communicate a budget that’s about 20% less than what you’re willing to pay. This 20% is a buffer for an item that you didn’t realise you need, for materials that you might want to upgrade, as well as other unforeseen expenses. Typically, the final renovation cost will come up higher than what was initially quoted, so by making sure that you communicate a slightly lower budget makes sure that you will eventually pay for something that’s comfortably within your desired budget.

5. Not asking enough questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions especially when your vendor starts using jargons or abbreviations that you’re unfamiliar with. This is not the time to impress people and pretend that you know-it-all. You also shouldn’t be worried about looking “dumb”. Ask as many questions as you need to have an absolutely clear idea what your options are and what you are getting into. This way, expectations will be aligned and you will have a better communication with your contractor/interior designer.

6. Being indecisive

When you make a decision, make sure that it’s firm. If you need to take more time to decide, go for it. It is better to make a firm decision even if you take slightly longer to research, than to regret and ask for a chance along the way. Backing out and making a change will cost you more time and money, so you definitely want to avoid that.

7. Not asking for a clear timeline

Your contractor or interior designer may give you a rough date of completion. “Around one to two months” they will typically say. Ask them to break down for you what aspect of work is expected to be done within which time frame, and work out a clear timeline with them. This will ensure that you know what is coming up and make better plans for things like furniture shopping and moving-in date. The clear timeline also makes sure that everyone’s expectations are aligned and there will be no disappointment on your end.

8. Expecting everything to go smoothly

Even with a clear timeline, you must be prepared for unforeseen events. Perhaps a shipment is delayed due to bad weather, or maybe certain work needs clearance from the authorities. It’ll be best to add a few weeks to your expected handover date if you need to make furniture delivery or moving in plans.

9. Going for cost over quality

Renovation can cost a lot of money, which is why many of us may be tempted to simply go for whatever is the cheapest. Do more research to see what are the drawbacks of the cheaper alternative. If you can live with it, it’s probably okay to opt for it. However, you want to avoid the situation of everything falling apart within one or two years, when you obviously want to stay comfortably in your new home for a long time to come.

10. Splurging on the frivolous


On the other hand, there are definitely things that you can skimp on. You may want to get many cute knick knacks or fancy throw pillows after checking out home photos on Pinterest, but always ask yourself if it’s a practical purchase. How often are you going to utilise it? Are you willing to put in time to maintain it? If the answer isn’t positive for either of these questions, then you may want to think it through again, and maybe save up the money.

11. Always take measurement when furniture shopping

Ask your contractor/interior designer for the maximum sizes of all the furniture in your new home and arm yourself with these information when you go shopping. This way, you’ll be saving time by passing over furniture that you know is definitely going to be too big for your house.

Pro tip: You should also know how large your lift and doorway is. Your furniture will need to fit into these spaces before they get into their positions in your home.

12. Building in too many things

We all love customising and building in furniture such as cabinets because they fit perfectly into the crevices of our new home and look cohesive with the rest of the design. However, remember that if this is your first home, chances are you may not stay here forever. Getting individual furniture instead of getting a contractor to build everything in means that you may be able to bring the furniture into your future home – saving money on your next renovation!

Also, having too many built-in furniture also mean that it’s harder for you to reconfigure the layout in your home. Assuming you need to cater for changes in the future, for instance, a new baby or a parent moving in with you, having loose furniture will certainly make reconfiguration much easier.