What to consider when making over your home? The ultimate house renovation guide.
A home is where the heart is. It’s your own little castle, a place that provides a feeling of comfort, security and a sense of belonging. A place where one feels most like themselves. You can lounge about freely in nothing but your jammies, without the need to comb or shave, have no make-up and sit with legs akimbo with no care in the world. Once you buy a house, the idea of turning it into your dream home can become a reality. Next begins the new challenge of bringing the transformation to life. Renovating a home will undoubtedly be one of your life’s biggest projects albeit an exciting one.
The Benefits of House Renovation
Giving your house a makeover is, first and foremost, to suit the taste and preference of you, your spouse or family. A successful renovation leaves you with a sense of accomplishment. It is a moment of pride and makes all the occupants feel good. The benefits of renovating in a nutshell:
Enhances the aesthetics of your home.
Gives your space a personal touch.
Helps to improve comfort in the house, resulting in a happier atmosphere.
Increases your asset value (increases resale or rental revenue after renovation).
Practical renovations may reduce utility and maintenance costs.
Improves and ensures safety.
Truth be told, house renovations can be really stressful for a first time house buyer. You will need to plan, budget, find a good contractor and source for materials. Planning and budgeting are top priority to ensure that you do not burn a big hole in your pocket or end up frustrated when things go awry (it happens!).
In order to make your house renovation process easier, we are sharing 7 key aspects you will need to consider. This can be your guide or checklist for every time you plan a new property makeover.
Conforming with the Standards
When designing your dream abode, keep in mind that you will have to conform with the standards (aka staying on the good side of the law). These are the housing laws, policies or guidelines stipulated by the Local Municipal Council and the Management Committee (MC).
Before starting renovations on a new house, make sure the Certificate of Fitness for Occupation (CFO), Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC) or Occupational Certificate (OC) are already issued.
The Local Authority (LA)
For landed property (i.e terraced, linked, semi-detached houses and bungalows), you will have to submit your renovation plans to the LA beforehand for approval. The LA is our local council or Majlis Tempatan. For instance, if the new house is in KL, the LA is Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur. In the Puchong and Subang area, the LA is Majlis Bandaraya Subang Jaya. The LA not only reviews and approves / rejects submissions for renovation. You may also seek their confirmation and advice on:
Whether you require a professional to draw up your renovation plans or not.
The types of forms and pre-approved plans needed.
The scope of works allowed. E.g the maximum allowable area for extension of your house, or any height restrictions.
Always get written confirmation from the LA for record purposes.
The Management Committee (MC)
If your new home is within a gated community or a condo / apartment building, consult your renovation plans with the MC. Starting off on the right foot is ideal as you will be moving in for the long haul.
Working with the MC will ensure that your planned modification works sync with the aesthetics and color scheme of the building, the neighbourhood and surrounding environment. The MC will guide you based on their in-house policies and procedures that follow Malaysia’s local authority laws like Town and Country Planning Act 1976, Uniform Building By-Laws 1984, etc.
A word of advice, going ahead with renovations without the relevant permissions could have serious impacts and consequences. ‘Illegal’ structures or extensions may affect your neighbours or impact the environment. Your unit or house could stick out like a sore thumb, thus affecting the value of the property.
Worse, it could get you into trouble for breaking laws related to the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974, leading to compounds and demolition. Not only will you lose more money (in fines, demolition and rebuilding costs) but your frustrations will be compounded tenfold!
Most MCs require a renovation deposit for the duration of the house renovation. This is a form of ‘insurance’ to cover any damages to common areas caused by the renovation or in case of any breach in the house regulations. Although this is refundable, make sure you budget for it.
Make Sure the New Place is Habitable
Brand new homes
It’s so exciting once you get your keys to your newly completed house. Bet you are brimming with ideas on how to decorate your new lair. As this tip suggests, now is a good time to ensure that your house is in good condition. “What?”, you may ask. All new houses carry a warranty from the developers. Called the defect liability period, developers are obligated to repair any faulty workmanship at no cost to the buyer. The warranty is valid for 24 months from the moment you take the house keys. Time to whip out that magnifying glass and thoroughly check the new house for any defects, ensure compliance to the agreed house specs (as per S&P), and if it’s a condo, any defects to the common areas around your unit. It is advisable to carry out house renovation works only after repairs by the developers during the defect liability period.
So you have fallen in love and bought a pre-loved house. If it is particularly old (e.g it is in a lovely 30 year old residential neighborhood), make sure it’s liveable. This means checking the roof, structure, wiring (e.g single phase or 3-phase) and plumbing (those old pipes and taps!) are in good order. Imagine one wild, stormy night. You wouldn’t want to be rudely woken up from strong winds ripping off your roof tiles and your bedroom starting to flood.
If you are unsure how to go about this, seek help from the professionals. These experts would be able to conduct checks and provide estimates on restoring, repairing and remodeling your newly purchased ‘old’ house. Inspection normally includes:
Faulty electrical system or wiring
Structural and foundation problems
Insect/ pest infestation
HVAC (ventilation) system issues
Plan, plan, plan
Like any great plan, spend some time in the house envisioning how each part of the house will look and feel. Planning is vital to ensure you stay within budget and to avoid unnecessary costs.
Set-up your renovating goals
It’s essential to know what you want to achieve with your house renovation and why. For instance, if you’re renovating to avoid moving, the work you do now should last you for a long time. But, if your house renovation is motivated by increasing the property value, you’d need to improve the house to suit the needs of the current property demand in the area.
Make a wish list
Draw up your wish list. Create 2 columns – 1st is what you would love to have, the other your needs (or, what you can afford). If you love cooking for example, remodeling the kitchen definitely takes priority over converting a room into a gym.
Where’s that floor plan?
It is important to be familiar with your home layout especially if you’re planning to add extra space to it. The revised floor plan can be obtained from your contractor or interior designer. Remember, extensions or additional spaces may need the approval of the LA or the MC (refer to tip 1) before works can begin.
Mood boards and samples
Creating mood boards, saving pictures from websites or links is a great way to keep track of all your inspirations. Feel samples at different stores. Or, if you have engaged professional services, request for samples, color codes, fabrics, etc. From floor layouts, color schemes, right down to materials used, gathering as much information as possible will help you determine what will be needed.
Determine your Budget
Be realistic of what you can afford. Based on your itemized wish list, source for quotes from building contractors or interior designers (ID). Get at least 3 quotes for a comparison. Here’s what you will need to see: a) A breakdown of the works / items. b) How long it takes to complete the work. c) Professional service fees (if any). Don’t forget to include additional costs such as council permits, deposits and storage fees.
Understand what you are paying for
If you have engaged contractor or ID services, they will help you understand what is in those budget numbers. Hard costs are the costs of the construction materials and fixtures to build the structure. Consultation fees, permit fees, and design fees generally fall under soft costs.
Setting the Timeline
Renovations can generally take longer and cost more than you think. A simple example is the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia and the MCO. Renovations were suddenly halted for months on end. Just like budgeting, be realistic with your house renovation timeline. Adjust your expectations accordingly. That way, you won’t be disappointed if the work takes longer than anticipated. One way is by talking withyour contractor before the contract is signed. Ask questions about how long the project will take and what to expect. Most contractors will add some extra time to their estimate (in case of unforeseen issues). Just make sure they don’t overcharge if everything goes according to schedule.
Engaging the Professionals
Yes, you may be tempted to renovate the house yourself to save money. Doing everything yourself and finishing the project on your own may seem like a good idea, but there is a LOT of work involved. If all hell breaks loose, you will be left to pick up the pieces and shoulder additional costs – or worse – penalties!
Even if you’re handy around the house, it is advisable to leave it to the pros for major renovation works and remodeling. Of course, the selection process for a responsible builder or contractor is equally important. The perks of working with a pro:
It may be a legal requirement. The local authority might not approve your house renovation proposal otherwise, especially for major renovations.
They will handle all your needs from start to finish – i.e the timeline, necessary permits, supplies, workers, subcontractors, etc.
They have experience – e.g easily spot defects, conversant with structures, demolition and repairs.
They may have insurance against major issues.
Priority for safety and health – according to standards they have to comply with.
Renovations are completed more quickly.
Let the House Renovations Begin!
It’s finally time to get prepared for the house renovation to take place. If you are living in the same house, finalize your household arrangements. Reserve storage space for furnishings, or for peace of mind, book a place to stay temporarily in (some works will need the electricity and water to be shut off completely).
Build an oasis for yourself. If you have no option but to remain where the renovation is happening, choose an unaffected room. Stay away from the chaos with all the things you love – tv, laptop, earphones, microwave, dumb bells, yoga mat, etc. Renovation is at a new place? Make regular trips to oversee the progress and keep on top of things.
It’s Not So Difficult After All
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t despair. It’s not impossible to pull off a major makeover on a tight budget. All it takes is passion, dedication, research and some help from the experts. Add on an eye for details and a splash of creativity. In no time at all, your little castle will spring to life and you can proudly settle into that brand ‘new’ space that is uniquely yours called home.