Home Renovations 101

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You've decided to undertake some home renovations. Awesome! But ... where to begin? There are a bounty of considerations to bear in mind, on top of the mountain of decisions you'll already need to make. Thankfully, we tapped the expertise of some local professionals to help guide you.

Begin with determining what your realistic budget range is and go from there. According to John Becker, Principal at Becker & Sanders, you should ask yourself a variety of questions: How long do you plan to be in your home after the renovation? Does the investment make sense if you're not staying long term? Does your neighborhood support the improvement?

Missy Walters, Founder and Principal Designer of Studio M Interiors, explained that in order to set expectations, they conduct a budget meeting with clients before beginning the discovery and inspiration phases.

"We have a design questionnaire we send out once a client signs on with Studio M. The client will fill that out with lots of details and what they're comfortable spending," Walters said, noting clients should anticipate spending about 20% of construction costs to enlist a luxury interior design studio like themselves, which would account for design fees and quality furnishings.

Homeowners should also prepare themselves by being realistic with their timeline and understanding that renovations can be stressful at times.

"Having a remodel project performed in one's home can be very emotional and disruptive, as there will be people in and out of the home for an extended period of time," Becker said. "Some clients don't like the idea of people they don't know in their space when they're not home, so get assurance from the general contractor that their lead person or supervisor will be monitoring security measures on their behalf, in addition to a statement about assurance of background checks on workers, especially when there are going to be children present."

And while we love a good DIY, leave the bigger projects to the reliable and legitimate professionals.

"Ask for referrals if you aren't familiar with a contractor," Becker recommended. "Also, verify that they're licensed in the State of Michigan and that they're able to provide a certificate of insurance."

When seeking out professionals, Walters suggests always conducting a phone call and an in-person or zoom meeting, in addition to checking their website and social media to see what they're up to and asking for work references and examples.

"When working with a builder, ask for the subcontractors they work with and take the time to call them," Walters said. "You cannot get quality, quick and cheap. So what are the things that are the most important to you out of those three things? Is it quality and price? Walk people's projects and trust your gut."

Of course, you should learn to expect the unexpected and anticipate potential delays.

"Allow cushion in the budget for contingencies," Becker said, noting that "project creep" is typically a factor when remodeling, meaning the budget and scope of work can sometimes "creep" beyond what was originally outlined.

Similarly, Walters emphasizes that projects are likely to cost more and take longer than you think in today's market. Don't assume that because something has been ordered that it's already made and on its way to you.

"As a luxury interior design studio, we make sure we're staying ahead of construction schedules so we have room for special order tiles or have time for window treatments to show up before you move in," she said, noting that furniture is a big part of the market seeing delays. "Studio M has sofas and bed frames we can loan out, that way clients aren't without a sofa in their living room or a bed to sleep on, because inevitably, a couple of those things are not going to show up on time."

Ultimately, renovations can be fun, if you go into it understanding the journey.

Walters advised: "Invest the money, do the project to the level that you expect and buckle in."

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.

This article originally appeared in the Jun/Jul '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.

Photos Courtesy of Ashley Avila Photography. Design Credit to Studio M. Interiors.  


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