By Erica Sweeney | May 26, 2021
One of the more tangible side effects of the coronavirus pandemic is that, with all the time we’ve clocked at home, many of us are itching to renovate our space—whether that’s with a kitchen remodel, new home office, half-bath, or even more ambitious projects.
And as COVID-19 begins easing up in many areas, you might be wondering: Has the time finally arrived to hire contractors to turn your renovation dreams into reality?
Of course, you’ll still want to enforce strict hygiene standards. But homeowners who want to remodel right now will face other challenges, too.
So if you’re pondering the pros and cons of a postpandemic renovation, here are a few considerations to take into account. Peruse this checklist to make sure you’re on the right path.
1. Fix what’s broken first
Since the pandemic had us spending so much time at home, our surroundings have suffered for it. Overstressed dishwashers may be sputtering along, while the HVAC systems we’ve been cranking 24/7 may not run as efficiently as they should, and could be due for a cleaning.
The upshot? While a new kitchen would be fun, if you have repairs that need tending to, you need to tackle those first.
“While these projects—kitchen or bathroom redo—will potentially increase the value of your home, there are other projects that sometimes have to get done due to general routine maintenance of a residence,” says Jared Duff, owner of Kraftsmen, a Windsor, CT–based home remodeling company.
Plus, letting home maintenance slide could cause bigger problems down the road that could cost much more.
“While this may not be a project that you were intending to spend money on, it becomes a must-have on your home remodeling to-do list due to the urgency of the need,” Duff says.
2. Anticipate delays
Due to the lingering impact of COVID-19 on supply chains, nearly 94% of builders say they’re facing at least some shortages of materials, says Robert Dietz, the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.
“Unfortunately, what we’re hearing from the manufacturers, what builders are telling me, is our expectation is these kinds of delays and higher costs are going to persist into 2022,” Dietz told USA Today.
Everything from appliances to cabinetry may take longer than usual for delivery—and this can throw a major wrench in a renovation, since you can’t install your new kitchen counter until those cabinets are in first.
As such, you’ll want to ask potential contractors “Do you foresee any delays on certain items?” Request a realistic timeline for your project so you can plan accordingly.
Another smart question to ask is whether they have a warehouse where they store materials. Some do and some don’t—and this could be a way to avoid delays if they’ve got slabs of marble you can choose right there rather than waiting for one to arrive from Italy.
3. Expect to pay higher prices
Shortage on Materials also means you could end up paying higher prices, which could have you wondering how you’ll pay for this renovation. While cash is always the best option, if your renovation budget is bigger than you can handle, here are some options to consider:
- Home equity line of credit, or HELOC, lets you borrow against the equity that you have in your home as collateral.
- An FHA 203(k) loan allows you to bundle renovation costs with your mortgage and is insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
- Credit cards are an option if absolutely needed, but tread very carefully: Consider how much debt you’ll be taking on, payback terms, and the interest rate.
- Some contractors offer financing for homeowners. For example, Kraftsmen offers financing through lenders Rocket Loans or EnerBank.
“Overall, most people pay with their own savings, but customers might find themselves unwilling to dip into their nest egg,” Duff says. “This is where the financing options come in handy.”
4. Keep ROI in mind—especially if you plan to sell
Nationwide, a shortage of homes for sale has driven up home prices—good news for sellers who want to make a nice profit on their place. So if you’re planning to sell your home soon or even in the next few years, it’s particularly important that any renovations you embark on should increase your home’s value.
Just keep in mind that in most cases you won’t make back everything. Bathrooms and kitchens, for instance, offer a return on investment of about 80%, says Tim Ellis, president of T.W. Ellis in Forest Hill, MD.
Projects boosting a home’s energy efficiency, like replacing windows and doors, are another good investment, Duff says.
Tax credits are available for the projects, and homeowners could see lower energy bills. Painting and replacing floors also generate high ROI, according to Duff and Ellis.
5. Brace for a labor shortage
In addition to a shortage of materials, skilled workers are scarce these days. This might mean you’ll have to scramble to find good contractors whose schedules aren’t already jam-packed for the next six months.
While many top-rated contractors are busier than ever these days, others may be scrambling for work. Ellis urges homeowners to vet these professionals carefully. Specifically, find out how the contractor has dealt with staying afloat both when business was sluggish (like during the height of the pandemic) and when business was booming and they were juggling numerous clients at once.
“It’s important that a contractor knows how to maneuver his company through a variety of challenges,” Ellis says, adding that homeowners should also be sure to get multiple estimates for a job.
“Contractors that have stayed true to being honest, on time, performing quality work, and providing excellent customer service will always be busy regardless,” Duff says. “If you hire a contractor and they can start the next day, odds are good they are not a quality outfit.”