Renovation: Hot Property or Too Hot to Handle?

Some homes have seen better days than others and one of their big advantages is that in the Vancouver homes market (perpetually buoyant it seems) they offer a great (low) price and potential investment for hard pressed buyers in the sellers' market. If you're looking to buy homes in the Vancouver area, you may well be tempted by the prospect of a project. But before you sign the contracts here are a few guidelines that will help you to achieve success with renovation.


Heritage Homes?


Heritage” is a word that is often used to describe older buildings – in some cases “old wreck” works too. Designated homes in the greater Vancouver area are subject to strict, or at least some, regulations when it comes to making changes to them. However, heritage is used by many sellers to attract buyers. If the home is not yet listed it may prove a better prospect (with less bureaucracy to work your way through) than if it is. A big plus is that you can potentially have it listed (and further increase the value) once you're done. For more information on heritage homes visit the local municipalities website – a list can be found on the BC Government site.


Research, Research, Research


Research is key to a successful renovation project. Visit any renovated properties you can; friends, family, colleagues or simply homes in Vancouver that you've seen under renovation. In the latter case the exhausted, prematurely gray-haired owners will be glad to share their experience with you! Also consider your lifestyle and possible future changes in order to choose the right home for now and for the coming years. The Renovation Council of Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association (GVHBA) can offer advice on the feasibility of a project and contractors who have experience of similar projects.


Finding Funds


Think about, and try to acquire, funding for the project. Renovations will obviously require more cash than simply the funds to buy the property. Discuss your needs and options with lenders; many will have specialist mortgages available for renovation projects – as with any financial project, shop around as widely as possible. Additional options for funding include personal loans, equity loans or loans from relatives.


The Right Team


The GVHBA, mentioned above can provide a list of professional renovators, while others who have renovated their Vancouver home should be able to make recommendations. Make a long-list of possible contractors and then arrange to meet them. From the list, pick the three that you feel have the right experience and who you feel you can get along with (this is very important as you may have to spend a lot of time working closely together). Ask this short list to provide quotes for a full design-build service. Specialist contractors will normally be able to provide staff and expertise for both aspects of the work.


Contract Details


When it comes to choosing a renovator don't simply choose the cheapest; a low bid can suggest the contractor hasn't fully understood the details of the work. Misunderstandings early on in the project can turn into a much bigger bills once the work is underway and the contractor has finally grasped those details. Once you have a contractor you'll need a contract! Make sure this is as comprehensive as possible; even the smallest details, fees and timescales should be included. This means that both of you have realistic expectations and also ensures you can manage the process smoothly. Before you sign the final contract read it in detail and be sure you are fully happy with it. Ideally engage a lawyer to check the contract – if something is missed out it will be your responsibility not the contractors.


Planning Ahead


Planning ahead is essential – where and/or how will you live during the renovation? If you are living on site you'll need to discuss practicalities with your renovator. When will water and power be available, or when do you need them to be? Major work may need to be organized in stages if you intend to live on site, in order to retain some valuable space. If you're living off site where will you live? Rental accommodation adds to the cost but living with family can add to the stress! Making the right decisions from the start can help to make the process smoother.


Once the work begins try to avoid changing your plans – even small changes can mean a nightmare for the renovator and spiraling costs for you! The contract should be detailed and moving away from this can cause problems. Changes also often equal delays, which can be frustrating for both you and your renovator.


A Renovation project can allow you to create the home you truly want and, although it can be a difficult experience, it can also be a very fulfilling one. Homes in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland continue to be increasingly valuable – and a renovation project can help you to maximize your re-sale value.



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