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Finding the right
contractor or Interior
Design firm...
The Dos & Donts for a
home owner in desperate
need of a home
renovation...
How can home owners
look out for con-artists
disguising themselves as
Interior Designers
and
what can they do if they
have been duped?
How to Manage Renovation Costs

Renovating and fitting your home can be a daunting, and often
times, demoralizing experience. Prices and quality can vary to
either extremes, and there are so many factors involved that can
put a damper on your dream home.

Interior designers and consultants I interviewed gripe that
customers are asking too much for the budget that they are willing
to pay. Homeowners I spoke to recount the horrors of
unsatisfactory services despite paying a large sum of money.
And that’s why I’ve decided to write this article: It’s for homeowners
who want to take a more hands-on approach and save on cost
wherever possible. Now, if you’re a bean-counting, penny-pinching,
miser of a Singaporean like me, you are going to enjoy this read. I’m
going to be talking about how you can get the most out of your
waffle-thin budget and still emerge looking classy.
I have included a Kiam Kana* (KK) Rating for each of the tip below
to give you an indication of the amount of money you can save.  
*Kiam Kana is colloquial term to mean being stingy or miserly.
1. Service Providers:
Know the different roles they play, and why you need ‘em.

Though customers generally can’t tell the difference, there are in
fact very distinct differences between a consultant, a designer, and
a contractor. While they can certainly get the job done for you,
eventually, it would be wiser to know what is it you need and whose
speciality you should be paying for.

Consultants tend to be folks who have a vast network of industry
contacts and can save you time and hassle by liaising with
contractors. Most consultants have limited design skills based
largely off their experiences and would be able to pull off a decent
Contractors are the guys you go to for a specific need. Flooring, carpentry, installation, tiling, wallpaper, etc. You get
the picture. These folks make their money by doing what they are good at. Most contractors have friends in other fields
and would be happy to make a recommendation should you take up their services. You can save some money by cutting
out the middleman and bargain directly with the contractors or find a handyman who is able to handle most of the stuff
you need. However, as many of them come from Malaysia, China or India, liaising with them can be can be quite a
challenge if you don’t speak their language. I hope you’re good at playing Charades.

KK Rating:         3 / 3
You like to have control. You are meticulous and know exactly how you want things done; your way.
2. Get quotations; Ask questions
Know what you are paying for and what is a reasonable market rate for it.

The price margin for a similar service or item can vary by up to 30% between the different suppliers or service
providers. Don’t just jump on a specific service provider without first looking at the itemised breakdown. Established
service providers may charge a heftier service fee but they have the connections to make bulk purchases and pass
the savings on to you which could offset the overall costing.

Don’t be intimidated by items you do not understand on the quotation either. There are a number of unscrupulous
service providers who list down items that they know will probably slide under the radar. Take Post-Renovation
Chemical Wash for instance. Find out what this actually means. Ask for the brand of chemical used and how they
intend to use it. If it sounds very much like something you can buy off the shelf at NTUC and do it on your own, then
you should just strike it off the quote. Better yet, strike the service provider off for trying to pull a fast one.
Read Another Article
Home renovation is a
necessary process
to transform an
empty or problematic
living space into a
dream home. It is
immensely personal
because the interior
designer or
contractor has to be
aware of your living
Wallpaper has been
making a come back
in recent years. It
can
be used as a great
decorating trick to
make rooms look
bigger  and ceilings
look higher, but get
it wrong and you can
be left with  the
opposite effect.
Have you
experienced this in
your home?
You and your family
were sound asleep
only to be awaken
by thunderous
cracking noises and
when you came out
to your living room to
investigate,
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FEATURED RENO
job if your requirements are something that’s run-of-the-mill. Consultants make their money, $3,500 to $5,000 on
average, through a fixed one-off payment and through mark-ups from referrals.

KK Rating:         2 / 3
You don’t mind paying for it if someone else can free up your time to do other more productive things.
Designers are folks who spent time studying the craft and have a
keen eye for aesthetics. They make their money designing homes
that you see on the glossy pages of designer magazines.
An experienced designer can easily set you back to the tune of
$5,000 to $15,000, but you can be assured that they will get the
job done because their fees and reputation are on the line.
Different designers specializes in different styles, so find one with
a portfolio that is closer to what you are looking for. And here’s a
tip that might earn you some discount from your designer: Don’t
call them contractors.

KK Rating:         1 / 3
You would rather splurge on getting the foundation right. A good
design and ground work is worth every dime.
KK Rating:         

3 / 3
You exhaust the phone directory of all service providers, cross reference their quotes for the best itemized price,
produce your own quote and find a service provider to match it.

2 / 3
You get 10 quotations and bargain with the service providers for the lowest possible price. Pissing many in the process.

1 / 3
You get about three quotations and go with the one you feel most comfortable with.
3. Prioritize: What You Need Versus What You Want

This may sound like common sense to you, but you’d be surprised at the
alarmingly large number of homeowners who don’t plan their expenditure. The
excitement of getting their new pad and being able to finally actualise their
dreams send most people into a buying frenzy.

There is nothing wrong in buying the stuff you’ve been eyeing for some time.
You like something, you can afford it, you buy it. It’s that simple. But this
article is about being a kiam kana homeowner so we are going to study how
kiam kana homeowners get the most bang for their buck.

Homeowners who are better at managing their budget, I noticed, have one
thing in common. They use a spreadsheet to list each and every expenditure
down to the screws and nails.

I learned that it’s the little things that add up and can sucker punch you from
the blindside if you’re not careful. A good way to manage your expenses and
expectation is to move things around into two categories – Needs and Wants.
Get the pricing for each item so you can get a better idea of where your
money is going to and which are items you can possibly live without.
4. Alternative brands and cheaper options

Having the top-of-the-line kitchen fittings or a very fancy customised walk-in wardrobe sounds like a “must-have” on
most people’s list until they see the price tag that comes with it.

Shop Online through sites like Tao Bao and Amazon. According to the homeowners who gave me this tip, the local
stores charge at least twice as much for exactly the same design and model available online. As with any online
purchases, you run the risk of misrepresented quality and shipping damages. While you can still get a refund or a
swap, the hassle may be a turn-off for most people. One particular homeowner I interviewed, bought 4 different Kohler
toilet bowls in varying dimensions before getting one that fits. Despite that, it was still cheaper than purchasing a single
Kholer toilet bowl from the store in Singapore.

KK Rating:         3 / 3
Definite cost savings here. Be prepared to buy multiple pieces and spend time requesting for exchanges.



Go modular or DIY.
Carpentry work and customisation takes up a huge part of the budget. Shop around for modular pieces of furniture
that you can stack together to achieve what you need. One homeowner I interviewed spent $5,000 on a floor to ceiling
bookshelf. Another homeowner clobbered together some IKEA bookshelves with some second-hand racks to create
his own version of a floor to ceiling bookshelf, complete with a sliding ladder. Cost him a grand total of $500.

KK Rating:         3 / 3
Spending the time putting together unique pieces for your house can be a proud achievement to some, and a good
way to lower cost too.



Go faux.
So you really dig those brick walls but they cost too much you say? How about that wooden flooring that you
absolutely must have? Well, if you aren’t a stickler for originality, that are cheaper options that you can consider.
I had initially wanted to use hardwood flooring for my office but eventually I settled for laminated wooden flooring,
which helped me save almost a month’s worth in salary. To the untrained eye, a good quality laminated wooden
flooring can pass of for the real deal. The brick textured wallpaper, however, was clearly inferior to the actual
Craftstone brick pieces. Unlike the laminated wooden flooring, a brick textured wallpaper will never be a realistic
replacement. Price wise, the wallpaper would cost me $300 inclusive of workmanship while the Craftstone brick
pieces would set me back by $3,000. If you were in my position, which would you have picked?


KK Rating:         

3 / 3
I can’t tell the difference anyway. If it’s cheap, it’s for me.  

2 / 3
I might go for the laminated flooring if it’s really that good, but no wallpaper substitute for me.

0 / 3
I got to keep it real.
When Jimmy thought about it, actually all he
needed are the laminated floorings beneath his
feet, the four walls to keep him warm and a roof
over his head to keep him dry!
The items on your “Want” list is not urgent so KIV those first and take the time to slowly source out for the best deal. This
way, your house can evolve over time at a fraction of what you would have spent upfront.

KK Rating:         1 - 3 / 3
‘Needs’ and ‘Wants’ differ for every individual.
So how many points did you score on the Kiam Kana (KK) Rating?

If you found this article useful and it has helped you save money on your renovation, please drop me a message and
let me know how it worked out for you. If there are other issues that you would like me to write about, you can also drop
me a message and I’d be happy to do the research for you.
Article written by Eugene Tay
founder of Monsters Under the Bed Creative Writing School
and the author of the Supernatural Confessions series.
That’s how you would be feeling
inside when you tell your friends
how much money you managed
to save thanks to this article.