January 1, 2023
First and foremost, hire a team you trust. (Ignoring your misgivings and hoping for the best is the wrong move.) Beyond that, Narvaez says an open mind and a little flexibility are the best client attributes of a successful project today. “When the client is very rigid about the plan, that’s when we have a lot of issues,” she says. How flexible do you need to be? Narvaez says she hopes her clients remain open to shifting anything from vendors to layouts to timelines.
“Let’s say we planned for 18-inch cabinets, but those are out of stock—let’s try it with 15-inch or 12-inch cabinets instead if those are available. It might change things a bit on that wall of cabinets, but it can be done.” Most of all, have realistic expectations. These days, that means expecting delays. “Understand that it’s as frustrating to us when things are delayed,” adds Nashville contractor Elizabeth Scruggs. “If we have one job that goes off schedule, it’ll push all 10 or 20 of our jobs off-schedule. We are working 10 times as hard on the backend that homeowners don’t see to keep everything going smoothly.”
In-demand pros are booked out at least three months before they can even start your project—and then the clock starts again as you wait for your orders. Across the country, contractors reported that they are booked solid for six months to a year out—and that clients should be wary of anyone who isn’t booked up, even in markets that might not seem to be booming. Once you connect with a pro, you likely won’t be rushing right into breaking ground. “I usually have to start talking to a client 6 months before they want to start,” says Washington, D.C.–based contractor Gabriela Narvaez, who specializes in historic home remodels that add function but not square footage. Gilchrist agrees: “By the time homeowners get the money, they want the job to start tomorrow, but it doesn’t work like that. “I wish they would reach out while they’re thinking about the project.”
Plenty of homeowners are going all-out on their renovations—and with mortgage interest rates increasing, analysts project that more people will be inclined to invest in their current home instead of trading up, meaning the renovation boom (and busy pros) is likely here to stay. Contractors report that in addition to going big, their clients are increasingly getting super personal with the details in their homes. (One recently finished building a hidden wine room.) What does that mean for you? Because of the demand, contractors are now more picky about what projects they take—choosing the jobs that are most interesting and fulfilling rather than saying yes to everything. If you have an adequate budget, pursuing the most ambitious version of your project may make it easier to land your favorite pro.
Plenty of homeowners are going all out on their renovations, and with mortgage interest rates increasing, analysts project that more people will be inclined to invest in their current home instead of trading up. Those busy pros aren’t going to free up soon.
Only you know your finances, but contractors universally said that if you’ve been thinking about jumping into a renovation but were scared off by the pandemic-related shifts, now is probably the moment to dive in. “It might not be the best time to buy a house because interest rates are high, but if you have a HELOC and some additional disposable income, I would suggest you renovate now,” says Narvaez.
The work itself probably won’t take much longer than it used to before Covid, but you’ll have a lot more waiting to do before you start—and that’s what’s still difficult to pin down or predict. Lead times are shrinking slowly, but you’ll want to make major decisions about big-ticket items early on so that you can order components like windows, masonry, appliances and cabinets, which all take longer than they used to. For the most part, today’s market isn’t the nightmare it was a year ago. One contractor cited cabinetry that used to take 5 to 8 weeks (but spiked to 25 weeks or more during Covid) as a perfect example—it is now reliably coming within 9 to 12 weeks, just as the manufacturer projected.
Stay up to date on the latest real estate trends.
November 21, 2023
Homebuilders are providing options buyers can’t find in the existing-home sales market.
November 13, 2023
These update ideas make a big impact—without the expense of a traditional renovation.
November 6, 2023
These perennials can live for many years without needing much maintenance from you.
November 3, 2023
About half of Gen Zers and millennials who don’t plan to buy a home in the near future say it’s because homes are too expensive
November 1, 2023
A new report may show a new reason why California is called the Golden State.
October 26, 2023
Avoid clogged pipes and costly repairs with these tips on what to stop flushing down the drain.
You’ve got questions and we can’t wait to answer them.