8 renovation mistakes we learned from the Property Brothers
Home makeover fans, we have a treat arriving just before Thanksgiving. The Property Brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott are back with a new series, Brothers Take New Orleans. This time, they're in the Big Easy on a special assignment: Each brother will renovate one half of a double-shotgun house, competing for who adds the most value.
They're working with St. Bernard Project, an organization that rebuilds homes and communities after disasters — like hurricane Katrina in NOLA. Believe it or not, 16,000 homes remain unlivable. But it's important work. Each time a home is turned around into a livable space, it revitalizes the neighborhood around it, encouraging other people to improve their properties and eventually encouraging businesses to move in as well.
But back to the brothers — Drew and Jonathan did a spectacular job transforming this duplex. SheKnows got to see the first episode in the series and already we were blown away. Drew says the reno didn't cost the owner a thing. When she moved into one half of the duplex, he asked her what she thought of the color. She replied, "To be honest I don't have a say in the color because I don't even have a home, so anything you do is a blessing."
Aw man, the feels!
OK, so most of us don't get to have Drew and Jonathan come over and transform our home. The best we can do is mine them for tips on how to do our own renovation projects — or rather, what not to do. Here's what they told SheKnows are the worst mistakes homeowners make.
1. You overspend, especially if you're renovating to sell your home
"You never want to over-renovate before selling," Drew says. "If you are looking to sell your home, talk with your real estate agent to find out what the value would be with those renovations. Then go back and look at how much it's going to cost to do all that work." He says it's always a fine calculation, but the bottom line is, spending more won't always pay off. There is a point of diminishing returns.
"Your home may look fantastic, but buyers aren't going to give you money for everything you've done," Drew says. "You have to look at what buyers value in a home."
2. You spend too much money on the wrong things
"Don't put in a pool," Jonathan says. "You'll never get the money back." That's just for starters. Exactly what to polish or replace is another question you'll want to talk out with your real estate agent. You may need as little as a fresh coat of paint in all the rooms, as opposed to a total kitchen gut.
3. You don't save up enough money
Plan your budget, and then prepare to go over budget. This means you'll need to be prepared with ample savings. How? "If you look at the Property Brothers series, every single homeowner has a different story," Drew says. "Some homeowners come through with financing, home credit loans, borrow from family." There are even government grants for home upgrades. Drew recommends working with a financial adviser with a special interest in home renovations.
He also recommends checking out Dream Home: The Property Brothers’ Ultimate Guide to Finding & Fixing Your Perfect House. "It really does break everything down and gives you all the tips and tricks, with a savings guide and calendars."
4. You work with an unlicensed contractor
Don't go with "some guy" your brother/realtor/random passenger on the bus recommended. At the very least, for your own protection, go with a licensed contractor. But that's not all. "Just because someone's licensed," Jonathan tells us, "doesn't mean they're good." He recommends going online to check out the contractor's website. No, it doesn't have to be a work of art. But it should be a proper website that looks like a career business, not some side work. On top of that, Jonathan says, "check to see if they're affiliated with organizations, ask about previous work and get referrals."
5. You take the first quote without getting counteroffers
Getting a quote is free, so ask for quotes so you can compare them and get an idea of what the going rate is for various jobs. Keep this in mind, though: "The cheapest quote is not necessarily the best one," says Drew.
6. You don't do your research — and it shows
You need to go in understanding the whole renovation process, so read up before you get started. Definitely don't tell a contractor that you don't know anything because they'll pad the price. Know which questions to ask.
Jonathan also recommends looking at sample punch lists and sample budgets so you have a more organized start. A punch list is when you list all the tasks/milestones you want your contractor to complete with due dates and scheduled payments throughout. This helps you track progress on your project and should also prevent you from paying ahead of work being completed. (The Property Brothers have an app in development that will help with this, by the way.)
7. You miss the opportunity to incorporate local flavor
"We like to raise the bar with all our designs by educating the audience about the local culture," Drew says. He recommends looking at some of the well-restored homes in your area to notice any special design elements or styles. In New Orleans, the brothers toured the city and visited local businesses, including one that creates lanterns. They took inspiration from reclaimed woodwork. "Do a little research online and find out what the traditional culture is in your city," he suggests.
8. You try to pull off a Property Brothers-level renovation on a Property Brothers timeline on a Property Brothers budget
Jonathan lays it on us straight: "Nobody can renovate a home at the same price and on the same timeline we do. I don't charge for my time and we get price cuts and discounts." The crew works overtime to get projects completed by the deadline in order to fit into a television schedule. So while you can pick up tips and inspiration from the show, don't base your budget and timeline on what you see on the show. Do your homework to find out what makes the most sense given your time and resources.
Brothers Take New Orleans premieres Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9/8c on HGTV.