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An illustration of an ice berg with all of the unexpected renovation costs hidden below the surface

Renovating your home is an exciting time in your lives. Buying your home is a big investment and for many, renovating their home is the second biggest investment that they will make.

Whether you’re embarking on a large renovation project with a builder or doing a smaller scale renovation, you will need to get quotes from qualified tradespeople to complete much of the work.

Quotes from both builders and tradies can vary a great deal in the amount of detail that they provide.

Steve Burke from award-winning WA renovation builder, Amerex Renovations and Additions, says there is no standard template for quoting and the amount of detail included by builders and tradespeople can vary greatly.

There is an old saying though, that ‘the devil is in the detail.’ Make sure everything that you need is clearly listed. If it is not listed, then it probably won’t be included.

Steve has provided some hot tips on how to avoid hidden costs in renovation quotes. Learn what to look for and why a cheap quote may cost you more in the long run.

Ensure that everything has been included in your renovation quote

This seems obvious, but it is important to ask what has been included and what has been excluded from the quote. Do not assume that everything that you requested has been covered.

Your quote for any type of work should clearly list the items that are included and also list any excluded items. Do not accept a verbal explanation or explanations such as ‘don’t worry, she’ll be right’. If it is not clearly listed in print as an inclusion then it is not included.

Check that quality materials have been specified

Prices can vary due to different types and grades of materials specified. If a quote seems much cheaper than you expect, or cheaper than others, you will need to ask more questions about the materials supplied.

For example, if using pine for timber beams, ask whether the quote includes treated pine or untreated pine. A quality builder should always use treated pine to ensure that you have maximum protection against termites and borers.

Are the fixtures or fittings quoted as budget level, low quality fixtures?

Allowing a very small budget for items such as door handles, bathroom fittings and kitchen appliances is one way of making a quote appear more affordable.

However, when it comes time to make your selections you may find that you want to select better quality items than you have been allowed for in the quote. The result will be a variation to the price, and you will end up paying more.

This can add thousands to your project and blow your renovation budget. You can avoid this by performing a quick Google search to check whether the amount in the quote for a selection is sufficient to allow you to select quality products. Alternatively,  visit a store or a showroom and talk to the suppliers.

Quality materials will stand the test of time

Pay for the best quality that you can afford at the start. Do not be convinced that cheap fixtures and fittings will save you money.

In the long-term, poor-quality fittings and building materials will not stand the test of time as they are more likely to break or wear out easily. This means that the future capital gains in your home may be affected as a result. A short-term saving is unlikely to bring long term gains.

Quality building projects that are completed with quality materials and quality workmanship will appreciate the value of your home at a greater rate and you will get a greater return on your investment in the future.

The classic hidden cost: Variation Fees!

If you are engaging a professional builder, it is important to ask them about their administration fee for variations. If this is not specified in their quote, then you need to ask them about it.

All building and renovation projects have variations from time to time – don’t believe anyone who suggests otherwise! And builders can charge anywhere from $250 to $1,000 as an administration fee per variation.

Imagine a renovation with ten variations. These can be small things such as simply deciding to add extra power points, or changing a fixture selection.

If the builder charges an administration fee of $1,000 per variation, you could be adding $10,000 to the total cost of your renovation that you hadn’t budgeted for.

This type of hidden cost can really hurt!

Will the builder complete the job on time? The hidden cost of rent.

If you are undertaking a major home improvement project, you may need to live elsewhere and rent during the project. If your building project runs over time, you will need to pay a hefty amount in extra rent.

So, how can you safeguard against the delivery date running over schedule? Find out if the builder has a track record of delivering on time before you sign up. Ask if they have completed similar projects in your area and how long they took to complete them. Don’t just take their word for it, you should also:

Ask for references and ring up their previous clients.

Ensure that any dates promised will be written into your contract.