What To Know Before You Renovate a NYC Apartment?
Updated: Mar 7, 2019
New York City is one of the most challenging places to complete a renovation project on time and within budget. Most homeowners often underestimate the stage of planning, coordination, and finance it’ll take to get a renovation project executed properly — not to mention the surprises that can surface when you open up the partitions of the city’s historical housing stock. The key to any smooth renovation, from a bathroom upgrade to a full-on gut, relies upon a very significant aspect: preparing for it in advance. Here are some of the most important things to get ready for.
Research Well To Source A Good Team
New York is acknowledged for its diverse housing stock, from luxurious condos to prewar co-ops to nineteenth century townhouses. One kind of residence is not like the other, some thing you’ll even discover for residences inside the same building. Therefore, you prefer to select a company or a team with experience specifically with the type of property you’re renovating.
Don’t hesitate to look at a firm’s expertise. Ask for referrals and to see their prior work. Ask questions about their pricing, the duration of their projects, and the team they’ll assign to your project. You’re expecting complete transparency from the subcontractors they’ll hire to the materials that will be used.
Get Realistic About Timing
Clients often anticipate a renovation can be completed in a brief period of time, however a big part of the contractor’s duty is to help an owner recognize the renovation time frame and how it works in New York. A renovation here relies upon on a lot of things coming together: unique trades and craftsmen, agency approvals, ordering special or custom materials, and coordination with a building’s owners association. Be open-minded to the timeline your renovation team presents you. However, that doesn’t imply you can’t maintain them accountable. New York City renovations are well-known for delays; something as small as a plumber running late to the job site can derail the schedule. But a team with experience that has planned in advance can minimize many of the possible problems that can arise.
A Place To Stay For The Duration Of Construction
If you’ve gotten the estimated time frame for your renovation project, the next step is to secure a place to live temporarily for the duration of the project. Figure that out before construction starts, so that you don’t need to pack up while all the walls are coming down. Also, be certain to budget for this ahead of time, and set aside for a home rental if needed, you don’t want to neglect this and outrun your budget on the renovation.
The Budget Will Change
Your budget will be one of the most — if not the most — essential elements of your renovation. What can you afford? What will you do if something unexpected surprises you and the project goes over budget? (It’s more frequent than you’d like to believe.) Be completely upfront about your budget and plan around it with your renovation team from the inception of the project. Prepare for the reality that a New York City renovation will be costly due to building rules, insurance, and regulation costs. It can be tempting to work with whoever quotes you the lowest rate, however a cheaper, less experienced architect or General contractor is more probable to hit delays and change orders — two factors that ultimately cause costs to sky-rocket during the project.
Different Work Requires Different Permits
Most renovation work will require a work permit, but not all. You should familiarize yourself with what the process will look like before you get started, as it will impact the timeline of your project. A minimal-scope plan, like redoing a bathroom, will require permits to change the plumbing or handle electrical wires. For a more intensive overhaul, your architect will produce drawings/plans to be approved by the Department of Buildings, also recognized as the DOB. The DOB process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on how complicated the renovation is.
Dealing with Owners Associations
New York’s apartment buildings are regulated by owners associations each with varying levels of strictness. These associations have all set regulations for renovations occurring in the building from, what time you’ll be allowed to work to, where you can install a washer and dryer. A professional advisor, like an architect or engineer employed by the board, will also sign off on any renovation plans. Co-op boards have a tendency to be stricter than condos, and they can in reality devastate your renovation plans too, so you should ask for their alteration agreements/policies before you decide to purchase an apartment in the building.
Take Your Neighbors Into Consideration
Neighbors, too, need to be a consideration before you begin your renovation. Will the work affect adjacent apartments or homes? And do you have a neighbor that will be understanding, or likely file a complaint? Within an apartment building, it’s a requirement to supply notices to your neighbors before a project.
Old Buildings Often Hold Surprises
You simply don’t know what’s behind the walls of New York City buildings. And with a historical building, it can be a wide variety of things, such as rotted plumbing, frayed electrical wires, or sagging wood joists, etc. In demolition, the apartment is taken apart piece by piece, and if it’s done improperly you risk damaging the building. Older buildings are more likely to more complicated if you are choosing to do an entire redesign of the apartment, so it may not be the best idea to purchase a prewar co-op with a strict owner’s association with the goal of converting it into a modern, open floor plan.
Know Who’s Responsible When Things Go Wrong
What happens when your contractor accidentally breaks a fragile old water pipe? Know who will be held responsible, and what type of insurance covers what. Ensure that your contractor has liability insurance geared towards contractors alongside workman’s comp. If not, the homeowner will become responsible. A “cut-rate” kind of contractor is more probable to disappear if troubles come up on the job site, so it’s imperative to hire a team that has a system in place to deal with these types of issues.
Apartment owners will also sign a contract between them and the building confirming that any renovations that will happen will comply with requirements and local laws, and without damage to the building. You’ll want to make certain your homeowner’s policy protects you in the event of an issue that arises as a result of a contractor.
Know Your Investment
Good contractors will consult with their clients on the type of renovation they envision and how long they plan to live in their home, as this is a great way to determine your investment. There’s a renovation for an investment property, which the owner plans to sell in a few years and there’s a personalized renovation, which is a customized investment for long-term ownership. When renovating for yourself, you will want to personalize finishes to suit you. But if you’re looking to sell the property in the near future, customization might not be the best idea, as those custom details will usually cost more and may not appeal to others when you’re selling your home.