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Construction Risk Mitigation Industry Leader Brian Mingham Highlights the Dangers of DIY Home Renovation
The coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of people to spend far more time at home than ever before, which in turn has triggered a wave of home renovation projects — everything from relatively minor space upgrades, to all-out re-inventions. Unfortunately, however, not everyone embarking on a home renovation journey is finding the experience rewarding and are instead dealing with costly and stressful situations.
“For every successful do-it-yourself home renovation project, there are many that turn out to be problematic or disastrous,” commented Brian Mingham, the Founder and CEO of CFSI Loan Management, a leading nationwide construction risk mitigation firm. “As the old saying goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and unfortunately that is what most DIYers have: a little knowledge. They watch a few videos on YouTube, read some simple articles with pictures, and head out to their nearest home improvement store with passion and purpose. But usually within a matter of weeks, days, or sometimes even hours or minutes, they run into a problem that they can’t solve. Instead of cutting their losses and calling experts, most of them double down and make things even worse.”
And so, what are some of the home renovation sins that DIYers unintentionally commit? There are six critical pitfalls: underestimating scope, underestimating cost, underestimating time, not grasping all possibilities and options, neglecting safety considerations, and diminishing the value of their home. Each of these transgressions is briefly discussed below.
Underestimating the Scope
The words “hey, that looks easy!” are probably responsible for more DIY home renovation pain and suffering than anything else. The web is riddled with all kinds of videos and articles that seem to make even the most complex jobs look straightforward. While this may be true for some very small and simple projects — like putting some caulking around a bathtub or changing a doorbell — it is not the case for bigger efforts like a kitchen or bathroom remodel.
“The only people who are qualified to claim that a home renovation project is easy are professional contractors who do it for a living,” states Brian Mingham, whose firm enables lenders to reduce construction loan risks for residential, commercial, and multi-family properties. “However, professional contractors rarely if ever say this — not because they’re trying to drum up business for themselves, but because they know what could really be going on below a floor, in an attic, behind an outlet, and so on.”
Underestimating the Cost
While many DIYers enjoy the satisfaction of doing things themselves, the fundamental motivation is to save money — except that’s not always, or even often, what happens. Instead, DIYers end up grossly underestimating how much they’ll ultimately be paying for materials and tools. And this assumes that there won’t be any snags or mistakes along the way — which is a big assumption that is rarely rooted in reality, and usually rooted in wishful thinking.
“Many people who undertake a DIY home renovation project don’t anticipate how much time it will take,” claims Mingham. “And even if they manage to complete their project without any major setbacks, they will have spent dozens or maybe hundreds of hours that could have otherwise been allocated elsewhere. Many DIYers don’t realize that they put a very low dollar value on their personal time.”
Not Grasping All Possibilities and Options
One of the biggest advantages of hiring professional contractors is that they can provide alternatives that may ultimately be more beneficial. For example, a DIYer undertaking a kitchen renovation project may be locked into a vision in which the appliances stay where they are, whereas a contractor might look at the same space and suggest a variety of new layouts that are clearly superior.
“Contractors have a lot of knowledge capital, because they’ve seen a wide variety of layouts and options, and they’ve exchanged feedback with other contractors and skilled trades professionals,” commented Brian Mingham. “Homeowners who take the DIY route often overlook these ideas.”
Neglecting Safety Considerations
DIY home renovators often neglect critical important safety considerations that do not just put their property at risk but could threaten their lives. This is especially the case with older homes, which were built when safety standards were less robust than they are today. Safety needs to be the number one priority in any home renovation project. It does not matter how great a space looks or how functional it might be if it’s a safety hazard.
Diminishing Home Value
Last but certainly not least, no DIY home renovator would intentionally damage the value of their home. However, this can and does happen when projects are not handled by professional contractors. Even if the work is functional and if there are no safety issues (which are two pretty big “ifs”), it may not be esthetically pleasing — which is a nicer way to say that it could end up being just plain ugly.
“Prospective home buyers can always tell — either on their own, or by hiring a home inspector — whether repairs or upgrades were done by a professional or an amateur,” commented Brian Mingham. “If it’s the latter, then invariably this is going to translate into a lower offer, or maybe even no offer at all. A lot of the money that the DIYer saved — if any money was really saved — will be offset, wiped out, or the investment will be negative. For example, a DIYer who spends $5,000 upgrading their bathroom and does a shoddy job may end up losing $10,000 or more when it comes time to sell their house. That’s a net loss of $5,000, plus time that they could have been spent doing something else productive, profitable or enjoyable.”
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes
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