The average cost of renovation in Singapore for a HDB flat can reach up to S$56,000. This amount alludes to the fact that a house renovation does not come cheap. Hence, there is a lot of thought and deliberation that potential consumers should consider before settling for a contractor that suits your renovation needs. Whether you are a buyer looking to improve the quality of your home or looking into a buying a depressed home or build-to-order (BTO) flats for the matter, we share with you five questions to ask and consider during your planning process.
Background check on contractor companies
Consumer Association of Singapore (Case), in 2017, had raised concerns about the contractor industry, highlighting how it has been among top 10 in ranking for the number of complaints received by Case in the last decade. With renovation nightmares being not a rare case reported in the news, it is understandable if this fact alone may cause apprehension on buyers’ end. To allay your worries, it is important to start early and do a thorough search on contractors’ background and reputability. There are two steps you can take to do this. One is to review the company’s experience and expertise by checking their license and certification (e.g. CaseTrust RCMA Joint Accreditation Scheme for renovation businesses); and second is to seek references, whether from friends or family who have previously carried out home renovation. Furthermore, check with the company you are surveying on their past works for your reviewing. A reputable company would typically be open to sharing their past works provided that they are not confidential. If you are still apprehensive, you can additionally consider selecting a contractor with at least 5 years of experience in the industry as they are considered an expert in their field.
Taking note of HDB Requirements
It is also important to take note of HDB requirements before you proceed on with your renovation works. Be it a resale or a BTO flat, buyers should check with HDB regulations first especially if you are considering to hack, add, demolish any part of the flat, as well as conduct any rearrangement. For example, you have to secure prior approval from HDB if there are plans to build arches and rounded corners or to reposition the door to your bedroom. There are also various requirements that contractors would have to abide when working with HDB flats – for example, there could be potentialities of contractor damaging elevator when moving heavy items or blocking the rubbish chute by throwing waste materials through the rubbish chute instead of a dumpster. In this instance, it is important to ensure that your contractor is under the HDB Registered Renovation Contractors Scheme (RRCS). The latter scheme regulates all renovation work on HDB flats conducted by these contractors by ensuring that there is no damage caused to HDB’s property and that renovation works are conducted safely, without nuisance caused to neighbours.
Deposit and Periodic Payment
Second, it is advisable to avoid paying the full amount upfront and instead opt for periodic, timely payment. As per any renovation work done, it is a standard operating process that a deposit is required before a contractor can commence work proper. The executive director of Case had recommended paying “10 per cent as a deposit, and another 80 per cent as work is progressively completed and the remaining 10 per cent after satisfactory completion of all work”. In fact, the present of the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA) had advised buyers to not pay more than 20 per cent as a deposit. With this guideline in mind, you can be better assured of lower risk when undertaking renovation work while protecting your rights as a consumer.
Once you have hired the contractor of your choice, it does not suffice to simply settle for the contractual agreement between yourself and contractor. This is because changes may happen during the renovation. The crucial thing to take note of is to document and account on paper any changes that took place during the renovation process. In fact, when you first draft the contractual agreement, the following are some questions to discuss with the contractor: One, is to ask how future amendments towards the scope of renovation work would be formalised on paper after an agreement is reached between yourself and the contractor; Second, what type of changes can be incorporated in the project without causing delays in the renovation schedule; And, third, the implications should there be a delay caused by the contractor e.g. you can discuss if the contractor would be absorbing any additional cost or if there are compensation in place. All the above is intended to establish a clear communication with your contractor and avoid future disagreements.
Last but not least, communication channels are key. An important question to ask the contractor is how you can contact them throughout the renovation process – e.g. daily emails, cloud-based schedules or phone calls. If their preferred communication channels do not suit you, discuss and renegotiate early on during your discussion. Do not forget as well to ask the contractor how you can reach out to them beyond work hours in times of emergency. This is to prepare both parties for unforeseen emergency cases. Additionally, check in with the contractor how you would be contacted by them, to ensure that you do not miss out on any vital information. It is recommended to include weekly meetings in both your schedule and the contractor so as to be able to discuss the progress of your renovation work. With good communication channels, it will provide a more convenient experience for both parties.