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5 Cost-Cutting Tips for Home Renovations in Singapore

Ryan Ong

Ryan Ong

Last updated 25 July, 2016

We hate to take away from the fun of home renovations, but it's important to be practical about this major undertaking.

Home renovations are famous for two things: busting the budget, and bringing burning disappointment. Reality TV and it’s “instant makeover” shows have a lot to answer for. In truth, home renovations can be a minefield of unnecessary costs, and unexpected price explosions. Here’s how to survive it:

1. Plan to Go 20% Beyond the Projected Budget

Most renovations go over budget. A safe margin to plan for is 20% over--if this would be a price you can’t afford, scale back the available budget. You don’t want to end up with a half completed house because you can’t afford to finish a kitchen and a bedroom.

urgent home repairs

2. Personal Loans are Useful After the Reno Loan Runs Out

There is a type of loan called a renovation loan or reno loan, which is typically used to fund a home renovation. Reno loans are often bundled with home loans: if you take a home loan from a bank, you might be offered the reno loan from the same bank at a super low rate.

Most reno loans have a maximum cap of S$50,000, and this is why interior designers or contractors like to use this number as their projected budget. Should the reno loan prove insufficient--and it probably will, if you go over your budget--you can take a personal loan to make up the difference.

While you can use a personal loan for home renovations, they have an interest rate of around 6 to 8% per annum. A reno loan has a much lower rate of around 4 to 5% per annum. Get the reno loan first to take advantage of the lower interest rate.

3. Get Interior Designers and Contractors to Make Custom Pieces

Ever wondered how some Singaporeans can afford Eames chairs or designer desks that cost hundred of thousands of dollars per piece?

They don’t. Just like those office buildings that appear to have a few million worth of designer furniture, most of it is copied. You don’t actually need to buy a S$7,000 Eames egg chair, because your interior designer or contractor has a workshop (probably in Tuas) that can make one.

The catch is, you have to ask them to do it. If you tell them to purchase it, that’s exactly what they’ll do. But if you point at a picture in a magazine and tell them to make something like that, they can do it for a fraction of the cost.

nursery design

4. Avoid Doing Themes, Especially for Nurseries

If you are doing up a theme room for children, try to make it something they will grow into. Otherwise, you’re faced with future renovation costs. This is especially true for nurseries catered to boys.

A baby blue room filled with teddy bears may be a cute idea now--but if it’s your son’s room, you can expect some major repainting and wallpapering when he turns 13. There is also no guarantee that your daughter will tolerate the pink wall with bunnies when she’s a teenager (although girls’ themes tend to last longer.)

Always rethink extreme themes. You may think it’s cool to have a french cottage look; but once you’ve spent nine hours every weekend cleaning between the pebble stones and wood joints, you may end up wasting money renovating again. Or hiring two maids.

5. Wallpaper is Inadvisable in Singapore

Singapore’s tropical climate makes wallpaper curl and discolour. Replacing the wallpaper is expensive, but it gets worse after a few years--you will find that the wallpaper you used is no longer in production. You will then have to tolerate mismatched walls, or bear the costs of wallpapering all over again.

Also, for comparison:

You can paint an entire four room flat for around $1,200 to $1,500. But wallpapering just the living room of that flat would cost S$900 for the materials (about three rolls). And then you can start paying someone to apply it (it’s more expensive than painting).

We hate to take away from the fun of home renovations, and everyone should have the home they deserve. But practicality needs to enter into some things. If you just bought your first home, remember that you’ve already made a major commitment with the mortgage. Don’t stress yourself with further debt this early on.

Read This Next:

5 Questions You'll Regret Not Asking Before Buying Your First Flat

How to Save Money for a Flat Before Your 35th Birthday


Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.


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