Keep your living room renovation costs in Singapore within budget, without sacrificing style or quality.
The living room is the centrepiece of your flat. So whether you’re staying in it or looking to raise rental income, this is where the bulk of renovation costs in Singapore often goes.
Be warned, though: because it’s so showy, a lot of pricey furnishings will burn a hole in your pocket. Here’s how you can save money on living room renovations, without sacrificing style or quality.
Use a Renovation Loan Before a Personal Loan
It might be tempting to take a personal loan for home renovations, but you should try to get a reno loan first. Most personal loans have an interest rate of six to nine per cent per annum in Singapore. On the other hand, a renovation loan (reno loan) typically has a rate of around five per cent per annum.
Also, if you just took a mortgage from the same bank, you can sometimes bargain for special deals such as six months interest free on a reno loan (speak to the mortgage banker who arranged your home loan).
Reno loans in Singapore are usually capped at $30,000, so if you are renovating a large flat you may go over this amount. In such a situation you might also have to take a personal loan, but do that only after using the reno loan.
There’s No Need to Buy Original Designer Furniture
These days, most interior design firms in Singapore have their own workshop. If you see a particular piece of furniture that you like, you can ask them to craft something similar. There’s no need to pay huge sums for the original designer piece, as you are mainly paying for branding and marketing.
Another upside to this is that you can add personal touches. For example, you can pick a coffee table from a magazine, but ask for personalised touches such as a glass top instead of a wooden one.
Carpets Cost Less Than Fancy Flooring
Barring collector pieces, carpets are more affordable in Singapore these days. Most of the time, it will be more cost-effective to buy a large carpet than to put in parquet flooring or marble tiles. Even a plain vinyl floor can look quite attractive with the right sort of carpeting.
The downside is that you will need to do more vacuuming, but the financial upsides are clear. Carpets are not only cheaper at the outset, they are also cheaper to replace; damaged flooring or cracked tiles will cost you a lot more to fix up.
Don’t Install a False Ceiling
False ceilings are almost guaranteed to bust your budget. Even a false ceiling on a 70 square foot room can end up running a bill of over $20,000+, depending on the details needed. And after paying for this, maintenance is a headache; air-conditioner ducts leak and electrical wiring gets faulty, and they often require someone to punch a hole in the false ceiling to fix things.
So as far as possible, just don’t.
Paint Your Walls Instead of Getting Wallpaper
You can paint a four-room flat for around $1,500 these days. But that probably won’t cover the cost of wallpapering just your living room.
Apart from being more expensive and time-consuming to put into place, wallpaper has problems in Singapore’s humid conditions (turning the air conditioner on and off will make things worse). The moisture often causes peels and cracks in the wallpaper, which is expensive to replace.
In some cases, the design of wallpaper you require will no longer be in production. This will necessitate buying a new design, and wallpapering everything all over again.
Landlords Should Aim to Break Even in Six Months
If you are renovating the living room as a form of asset enhancement, consider how much you are raising the rent by (rentability is a whole other topic, do speak to an agent for more advice). In any case, the raised rental income should be sufficient to cover the cost of renovations within six months; otherwise, save the money for something else.
Also, keep in mind the demographic of your tenant. Renovations have a big impact if your are renting out a district 9 or 10 property, to expatriates with a big housing allowance. If you are renting out a mass market unit or an HDB unit, more budget-conscious tenants generally won’t pay much more for aesthetic reasons.
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By Ryan Ong
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.