Home remodeling can be nerve-wracking. As we see from reviews on Pissed Consumer, many consumers are left unsatisfied with home remodeling companies and contractors. Whether it deals with costs, the home remodeling process, or service, such disappointment could have been avoided if consumers knew more about home renovation.
So, here we answer your top home remodeling questions with the help of a remodeling expert Colby Hager. Colby is a professional real estate investor with Capstone Homebuyers. He has over ten years of experience in renovating dilapidated houses and knows all about the home remodeling process and property management companies.
...choose the right contractor and don't overpay before any work gets done, because that's a recipe for disaster.
In this article, we share two video interviews with his expert advice:
1. All Your Need To Know About Home Remodeling
Watch to find out how to pay for home remodeling, what are the average costs, how to start and avoid typical mistakes. Improve your home remodeling ideas with fresh professional insights.
Home remodeling FAQs answered in this video:
- How did remodeling business start?
- How do I plan a home remodeling project?
- How do I choose a home remodeling company?
- How much should I pay for home remodeling?
- Where to find a remodeling company?
- How to be protected while remodeling home?
- Typical home remodeling mistakes
How Did You Start Home Remodeling Business?
Elena: Hello, ladies and gentlemen, today with you, Elena, from Pissed Consumer. We’ve invited the professional real estate investor and remodeling expert, Colby Hager. Colby has been a professional real estate investor since 2007.
More than 10 years ago, he started buying and renovating the houses. He has worked with The City of San Antonio's Office of Historic Preservation to keep remodels time appropriate. He also owns and manages his portfolio of residential rental properties including single-family and multifamily homes.
Today, Colby will be clarifying for you, in particular, the home remodeling process as well as give you some property management insights.
Colby: Our company buys single-family and multi-family properties in Texas, mostly in San Antonio, Texas. What we do is, we actually purchase houses that need work, and we put in the work, we remodel houses.
We take on light remodels, we do large remodels with six-figure budgets, and then we also manage a portfolio of rental properties throughout the San Antonio area. And so doing that, of course, we see houses that are in low-end price ranges and high-end price ranges.
So we have an idea of what it takes to remodel houses on a very strict budget and also more pricey or high end remodels as well. So we kind of have an idea of all of that.
How Do I Plan a Home Remodeling Project?
Elena: How to plan home remodeling projects so that it turns out to be successful in future? What are those essentials that a person who is going to remodel or wants to remodel, should know before even starting doing that?
Colby: Yeah. It's a good question. And the reason is because a lot of people get into a remodeling project without actually knowing what they want the end product to be. And so we always recommend that people start with some type of vision board, whether that's printouts from the internet, cutouts from magazines, stocking up your Pinterest board with ideas that you like of a finished product, what you would like it to look like.
So that's kind of the foundation of where you want to start, It’s kind of having the end vision in mind. Of course, budget, that's going to be a key.
You have to know not only what your budget is, but how far that budget can take you so that you have a realistic expectation of what kind of project you can take on with your budget and knowing where that money is going to come from is important too, a lot of people have money that they've saved, and then, of course, a lot of people tap into their home equity to start remodeling projects.
So knowing what your budget's going to be ahead of time is going to be key because that's going to dictate, can you totally remodel your kitchen, bathroom, living room and do an addition? Or are you just going to spruce up the living room?
You need to know that ahead of time so that you can kind of plan for that. The next thing is kind of really knowing where you want to go with your materials in terms of, do you like tile? Do you like wood floors? Do you love granite or do you prefer marble and what comes with marble?
...understanding the kind of materials that you love and like to work with, your budget, and what you want the end product to look like... those are some of the things that you need to consider before you ever start the process.
How Do I Choose a Home Remodeling Company?
Elena: Let's say that I don't want to do it on my own, and probably most people wouldn’t dare to do a good remodeling, a solid and complicated remodeling on their own. They want to go out there and try to find a home remodeling company.How do you choose one? What's the process? What do I need to know?
Colby: Absolutely. And actually, we purchase a lot of houses where people start the remodeling process and make a mess of it. And so you're absolutely right, picking the correct company to work with is going to be key to your success, and really to your happiness with the finished product.
To do that, I really think that it starts with referrals. If you know someone who has had great success with a remodeling company or a contractor, that's exactly where you want to start, because you have some firsthand experience of what someone can expect. If you don't have a referral, the next best thing is to use reviews.
... it starts with referrals…If you don't have a referral, the next best thing is to use reviews.
Online reviews can be great. And what I really would want to see is reviews that can be coupled with actually getting to see the finished product. So it's fantastic to see that someone has a five-star review of a remodeling company, but can you see their refinished product?
So can you see pictures, a walkthrough video? Will they let you even enter their house to tour the kitchen, to see what was done? If you can do that, then that's going to get you a long way. Choosing someone without seeing what their product looks like can get you into trouble.
Then lastly, the interview process is going to be important. It's important that you interview lots of contractors, see lots of contractors different work, see their style, see how they work, and then you're going to be working closely with this person or with this company. So, you're going to need to interview them to make sure that you guys align your expectations and then also mesh well together.
There's a lot of decisions that have to be made together. You need to make sure that you guys work well together. So if I had to say the three main things, it's going to be referrals, reviews, and interviews, that's going to be the key.
How Much Should I Pay for Home Remodeling?
Elena: One question that our reviewers often sort of relate to, when they are writing reviews or when they're having discussions about remodeling companies' prices, how does price for the services factor into the choosing process? Is expensive always equal good? What's your take on that?
Colby: Yeah. So expensive can sometimes equal good. I don't think it always equals good. So the price can vary widely, and so I think that you need to know going in, it kind of goes back to understanding the materials that you love and kind of having an idea about what some of those materials cost.
So remodeling costs can vary from room to room. For example, a lower end kitchen could go for 15 to $30, a square foot, $60 a square foot, all the way up to $250 a square foot, just on a kitchen remodel. And so knowing that the scope of work is going to be key to the price, and also too, is interviewing multiple contractors, comparing multiple bids…
...while you may have one person who comes in really low and seems great and affordable, all your other bids might come in much higher. That might make you call into question somebody who is offering you a price that may seem too good to be true.
Same thing on the high-end. I mean, someone might come in and they might just see dollar signs when they pull into your driveway. And they may think, "This person's going to pay me anything I ask." And so they may ask for way too much.
And then also two is you can also ask for bids to be broken down by materials and labor, and then if you do that and you get to see the cost of materials and the cost of labor, you can actually go and verify those material costs and find out, are they marking up those materials by a big amount or is there no markup?
And so these are some of the ways that you can kind of do your homework in terms of once you get a bid to make sure that your pricing is in line with what it should be.
Elena: What's the average cost of a home remodeling project?
Colby: Well, it's so difficult because... And actually, this question, it really does vary by geographic region. Here in Texas,where we have a little bit less expensive labor costs and less expensive material costs, our average cost to remodel a kitchen, let's just say might range, in a standard house, from 10 to $25,000. And then depending on the price range of the house, that could easily skyrocket up to $200,000 just on the kitchen.
Elena: One kitchen? Just the kitchen?
Colby: Oh yeah, one kitchen, yes. Depending on the price range of the home that kitchen is going in. And so it really is difficult to say. It kind of goes back to what I mentioned earlier, which was the price per square foot in terms of a kitchen remodel, which ranges from about 60 up to $250 a foot.
I know that's a wide-ranging guideline. This is also where material choice comes in, knowing what your material budget is. So it's so difficult to pinpoint. But if I had to say in terms of like, if we are focusing on remodeling the kitchen, which is probably the most popular area of the house to remodel, I would say that the average remodel of the kitchen is somewhere around $20,000. And of course, that could be less or much higher.
Elena: Now, would you say that the initial price of the home or the price that the home is currently going at the market would somehow affect the price of the renovation? Or those are completely two separate things.
Colby: No, I think those are related. I think that if you have a house that's valued at $100,000 or might sell if you put it on the market today for $100,000, naturally, you're not going to spend $100,000 on a kitchen, that would probably be a waste of money.
You probably wouldn't even have the space to do that. Yeah, I do think that the home value, the overall value of the home, does tie into the budget of the remodel. But I don't think that it's a percentage like, "Oh, well, my home is worth $200,000. So I'm going to spend 10% of the home's value." I don't think you could correlate it like that, but definitely, there is a relation on how much you should spend and can spend and would spend on a home remodel, related to the overall value of the house.
Where To Find a Remodeling Company?
Elena: I don't have a referral. Where do I go? Is there a place on the internet somewhere? Or would you recommend maybe to look in a specific construction magazine or ads on a website, if I want to find that remodeling company?
If you can give me an example for the state of Texas, that's good. If there is a countrywide place, where I can find a company, that would be great too.
Colby: Yeah. So one service that I think most people are familiar with is going to be a service like Angie's List, where people are used to going to looking for contractor reviews. That's not my personal favorite, just because I like to get people's feedback in kind of less of a formal setting.
A lot of times reviews that we see online, we just have to be cautious with third-party sites like that. And I like to hear from people. And so the best place that I can think of is to go into places where... And I'll just use this as an example, a flooring shop. Okay?
So this works, no matter if you're in Texas, no matter if you're in Alaska, no matter if you're in New York state, you can go into the place where you're going to pick out your hardwood floors, for example.
You can talk to the people there and find out from them, "Hey, who do your customers love to install these wood floors? Who do they love? Who's the great general contractor that you have a great account with. Who would you highly recommend?" And then they can tell you that and they can tell you why.
... it's very important that you buttress that recommendation up with online reviews...
Because if someone gives you a great recommendation and then you see terrible online reviews, you might come to find out that that person recommended their brother-in-law.
So it's always important to kind of commingle your interviews, your referrals, with online reviews. And so that's what I really like. I like to look at the whole picture rather than relying on just one avenue.
How To Be Protected While Remodeling Home?
Elena: We have quite a number of reviews on our website about various companies, big corporations, small local kind of the mom-and-pop stores, where people are complaining that they incurred a situation where the home was contaminated. Or, they even got sick for various reasons, because the companies were using wrong materials or what have you.
So it is quite an often seen issue in our reviews. And it is a pretty serious issue in general, looks like it. How do people protect themselves from contamination and diseases that sometimes are unfortunately associated with the process of home remodeling?
Colby: Well, I would say it is a very serious topic and it's something that has to be addressed. So when we're thinking about remodeling a house that we live in, that brings up some of the biggest challenges, because you're doing construction work in a space where you also live, and those two typically don't go together.
And so there are a few steps that we can take to make sure that we're being as safe as possible while living in the house during construction. Some of those things have to do with sealing off the area that's being remodeled.
For example, if you're remodeling a bathroom, the contractor should be familiar with using some plastic sheeting with a seal, they seal off that bathroom when they're working, they come out, they seal it back when they come out, some of them even have fancy zipper doors where they can zipper a door open and closed.
Okay. So that's going to be step number one, is sealing off the area where the construction is happening. So that way, if there are any particle irritants in the air, if there are any things that could be creating allergic reactions, for example, breathing issues…
..we want to make sure that we're isolating those to the areas where only the construction is happening.
That way the contractors can use appropriate masking, appropriate breathing apparatuses if they need to so that they can be safe as well. But they're not spreading those contaminants throughout the house.
The other thing is, during construction, we want to make sure that we're having great airflow through the house. This is especially important during anything that is involving painting. We want to have a great airflow.
So a good contractor is going to have proper fans, exhaust fans. They're going to open windows, they're going to want to utilize the air conditioning unit, whether it's off or on, depending on what they're doing.
So a good contractor is going to take those types of steps to mitigate. The other thing is, it's important for everyone, the homeowner, as well as the contractor, to understand the materials that they're working with.
For example, houses that have older paint could have lead paint. And there are certain mitigation tactics that you use when you're dealing with lead paint. So it's important that the homeowner know, how old is their paint, could there be lead paint present?
And then it's important for the contractor to know that as well and take those things into account, that's lead paint asbestos, so where we see some of the biggest problems with sickness, contamination and so on.
So those are the things that we really want to look out for sealing off the area, good airflow, and then understanding what you're dealing with when it comes to remodeling your house, in terms of materials and what irritants and problems could be present.
What Mistakes Happen During Home Remodeling?
Elena: What are the most common, typical mistakes that are made during the home remodeling process?
Colby: Yeah. So this actually can get interesting. So we do see a lot of mistakes that get made, we see a lot. Even though I do this professionally, I still make mistakes, and I'm just thinking back on some of the mistakes that I've even made.
The most common mistake that we do see though, with homeowners who aren't doing this on a regular basis, is hiring the wrong contractor. And then this goes back to some of the questions that we talked about earlier, which is how to find the right contractor.
When you have the wrong contractor in your house, things are going to happen that you would never believe. Incorrect materials are going to get chosen, things are going to be left undone that you didn't know were undone. You're going to have problems behind walls after walls get sealed up.
The wrong contractor can do incalculable damage to a home during a remodel. And not only that, one of the biggest mistakes, and to me, one of the most egregious mistakes is people pay contractors up front before they receive the work, and then unfortunately contractors will leave without doing the work.
So if there's one mistake that I could just caution everybody on, it would be to…
...choose the right contractor and don't overpay before any work gets done, because that's a recipe for disaster.
Before you start any type of remodeling project, take your time, make sure that you're interviewing. I know that sometimes interviews with contractors can be a little nerve-wracking because you think that they might be pushy or trying to sell you something. But please, take your time, move slowly and deliberately when it comes to hiring who you work with.
Elena: Thank you very much, Colby.
2. What Do Property Management Companies Do?
In this second video, Colby Hager talks about property management companies, what they are, and how they work. Watch to learn how to choose the right property management company and get expert tips:
Property management FAQs answers in this video:
- What does a property management company do?
- How to choose a property management company?
- How much should I pay a property manager?
- How to deal with property management issues?
What Does a Property Management Company Do?
Elena: Not everybody understands what it is that the property management company does or should be doing, the difference between a good property management company and a not so good one. So, let's talk a little bit about that. What does a property management company do, and what should we look for when we want to find a property management company?
Colby: So, what a property management company does is, they're the ones who are in charge of a property in terms of or for rental. So, if you're a prospective tenant, the property management company is going to be the one in charge of the house.
And then, they're going to be the ones that are going to put you through the screening process. They're also going to be the ones that collect the rent, collect the deposit, make sure that the rules are being followed, in terms of if an owner has rules that they want to be followed.
They're also going to be the ones that are in charge of maintenance and making sure that any maintenance issues are addressed in a timely fashion for the person living in the house. And so, overall, that's what they do.
I think that most people's idea of a property management company is a company that makes sure that the maintenance issues, and makes sure that the property is maintained in a proper way while they live there.
How Do I Choose a Property Management Company?
Elena: Okay. So, how do I choose one?
Colby: The best way, I think, is similar to how we would choose a good contractor, and that's to ask for a referral. If you have a referral, someone with experience, that's fantastic. Assuming you don't have a referral, then what we need to do is we need to look at reviews.
And it's tricky with property management companies in particular when you're the homeowner looking to hire a property manager to take care of your home. Because what happens is, the reviews that we see most frequently are reviews from tenants who are frustrated with the property management company.
And tenants who are frustrated, maybe they're frustrated with the policies of the homeowner, that the property manager is just enforcing. Maybe they're frustrated with the property management company because the property management company isn't accepting a late rent payment. And so, they leave a bad review.
We have to be cautious when we're looking to hire a property management company to actually work for us. We need to make sure that the reviews we're seeing are reviews that reflect the opinion of the homeowner, as opposed to the tenant.
Okay? Because what might make a tenant upset, might be the will of the homeowner.
And so, what we want is we want a property management company that's going to do our will as the homeowner, and make sure that our rules are followed out and carried out according to the way we ask. And so, we have to be cautious about how we look at reviews when it comes to property management companies in that way.
The other thing is, we want to make sure that the property management company has a great web presence because as they screen tenants, as they go out and actively look for tenants for our property, we want to make sure that they have a great digital presence.
We want to make sure that they have a proper screening in place so that we know that our tenants have the ability to pay the rent and have the financial resources to make timely rent payments.
Then, we also want a property management company that will know and understand the maintenance side of keeping our house up-to-date and current. Because when we do get a great tenant in our property, we want to keep them happy by having a house that's well-maintained.
And if any maintenance issues do crop up, we want to rest assured that the property management company is going to handle those in a timely way, and also in a cost-effective way for us as the homeowner. So, those are the things that we want to look at as we look to hire a property manager.
How Much Should I Expect To Pay a Property Manager?
Elena: Is there a set fee or an approximate fee that a homeowner should expect to pay to a property management company to manage their property?
Colby: So, there is no set fee, different property managers are free to charge whatever amount they like for their services. But I do think that there's, I guess, maybe some accepted normals, in terms of fees.
I think that most property managers will charge a homeowner to place a tenant. And what that means is, the house is empty and we're going to go out and get a tenant. We're going to screen them, make sure they're good, get all the applications, and get them moved in. That would be considered placing a tenant, and they do charge for that.
One thing that I commonly see is one month's rent for the tenants. So, imagine…
...if the rent for the property is $1,000 a month, then you might expect to pay around $1,000 to get a tenant placed in your property. That's not always the case.
It could be more, it could be less, but I think that that's something that you would expect to see.
And then, there's also an ongoing fee, and ongoing property management fee. And that is usually some percentage of the gross monthly rent. So, again…
...taking $1,000 monthly rent as an example, you might expect to see a 10%, 8% of the rent as a monthly fee.
So, that could be anywhere from $80, $100 a month, given the rent's $1000 a month, but something percentage-wise tied to the gross rent.
And then, there may also be additional charges if the property manager has to handle an eviction. There could be additional charges for any maintenance that the property manager handles as well. So, those would be on a case by case basis.
How Do I Deal With Property Management Issues?
Elena: Let's say that a property management company is not doing what it is supposed to be doing. What can a renter do in such a situation? What options does a common, usual, regular renter have? And what can a homeowner do when a property management company doesn't perform or doesn't fulfill its obligations?
Colby: From a tenant perspective, when a property management company isn't doing what they're supposed to do, usually that's related to maintenance. And say the tenant brings up a maintenance issue, for example, "My air conditioner is not working." Okay.
That's a common issue that we see in Texas, where of course it's very hot. The air conditioner is not working. And let's say the property manager is very slow to respond. It takes days to even get a callback, and then even more days to get somebody out there. And let's say even more days to get the issue resolved.
The property manager is not doing a very good job managing that process, managing that maintenance issue. So, from a tenant's side, usually, you'd want to raise that up through the property management company. If you have a point of contact there, you might ask to speak to a manager. You want to raise the flag and let them know that you're not happy there.
I do think leaving an online review is a good thing. As a property owner, I would want to know if my tenants weren't getting maintenance properly.
And so, leaving a review might be that tenant's way of letting the world know that my issues aren't being resolved. And maybe the homeowner can key in on that and help the tenant get that maintenance issue resolved.
Because believe it or not, a lot of times the homeowners and the tenants want the same thing, and the property manager can be the bottleneck. So, the tenant does need to raise the flag on any issues that are going unresolved.
On the other side of the coin, usually, when homeowners have a problem, it's the same thing. The property manager is not handling the maintenance issues the way the homeowner would like, because the homeowner wants to make the tenant happy because they want the tenant to stay.
And so, they want those issues handled as well. So, maintenance is a big issue. And the homeowner has to hold the property management company accountable in terms of maintenance logs and making sure that once a complaint gets reported, that it's resolved in a timely fashion. So, the homeowner does have some responsibility there to stay on top of the property manager.
Take your time, make sure you're choosing the right company to do business with. The right company to do business with makes all the difference, and it can make for a much better experience when it comes to your home remodel.
And also, at the same time, when it comes to property management, you're going to be doing business with these people, and you want to make sure that the relationship's a good fit. So, take the time to do that, make sure there is a good fit there. That's my biggest piece of advice.
Elena: Well, Colby, thank you very much.
That said, if you plan on renovating or remodeling your home, check your budget, read reviews, do interviews, and choose the right contractor. Choose the right property management company to manage your property. Use these home remodeling and property management tips from Colby Hagen to make an informed decision and avoid mistakes.
We thank Colby for his time and for sharing expert insights with our consumers. If you have any questions about home remodeling or property management, please leave a comment below.
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