4 Things to Learn from Someone Else’s Renovation in Philadelphia

Get fully prepared for your Philadelphia home reno with these tips and trends

We learn from experience. Sometimes that means learning the hard way, but other times, we may be lucky enough to reap the benefits of someone else’s experience. This is one of those times.

We’ve asked a few recent RenoFi clients in your community to share a few lessons they learned from their recent renovation projects. After completing projects like a beautiful 700 sq. ft. addition complete with a new kitchen, great room, mudroom and powder room to a full 3rd floor Master Suite transformation and new outdoor living space, here are 4 helpful tips based on their lessons learned.

home renovation

1. Borrow enough to give yourself a buffer

Like many homeowners, when it came time to make kitchen selections, Kyle and Cicely of Moorestown NJ, chose tiles and countertops that were more expensive than their original allowance. Then on top of this, they unexpectedly had to replace their HVAC. Since these changes put them over budget, they had to supplement their RenoFi loan with personal savings to make up for these extra costs. As they reflect back on the project, budget and loan request, they wish they had borrowed slightly more to cover these unforeseen expenses.

When it comes to tearing down walls and reworking pipes or mechanicals, it’s not uncommon to have some surprises along the way. Make sure you’re borrowing enough money to anticipate costs you didn’t plan for to prevent having to compromise elsewhere.

2. Establish clear communication with your contractor

Communication with your contractor is crucial. For Katie and Ken in Ardmore PA, they admit they were kicking themselves for not getting exact costs for extra electrical work and heated flooring they added to their project as it progressed. Having a more clear picture of their final costs may have swayed a few other purchasing decisions they made along the way.

They also went into the project with a slightly different perspective than their contractor. While his budget was reflecting solely the new addition being done, Katie and Ken assumed it incorporated updates to their existing space as well. So when all was said and done, there were discrepancies in the total costs. Their advice is when you start speaking to your contractor, be very clear about your expectations, and the work being completed versus the work being budgeted. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something isn’t as you expected. Without open, regular communication with your contractor about the progress, punch list items, etc., you’ll only end up frustrated.

3. Expect the unexpected

This can mean a lot of things for a renovation, but in Kyle and Cicely’s case, it was the heavy rainfall around the project start date that affected the entire timeline. The rains delayed their contractor’s ability to lay the foundation of their addition, therefore extending the project past the original completion date. Knowing from the start that everything may not go as planned will help you set more realistic expectations and minimize frustration throughout your project.

And a tip for helping everything stay on track: Katie and Ken say to make sure your decisions aren’t adding to the delay. Whether it’s choosing the cabinets for the kitchen or buying a vanity for the bathroom, make those decisions early on and anticipate the added time for custom orders and delivery, so your contractor isn’t waiting on you.

4. Don’t go through the loan process alone

No matter what their project entailed, one thing almost all our homeowners had in common was not knowing where to start when it came to financing.

For Katie and Ken, that meant 9 months of blindly filtering through endless loan options before they had the help of RenoFi. With a first mortgage of less than 4%, it was crucial they find a loan that didn’t require them to refinance. And RenoFi’s system made finding the right solution for their specific goals a lot less painless.

When DJ and Vanessa of Villanova PA met RenoFi, they were just about to close on a traditional loan, having accepted they had no other choice than to refinance. They felt at the mercy of so many different banks while trying to hunt on their own, while RenoFi was the one all-encompassing resource they needed to find the right loan - and also save $119K in future interest payments.

As you start to plan your home renovations, know that we’re here to help.

You can never be too prepared! Hear from other RenoFi homeowners who recently completed their renovation projects, so you can make the whole process a lot less daunting and better plan for the unexpected along the way.

A Little Inspiration to Get You Started

Now that you’re feeling a little more prepared for the process, we’ll help you get a little inspired in the design department too! Here are a few trending home improvements in Philadelphia.

Rehabbed Original Floors

Many homeowners in the area are taking advantage of the fact that older Philly homes have awesome old wood flooring. Even if it is a little more costly to strip away some layers, more people are choosing to refinish rather than replace with lower-cost options such as wood laminate.

Mixed Material Kitchen

From two-toned cabinets with a contrasting center island to mixed metal faucets, custom-colored appliances, bold backsplashes and decorative sink panels, mixing and matching is very popular around the city. Plus, multi-functional islands featuring seating, storage, fridges, and more which plays into the “bigger is better” mantra.

Maintaining the Entrance Vestibule

While some entrance vestibules need a little modernization, others are just too cool to change. With funky tile or unique industrial vibe, this space merges outdoor and indoor elements to work for any season. While a lot of people are paying to add them to their home, many older Philly homes already enjoy the luxury — and just need a little refresh.

New Mudroom Addition

From snow-filled Philly winters to muddy springs and summers, most busy households are opting for a place to put shoes/jackets and clean up before coming inside. With popular trends like built-in storage cabinets and cubby holes, comfortable sitting areas, these rooms are super functional AND very stylish.

Bold Bathroom Upgrades

Bold and statement-making stones like concrete and marble are taking over as a top bathroom trend. From subtle countertops to dramatic full-wall replacements mixed with wood, tile, and other elements, it brings a luxe feel to any bathroom. Showers themselves are getting bolder too with various walk-in and sit-in features.

Exposing Brick Walls

Another fun perk of an older Philly home is the brick walls you’ll often find hidden below the surface. Exposing these walls is particularly popular with city homes as they provide a visual texture that exudes a warmer feel. This is a particularly popular feature with some RenoFi clients.

Next Steps to Your Renovation in Philadelphia

Before any construction can begin, you may need to obtain building permits. And in Philadelphia, that’s not too hard to do, but at the same time, it can have serious consequences if you don’t. A good rule of thumb for whether or not you need one: if your renovation requires structural changes, the answer is yes. So here are some of the types of renovation projects that DON’T require a building permit in Philadelphia.

  • Ordinary household repairs/improvements
  • Painting or papering (as long as the finish is less than 0.036 inches thick)
  • Cabinetry or carpet installation
  • Replacing non-fire-resistance doors & windows (as long as there are no changes to the framing)
  • Replacing exterior steps/stairs less than six feet high

Your general contractor will generally agree to “pull” the appropriate permits, and then you will be responsible for the costs, but you can always file for the permits yourself. In either case, it is vital that you and your contractor make it very clear in your contract who is responsible for what to avoid potential problems or delays.

If you are obtaining the permits yourself, you will have to find and fill out the application for the particular permits your project requires. All this info can be found on your county’s Department of Licensing and Inspection website.

Financing Your Renovation in Philadelphia with RenoFi

As you start to explore home equity loan options to finance your home renovation, RenoFi offers a couple of different loans, all of which allow you to borrow 90% of your home’s POST-renovation value, so you can get the most money for your home improvement project at the lowest rate. With a borrowing power up to 3x more than the traditional home equity loan and different features to fit your unique needs, plus the support of the RenoFi team for all your questions, you’re all set to tackle your entire renovation wishlist — and enjoy the process too. Contact RenoFi to learn more today.

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