Being a homeowner is an exciting and significant milestone in many Singaporean's lives. But all too often, we hear of bad interior design and renovation experiences marring the joy of owning a first home.
Here are a few real-life horror stories by Singaporean homeowners, and some handy tips to keep in mind when it's your turn:
1. The Ghost of Deadlines Past
Matthew and Stephanie are meticulous and organised by nature, so it's no surprise the newly engaged couple had the renovation schedule for their upcoming home planned to a T.
Things started fine but it wasn't long before signs of trouble started appearing. "Looking back, I realise it was gradual. So maybe that's why it took a while for us to realise things were going wrong," Matthew reflected.
Tardy workers and last-minute changes eventually became workers who didn't show up at all, and in some cases, lying about their absence, as well as constant delays. The interior designer even texted at the last minute on several occasions to ask for deadline extensions.
To top things off, further delays were caused by sloppy work. "The tiles were slanted and it looked really horrible with gaps everywhere," Stephanie recalls her frustration. Eventually, the couple had to insist on a redo. All of this resulted in a total delay of nine months!
Looking back, Matthew and Stephanie concede that they could have been firmer in their dealings with the contractor. If you're faced with slipshod craftsmanship and terrible work ethic, do not be afraid to put your foot down and stand up for yourself. It helps to go into it with a clear idea of specific deliverables you will not compromise on (example: the final date of completion for all renovations).
2. The Mystery of Forgotten Agreement
Shirley couldn't wait to turn 35 - and finally purchase her first property. As a first-time homeowner, she wasn't sure where to start and was grateful when an acquaintance recommended her contractor.
But without having done her own research on the company, Shirley soon found herself paying dearly for the mistake. The contractor was often rude and spoke brusquely to her. On-site visitations were usually an unpleasant affair with many corrections needed. Shirley recalls having to point out uneven wall corners ("They looked so ridiculous and warped!"). As a self-confessed non-confrontational person, Shirley found this to be a double unenjoyable experience.
This started escalating when the contractor started going back on his word and demanding payment for services he had previously said was complimentary, such as patching of holes in the walls. He also started feigning ignorance about the timeline agreed on, in a bid to stall for time.
On hindsight, Shirley now says she should have ensured all correspondence was done in black and white via text or e-mail. If the agreement is verbal, she suggests doing a recap via text after.
3. The Case of the Missing Contractor
Rizwan and his family of four were moving house and had purchased a resale flat. But before moving in, Rizwan was keen to give his family their dream home. So he engaged a contractor to renovate it and took a fairly hands-off approach when it came to supervising the work.
That's why Rizwan was shocked to visit the apartment a mere week before the agreed completion date and find the entire place in disarray. Debris, uninstalled panels and furnishings, and loose wiring were everywhere.
Upon confronting the contractor, he was asked to pay an extra $5,000 to complete the job, even though the family had already made full payment! After pursuing legal action, Rizwan eventually learnt that the company was in dire financial straits and had even vacated its office. The court case was drawn out for a long time and in the meantime, Rizwan ended up having to fork out extra money to hire a new contractor.
A crucial missing step was doing his due diligence first: even if it is through a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member, don't neglect your responsibility to find out more. Look for online reviews before hiring anyone. Some trusty websites and forums to try are Qanvast, RenoTalk and Hometrust.
Getting your home ready for living can be a long, tedious process. But don't let these horror stories deter you from building your dream home. Make all the money, time and care you've invested into your house worth it with sufficient protection.
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