Everything you need to know about home renovation in Singapore: Budgeting, loans to permits

21 February 2022

Home renovation can be an expensive and time-consuming experience. Thousands of HDB homeowners in Singapore invest their hard-earned money, time, and resources in renovation projects to breathe new life into their properties. Moreover, spending on remodeling can add a personal touch to your home.

Most HDB flats in Singapore offer the standard amenities for the occupants. However, that is never enough for someone with eclectic taste and a flair for personalization. Every new HDB apartment or resale property is like a blank canvas for the new owners. If you have bought a new apartment in Singapore recently, you might want to add some pizzazz.

How can you remodel your HDB flat smoothly in Singapore?

Every homeowner dreams of remodeling and renovating at one point during their stay in an HDB apartment. More than 73% of the occupants shy away from realizing their dreams due to the extensive planning and budgeting process. Almost every bit of remodeling requires permission from the HDB in Singapore. Additionally, residents have registered over 1200 complaints with the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) in the last three years.
Picking the right team of contractors, who have licenses, insurance, and HDB permits is the first step towards a successful renovation work. A professional team will minimize your expenses, stick to the deadline of the project, steer clear of post-remodeling defects, and avoid sub-quality work on your apartment.

Let us review a particular complaint that CASE has received the last year –

In January 2018, Stella (not her real name) found a group of contractors online, who promised to overhaul her HDB interior design. The team of the so-called professionals demanded the entire amount upfront. However, after paying close to $36,000 for their work, she discovered a problem with her toilet. The clogging in the pipes rendered the bathroom useless, and it created an unhygienic situation at home.
When she tried to contact the same team for revisits, they outright refused. After a few conversations, they declined to respond to her calls, messages, and emails. Finally, she approached CASE. CASE got in touch with the team of contractors and got her issues addressed in no-time and at no added costs.

How can you choose the right team of HDB home remodeling experts in Singapore?
This small incident goes onto show how important it is to find the right team of professionals to take charge of your home remodel in Singapore. Here are a few tips for every consumer, who wants to begin renovating their HDB apartment soon –
i. Always check if the contractor has a history of similar experiences, positive testimonials on their site, and genuine reviews from other customers/clients on local third-party web directories.

ii. The HDB Directory of Renovation Contractors (DRC) should have a listing of their company name.

iii. Check their CaseTrust-RMCA accreditation for additional peace of mind. The certification comes with a Deposit Performance Bond which can buffer any period of non-performance of the contractors.

iv. Before you engage a team, always obtain estimates and quotations for the entire projects. If you are considering multiple teams, consider getting quotes from each one for comparison. You are less likely to fall victim to fraudulent charges, overheads after completion of the project, and false claims.

v. Sit down with the contractor to work out a schedule. Since the permit typically offers around three-monthly only to the new HDB owners, you need to consider a strict timeline the team needs to follow.

vi. Remember not to make full payment upfront. Always break the payment up progressively that you can release per week or according to the completion of the various phases of the project.

vii. If necessary, look up similar contract agreements online or consult a friend well-versed in the legalities of the process. The contract should be transparent, and it should contain all details regarding the phases of the project, the agreed-upon services, list of products the timelines, deadline, and costs or payments.

viii. Always read the fine print of the contract before signing. If necessary, hire an experienced legal professional or talk to a CASE representative for the work.

ix. Take photos of each document and preserve the photocopies of others even after the project is complete.

Why will patience be your best friend during a home renovation?

When undertaking your first home renovation, it is critical to remember to take things slowly. You should never rush the building or rebuilding process. Each step requires some time. For example, if you are thinking about replacing the wallpapers or retiling the kitchen floor, the new installations will take some time to dry. You cannot possibly rush the team to install light fixtures or decorative elements on wallpapers or paint that has not dried completely.
Patience can be a virtue with regards to refurbishing your home. However, you should conduct extensive research into how much work goes into each step and how long each possibly takes. While it is smart to listen to your contractor, it is also important to not agree to everything he or she says. Not every suggestion from your interior designer or remodeling contractor has to be right or applicable in your case, which is why you need to research contemporary HDB home renovations in Singapore before you don your overalls.

Why is an excellent team of contractors essential for your HDB home remodeling?

It is no secret that every HDB home renovation in Singapore requires at least one permit from the HDB. You want to dig up the old floor and retile it? You will need a license. Do you want to rebuild or redesign your windows? You will need a permit. Do you want to rewire the lighting fixtures and install new AC units with 15 Amp main switches? You will need another permit from the HDB. Your construction team should file these permits, procure the resources during the wait, and chalk out working schedules according to the deadline as the permit arrives.

It is just as much work as it sounds like. Only the best of the best interior décor experts and renovation teams working on HDB apartments for years can make the process smooth and fast for you. It is imperative to pick the best available team of contractors at your disposal from your neighborhood.

Should you go for all-inclusive home renovation packages in Singapore?

A new trend in Singapore shows high demand for all-inclusive remodeling packages by interior design firms. These deals can be quite attractive, especially when you need your new HDB flat overhauled entirely. However, you need to check the validity of these packages and then carefully read the fine prints before signing any document. Ensure that they offer post-renovation services for installation faults or product defects.

Most importantly, these are selling out faster than pumpkin spice latte in November. Therefore, ensure that the team of contractors you choose have the workforce and other resources to deliver the promises they make to you. The high demand is like a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it proves that these packages are effective. On the other hand, it shows that such packages can be too demanding for the limited resources of any medium-sized remodeling company.

How to fund an HDB home renovation smartly?

A different kind of problem arises when you have the zeal, right contacts, and plans, but no money. It is entirely possible that after the purchase of a particularly elegant HDB apartment in the heart of the city or the quaint suburbs, you don’t have enough money left to fuel your HDB renovation dreams.
If you find yourself in such a predicament, don’t think about giving up. You should search for renovation loans. A good team of experienced contractors should be able to direct you towards the right organizations that offer both mortgage loans and renovation loans to new HDB homeowners in Singapore.

In Singapore, different banks offer varying mortgage loan and renovation loan rates. Any potential consumer must check the prices online from at least ten banks in their vicinity and compare their rates, as well as the terms and conditions of the loans. Take time to decide if you want to pay a flat interest rate or a floating interest rate every month. Each decision can save you significant amounts that can go into future renovations or furnishings.

How will your renovation plans affect the value of your home?

One way to embrace sustainability and smart expenditure are by considering where each element of your interior decoration will be in the next ten years. If there is an overpriced lighting fixture or a flooring texture you like, consider if they will still be equally appealing almost a decade from now. Since remodeling an entire home is quite a formidable expense, Singaporean homeowners typically renovate their homes once in 15 to 20 years.
Most importantly, consider their maintenance charges in the next few years. Energy-saving air conditioning units, energy-saving window screens, and indoor-cooling floors/walls are investments that can save on utility bills in the long run. These are also elements that increase the real estate value of any home in Singapore

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