I rarely turn on the TV these days. As a working mom passionate about my real estate career, I find myself flipping through design magazines at night, or catching up on the real estate news I missed during a busy day. However, the moment I board a Jet Blue flight, I lose myself in HGTV! There is no end to the renovation shows I watch while travelling. I can’t turn them off; I am obsessed. I get equally excited when I see a property listing that needs a gut renovation. The endless possibilities . . . How might one better use the space? Open up the outdated kitchen? Transform the tiny, dingy bath into a glorious marble temple to rest and rejuvenate after a long day? Having completed my own townhouse renovation on 119th Street, I’ve had my fill for now. But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about future projects.
Who hasn’t bought an apartment and thought, “I can live with that outdated kitchen for now,” only to regret that decision later? If you have the renovation bug, and long to live in a home that truly reflects your taste, why not take an apartment and start from scratch? Our newest listing is a two-bedroom co-op nestled in the heart of Carnegie Hill on a beautiful tree-lined street. The building just upgraded the façade and has plans for a new lobby. Only one and a half blocks from Central Park, it is pet friendly. Go to my all-time favorite site, Houzz.com, if you’re looking for inspiration.
Part of the trick of renovating, is being well prepared and getting the right team. Do your architect and contractor specialize in the type of project you are trying to tackle? Just because you fell in love with the palatial renovation they did on a 5,000 SF apartment doesn’t make them right for your more modest 950 SF redo. Conversely, don’t choose a friend of a friend, simply because they said you could trust him.
Here are my top tips for doing a renovation in NYC:
1) Before you buy, find out what the rules are for renovating in the building. Bear in mind that many buildings will charge you on a daily basis if your project runs over the allotted time. Advanced preparation is a must.
2) Don’t assume you can move a wall; confirm it. You must be certain that it isn’t load bearing.
3) May I expand the bath or move the kitchen? The answer is, maybe. Many buildings have rules about wet over dry. In other words, wet rooms, like bathrooms, stay over wet rooms; they don’t go over dry rooms, like living rooms.
4) May I move the stove to the other side of the kitchen? Gas lines must be considered. They are tricky and expensive to move.
5) Changing your mind costs time and money. Have your plan well mapped out in advance. You don’t want to be waiting around for a crucial fixture to be delivered. Remember that your building may charge by the day for exceeding your allotted renovation time.
6) Make a budget, and expect to exceed it! In other words, have some money in reserve. Unlike the ones that you see on TV, renovations rarely come in under budget.
7) Check with your mortgage holder before renovating and consider finding an institution that specializes in funding renovations to refinance your mortgage.
8) Understand that it may take months to get your plans approved by the building architect if you are doing a major overhaul. While they won’t weigh in on your design choices, architects must be concerned about the structural integrity of the building.
9) Don’t over build, thinking your property will ultimately sell higher. If you are living there, build to enjoy it. Adding square footage and an additional bedroom or bath will always increase the value of a property. But don’t buy a massive designer range if you never cook. Consider expensive designer light fixtures instead if that is what you enjoy. After all, this is your home.
10) Breathe. Renovations can be fun but there will also be times when it will be stressful when unexpected challenges appear. Relax, breathe, enjoy!
If you are looking for a project, check out our new listing at 64 East 94th Street.