Hi! Sunshine and I are starting our renovation journey and we would like to share our learning experience with you too! Unlike our wedding chapters where our sharing is secondary and the jolting down of things for our own memory’s sake is the main aim, we understand that there are a lot of pitfalls and loopholes in the renovation industry which we hope no one else would have to experience. Hence, we would try to share our experiences and the lessons we learnt so that you may, hopefully, avoid having a renovation nightmare. Read on! =D
After signing our Agreement for Lease in end Nov and realising that our flat would be ready by end Mar 2017, Sunshine and I decided to start sourcing for renovation quotes on some random day in Jan 2017. We print copies of our floor plan and brought two out. Thinking that the one given by HDB is so small and wanting to aid in the ID’s/contractor’s viewing and measuring of the floor plan, I decided to enlarge a copy of the floor plan.
We decided to walk-in to 3D Innovations as it is conveniently located in many shopping malls, including one near my current place. Beforehand though, I reminded and warned Sunshine repeatedly not to sign the renovation package just like that, without researching again (We signed my bridal package without doing any research beforehand and though my experience had been good so far, I knew that I could have gotten better deals if I had done my homework beforehand)!
After choosing the floor plan given by HDB and totally ignoring my enlarged version, the ID first started out by asking what we want (I realised that this is because the floor plan given by HDB is actually drawn to scale! By enlarging it, I had unknowingly distorted the scale and the IDs would not be able to do their measurements accurately. Oops! XD).
As it is our first time going to an ID/contractor, we did not know what to expect, what to look out for and what to ask. Hence, the ID at 3D innovations took the lead by slowly prompting us and asking questions on what we like and dislike etc. We started with the kitchen first because I said I had a few requirements which I hope could be done. I wanted my fridge to be directly facing the kitchen door (a fengshui taboo I later realised) so that one could just grab something from the fridge quickly and my stove and sink to be diagonally facing each other. This is because fengshui says the stove (a fire element) should ideally not be beside or facing the sink (a water element). The different energies would interact and cause disharmony/bring ill health to the lady of the house.
With that, the ID deftly drew some sketches as he explained to us. The only thing he agreed with me was the placement of my fridge. Haha. He told us that the sink would be more or less fixed in one particular corner of my kitchen because the water pipes would either be there in the kitchen or just beside it, in the service yard. The floor tiles would be tilted in such a way that water would drain in that direction. He also informed us where the gas pipe would be and that if we want our stove to be diagonally opposite my sink, we would have to extend the electrical piping over to the opposite side of my kitchen.
After that, we also discussed a little about our master bedroom and then living room. He then showed us some of the technology and materials his company is using eg. Blum soft-closing hinges, ABS trimming and internal colour PVC for all the kitchen cabinets.
We then proceeded to the cost of the renovation, the one which would make or break the deal for most people, including us. Haha. The “basic package” the ID showed us was around $22k. He measured the length of all carpentry and quartz and calculated the final price for us on the spot. It came up to about $30k after he factored in what we had discussed with him. Not knowing the usual market price for renovations, I actually thought it was reasonable. This is because I had seen/read many people with renovations costing $40k and above. Sunshine said his friend had a similar total price quoted for his own flat but had more things such as air-con and window grilles, included in his renovation. I also asked him about the payment modes and schedule. He shared a specific % breakdown which we must pay at certain stages of the renovation. After reading many accounts of people experiencing no-shows and shabby and tardy work after they had paid, we tried to negotiate for a better payment schedule for us, the consumers. He said that it was his company policy as they had also experienced lousy customers who refused to pay up after the renovation was done and was very adamant on sticking to the payment schedule by his company. He even went to the extent of telling us that he would not take our business if we were unable to pay accordingly. Though I knew it was reasonable of the company to want to protect itself, I also felt a bit insecure with it. Nevertheless, he told us that he would hold the price for us to consider a few days. Though I thought the discount he quoted was tempting and overall price quite reasonable, Sunshine knew that we most probably would not be signing with him and we left. I had initially thought that we wanted to learn more and this would most likely be a 30 minute chat. However, when we stepped out, we realised that this first experience took us about 2.5hrs! Wow!
Pros: Able to do some quick sketches on the spot, patient, easy-going (allowed us to take pictures of his sketches), knows his pricing and stuffs well, showrooms conveniently located in shopping malls
Cons: Rigid payment schedule, slightly pricy
After our first experience, we started paying more attention to other renovation companies. The second one we went to was Musee Open House. Sunshine and I thought that it was a collection of a few renovation vendors who put up this open house together and we thought of going there to check out the prices and products offered by the individual vendors. Hence, we signed up for one of their Open House. However, a few days before, Sunshine received a phone call from one of the interior designers from Musee, offering to make an appointment with us. Thinking that he was one of the many vendors there, I told Sunshine to just reach early, walk around the Open House before meeting him so as not to waste our time. Hence, we reached the place slightly after 10am, where most of the staff have not reached yet. Lol.
Once we entered, we realised “Oh! So this is not really an Open House where many vendors gather”. We learnt that it was actually a mock-up (?) by Sky Creation. Through this Musee Open House, potential clients can see and learn the materials used in their construction and feel for themselves the soft-closing, tic-tac doors etc. One of the “interior designer” then offered to show us around because the one who made appointment with us was not present yet. He showed us around the Open House, explaining to us the cement screeding and air-con piping they use, the floor and bathroom tiles available, some design of their cupboards, feature wall, kitchen, window grilles etc. Most notably, he kept promoting how good the company was. This sounded alright at first, as afterall, customers would want to know that they are paying for quality stuffs and that the company is established and awarded with different quality marks (ISO awards). However, we both thought he spent too much time on this. Throughout the tour though, he would check in with us the designs we liked and the style we wanted for our house. I was happily describing it to him when he nodded in agreement and could totally explained what I wanted in greater detail. This reassured me as I was delighted to find someone who understood what I wanted. This would definitely help to reduce the risks of a renovation nightmare, or so I thought.
After we finished the tour, he sat us down and started quoting us a price for the things we wanted. He also showed us a basic package, which costed around $25k? However, Sunshine and I both noticed that this basic package did not contain a lot of items. We would have to add on if we had wanted whatever he promised us he could do during the tour. After seeing the price, we were satisfied. Though I really liked the fact that he could seemingly understand what I want, we did not want to make a decision yet. Afterall, this was only the second place we visited. Hence, we wanted to leave and I promised that I would definitely KIV him (this was true as I really felt a “connection” with him). However, once we mentioned that we wanted to leave, the hard-selling started. It was mild at first as he tried to reduce the price and promised us that he could do XXX, YYY things for us at a lower price. He even started to fill up the sales form for us and told us that all we had to do was sign. We were like “what?? Er.. we just told you that we need to consider”. Then he went back to reassuring us that his company was very reliable and good with all the awards that they have obtained over the years. Next he showed us his client lists (which I noticed were at least more than one year ago) and the testimonies his past clients had left for him. When he finished and we once again said that we wanted to leave, he then started round two again and repeated the whole process again. He also questioned us what did we not like about his service even though I tried reassuring him that it was just because I wanted to make more comparisons. I mean, if your quote was value for money, I would still come back to look for you ultimately. However, he was really DESPERATE for us to sign on the spot. He also mentioned the discounts we could enjoy if we had signed immediately, compared his company’s payment modes with others’ and repeated again the above. I was getting a bit sian at that point in time and turned to Sunshine, glaring at him to do something. Sunshine cannot stand nagging and he was also sian of this salesperson’s hard selling. However, instead of firming rejecting him and pulling us away, he just smiled and rejected him politely. Omg! =.=” That salesperson then started round three of promoting his company, showing us his clients, which by the way just scared us off even more as both Sunshine and I saw that the renovation packages were all much higher than the “basic” package which he quoted us, and questioning us the reasons for not signing with him on the spot (which we had repeated umpteen times that AFTERNOON).
After a long time, it finally got to him that we would not be signing a renovation package with him that day. Phew! However, he then changed tactic. He told us to place a deposit of $2000. If we signed with him eventually, the deposit would be used to off-set the renovation package price. If we eventually do not sign with him, we could use the $2000 for our 3D drawings (at $800/piece, if I remembered correctly) or for air-con services. He was just trying his very best to squeeze money out of us that day and I was really very tempted to just pay the $2000 so that we could leave. Afterall, we could use it for air-con, right? However, Sunshine was mentally strong this time and he stood firm on his ground. I think he was also very exhausted at that time and he finally stood up to leave. Thank God! That salesperson still kept trying to make us stay but he failed to. Even at the door, when we both felt bad for him and wanted to maintain a good relationship IN CASE we were coming back to him, he still tried to convince us! We once again firmly rejected him and FINALLY managed to leave after a torturing 3.5hrs there. O.M.G.
Pro: Salesperson could connect with clients and make them feel reassured that he knew exactly what they wanted. I would have totally considered him and even convince Sunshine later to go back to him (though his pricing may be slightly higher than what we would see from other people later…), IF he did not try to hard sell us desperately.
Con: Too much hard-selling, promoting of the company and showing us the other clients’ sales record (which were from a long time ago and expensive). Both Sunshine and I agreed that he was probably so hard-up precisely because his last client was almost one year ago.
Read Part 2 here.