At Houseplay, we understand that home renovations can feel confusing, overwhelming and even scary. We make it our goal to make the process as transparent and straightforward as possible, holding your hand every step of the way.
Researching the average cost of a home renovation project in your area can be a good way to set a realistic target budget range. But it’s crucial that you’re looking at accurate data that aligns with your goals for the project.
More frequently as we talk with homeowners, we’ve found that in their efforts to prepare for our conversation and do their due diligence, they’ve been visiting popular sites like Houzz and HomeAdvisor.
In order to better speak to this topic, we decided to dig into the data these sites provide. Reader beware: there’s a lot of conflicting information out there! We’ve put together the following guide to bring more clarity to your budgeting process and debunk misinformation.
Don’t take numbers on popular sites at face-value.
We recently looked up bathroom renovation costs for Jersey City on Houzz, which returned this graphic:
It shows that the average cost of a bathroom remodel in Jersey City is $18,000. However, when we dug deeper into the data shown on the page, it shows that the top third of bathroom renovations in Jersey City start at $37,000. Many of our clients own apartments or homes that are in the top third of property values for Jersey City (or that are in up-and-coming areas with lots of potential for recouping their investments), so we find that for them the $18K average number is not the most helpful one!
We also noticed that in many cases, the numbers offered on some of these sites simply don’t add up. For example, HomeAdvisor has a page called “2018 Kitchen Remodel Costs.” At the top of the page they show this gray box:
We’re a little unclear on what the low end estimate of $4,000 comprises (as most our clients choose to spend more than this amount on appliances alone – one of the most popular refrigerators families choose costs about $3,500).
We also noticed that many of the numbers HomeAdvisor breaks down for costs of cabinets, countertops, appliances, etc., exceed their high-end estimate of $55,000.
We prefer to use the Cost vs. Value report published annually by Remodeling magazine because they use a very clear project description alongside the numbers. They may show numbers for an average midrange bathroom remodel, but the descriptions of that work is very telling – it’s typically the least expensive toilet, vanity, and tub, with no custom design work or beautiful touches. But really, every renovation project should have a budget customized to exactly what you want to do.
Another reason to take numbers on similar sites with a grain of salt is considering the stake they have in posting low average renovation numbers. Sites like Houzz and HomeAdvisor make money from leads. Every time a homeowner clicks through to request information for a general contractor listed on one of these sites, that general contract pays a fee (whether or not they get the job). Therefore, it’s in the sites’ best interest to attract more page visits and clicks, and they accomplish this in part by presenting skewed statistics.
While looking at average costs can be a good starting point, there’s actually no such thing as an “average” home renovation.
Just as you wouldn’t research the “average price of a car” when buying a new car, it’s important to use average remodel costs as a starting point for your budget, not as a hard-and-fast rule.
The price of a car, for example, varies hugely depending on what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing and able to spend. You can invest in a car at all different levels, from a Kia to a Volkswagen to a Tesla to a Ferrari. You can buy used or new. You can buy standard, or load your car with all the extras, like heated seats, power seat adjustments, wifi access, and voice-activated controls.
Just the same, at Houseplay we work with you to decide the investment level that will make sense for your home renovation project, your goals, and your family’s needs.
It makes sense to match the quality of your renovation to the overall value of your home and to the housing market in which you live.
In certain housing markets, a new bathroom renovation with a one-piece acrylic tub and an integrated vinyl wall surround is still considered valuable.
In other housing markets (like New York/New Jersey), people automatically expect tile walls in the bathroom. Tile is an upgrade from vinyl (and more expensive), but it adds value to your home and makes it more appealing down the line to prospective renters or buyers.
Likewise, if your downtown Hoboken apartment is worth $1 million, you will want to invest in a bathroom renovation that matches the style and quality of the rest of your apartment (and similar apartments). While you could do a lower-quality bathroom renovation that would cost less in the short term, it’s important to keep in mind how this would impact the value of your property if you were to sell in the long term.
The bottom line
From our more than ten years of experience in business at Houseplay, we found that all the numbers we saw in our research on Houzz and HomeAdvisor for home remodel costs in the New York/New Jersey area were much lower than what can actually be done by any good general contractor in the area.
When considering how to complete your dream home remodel, also keep in mind that the lowest price is not always the most important factor!
For example, while a DIY approach may be the most cost-effective, many people find value in hiring a company that can handle and support them from design all the way through project completion.
And while it might feel good to think you’re saving some money, be wary of a contractor whose bid comes in significantly lower than his or her competitors. We recently had a friend who hired a contractor for a kitchen remodel at a very low price, and the crew walked off the job long before it was complete because they had underbid and were losing money. Another friend hired a contractor with the lowest price for a bathroom remodel, and there were issues with permits for the work, and the contractor left all the trash in the garage and the homeowner had to rent a pickup truck to haul it to the dump.
So … how to proceed?
Research contractors who perform the type of renovation and provide the level of service you’re looking for. We provided a unique perspective on hiring a contractor in our post What You Need to Know about Choosing a Contractor.
Other posts that may interest you:
If you’d like to talk about a home renovation in the New York/New Jersey area, call Houseplay today at 201-682-8766 or 845-630-8677. We’re currently booking projects through the end of 2018. We’d love to work with you!