As millions of Americans continue working from home after COVID-19, the popularity of office home additions has exploded. So how do you get started? You have a couple of options: You could buy a new home, but renovating that space shows itself to be a popular move. Houzz saw a 58% jump in project leads for home professionals in June 2020. The online home design platform also found high demand for home renovation projects continued into the fall, as its project backlog measurement increased to 7.2 weeks, according to an October report, two weeks longer than the same time last year. Suppose you’re considering expanding that kitchen for all the meals you’re making at home, putting on that addition to give you more space, or adding another bathroom so that your family isn’t fighting over the shower. In that case, you’ll have to find a contractor. Here are a few challenges to consider in finding a reputable company for the job while protecting your investment, too.

Challenge #1 – Planning Meetings Have Gone Remote

Completing home additions outside of a pandemic involves many planning meetings, trips to showrooms, quarry visits, and on-site check-ins. But, after COVID-19, homeowners needed to get comfortable with technology. To complete your home renovation, you will still need some in-person meetings. But a lot of the leg work and pre-planning now happens remotely. When you do meet in person, you can pick out materials efficiently. Your design firm or general contractor may want you to walk them through your home via Zoom or Skype to get an initial idea of the scope of your project. While they will have to make an on-site visit to your home for measurements, many designers will share their 3D renderings through video conferencing. With project management software like BuilderTrend, you can track your project’s progress remotely. Completing a home renovation during COVID-19 will require you to put a great deal of trust into your contractor and subcontractors. Clear communication and solid planning will make sure you’re all on the same page.

Challenge #2 – Timelines for Home Additions Are Increasing

CDC guidelines and OSHA protocols will dictate the specifics of the construction crew’s workspace and pace. Workers in many areas will be required to wear appropriate PPE and disinfect the workspace frequently and maintain proper social distance protocols. The New York Times article, The Return of Home Renovations, states, “Contractors and their employees must also be mindful of a whole host of other rules for home improvement during a pandemic: no more than one worker per 250 square feet; open windows whenever possible to increase ventilation; daily temperature checks before employees report to the job site; [and] work stations must be cleaned and disinfected regularly,” among other things. All of this translates to a slower rate of work with fewer people on site. Home Additions - How Homeowners Are Renovating Their Home Offices, Top Home Remodeling Contractor in Hingham, MA 2

Challenge #3 – Production Cuts Are Affecting Supply Chains

Issues with supply chains and materials production are also adding to home renovation delays. Financial analysts projected lumber markets to plummet in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Yahoo Finance article Lockdown Renovation Boom Sends Canadian Lumber Stocks Surging states, “The COVID-19 pandemic was initially supposed to hurt lumber markets as surging unemployment curtailed demand and lockdowns shuttered the offices that issue permits for cutting operations.” But, RBC Capital Markets analyst Paul Quinn said, “Instead, spending on home repairs and renovation is ‘high and accelerating.’” While the increased demand for lumber is great for stockholders, consistently low inventory and permanent capacity closures are bad news for contractors and homeowners looking to complete budget and schedule renovations.

Challenge #4 – Temporary Housing Is More Scarce

During COVID-19, homeowners looking to complete a renovation may also need to consider temporary living arrangements. The pandemic has made short-term rentals harder to find, and there are risks associated with staying in hotels. but, as Asher Lipman, founder of NYC Renovation Coach, notes, “If you’re working from home, and the kids are at home, and these workers are traipsing in and out – is that safer?” Both hotels and Airbnb-style rentals have upped their cleaning protocols in response to COVID-19. If you’re choosing between the two, K Health’s chief diagnosis officer Dr. Neil Brown has some insights. “While there is no question hotels are working diligently to keep their hotels clean and sanitized, Airbnb has a huge advantage given that the renter is generally the only one occupying the property.”

Increased Demand for Home Additions

Despite the challenges facing homeowners when it comes to home renovations during COVID-19, many are forging ahead with their projects so that they’ll be in a home they love.

Contractors around Boston said they experienced a huge demand for services this summer that has extended into fall — especially for modest projects such as adding a backyard deck or a fence. The trend helps offset the loss of work builders suffered earlier when the industry put larger commercial jobs on hold because of the pandemic lockdown. Work isn’t hard to come by, but fitting it all into the schedule is another challenge.

Now that we’ve established some of the challenges homeowners face, you should review the best tips for contacting a home additions remodeler in your area.

Tip #1 – Take Your Time

Qualified contractors can be hard to find in the best of circumstances. When there’s a sudden demand for home improvement, bad actors come out of the woodwork. This phenomenon often occurs after a hurricane or during a global pandemic.

Demand hasn’t reached the level of hurricane recovery, says Tom Ashley, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council. Still, homeowners may see elevated demand and feel tempted to “just reach out and grab [someone].”

Instead, ask friends and family for recommendations about both the good and the bad experiences they’ve had. Was the work done well? On-time? Did contractors promptly return calls? What did the contractor do when it found surprise asbestos in the walls? Or when the oven for the kitchen renovation arrived three months late?

You also can search for your National Association of Home Builders chapter and look for remodelers. These contractors are more likely to know the local rules, regulations, and municipality requirements, especially regarding permits and inspections.

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Tip #2 – Ask for References

Even if you’re considering a contractor based on a recommendation, always ask for more references. Try to match the kind of project you have in mind.

And make sure you can see their work. While COVID-19 might make it harder to see that work in person, a video call is still better than pictures.

David Dynega, CEO of Detail Renovations in Great Neck, New York, says the more references, the better. Dynega will provide a list of 100 clients “so [potential customers] can pick and choose who they want to speak to,” he says. He also itemizes the list so potential clients can call past clients based on the type of job.

Tip #3 – Check All Licenses

Each state has its contractor licensing board, so check to ensure the contractor you choose is legitimate. Where you can search licenses depends on the form. For example, in New Jersey, it’s with the division of consumer affairs; with Pennsylvania, it’s with the attorney general. Many state contractor boards have set up their searchable websites.

Not only will a license prove that a contractor has met general requirements to operate in your state, but you can typically also see any outstanding complaints filed with your state.

Hiring a licensed contractor also gives you a layer of protection in case things go wrong. If needed, you can report the contractor to the state licensing board. If a contractor down here ignores the process, the contractor can lose their license.

Your state also has a contractor’s recovery fund that can compensate homeowners if a licensed contractor leaves a job unfinished.

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Tip #4 – Create a Detailed Plan

The more specifics you include in the plan from the start, the better, Ashley says. “People want to jump to the work first. The painful part is figuring out exactly what you want and how much it’s going to cost.”

Make sure your plan is detailed. For example, a contractor’s bid shouldn’t just say “paint the room.” Instead, ensure it says something like this: “I’m going to paint two coats, and we’re going to do the ceiling and the trim,” Ashley says.

This method also helps create a realistic schedule. That might mean changes—and a ballooning budget, too.

For a big job, Dynega often recommends the homeowner hire a designer or architect. “I want them spending the time to evaluate the process,” he says.

Make sure payments are part of the schedule, too, and are in line with your state’s regulations, Nason says. In Florida, for example, if a contractor takes more than a 10% down payment, the contractor must apply for permits within 30 days of the payment and start work within 90 days of permit issue dates. In California, down payments are 10% of the total cost of $1,000, whatever is less.

Be wary of estimates that sound too good to be true. Ashley says part of his job is sometimes reeducating people about what costs when a camera crew isn’t around.

Tip #5 – Be Flexible

Even with the most detailed planning, things happen—especially if you’re renovating an older house or adding on to it. Who knows, for example, what previous owners did that may need to be mitigated or undone?

Keep in mind that the crush for contractors also affects the materials they need to do their work. Supply chain disruption will continue for a wide variety of building materials, from interior doors to electrical components. Remodelers might end up waiting on a faucet they ordered for a client more than eight months ago. That doesn’t mean the client can’t use the tub; instead, they install a temporary faucet until the correct one arrives.

Still, you don’t have to accept any delays. Planning for these obstacles can help, especially if a specific material has been hard to get because of the pandemic.

The Right Home Additions Contractor in Hingham, MA

It’s up to you to do your homework to find a skilled and ethical contractor for your home improvement project. The candidate you choose should have a clear and measurable process for your home remodel project. Research each contractor to make the best decision for your home additions. After you’ve reviewed and signed the contract proposal, you’ll write a deposit check. Now you’re one step closer to your dream home and your ultimate home office.

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