How To Afford Your HDB Reno – 12 Singaporeans Share Their Methods On Cutting Costs

6 September 2023 | BY

From going straight to the contractors to buying furniture in thrift stores, these tips can help you save costs on renovating.

As if buying a home in Singapore isn’t already a huge financial commitment, there’s still something else you have to save up for upon receiving your keys: home renovation. Unless you’re one with deep pockets, it’s not easy to pay for your mortgage, bills, and dream reno all in cash. 

Though it’s possible to take out a reno loan, that isn’t always the wisest financial decision. To get around this; we sought advice from real homeowners in Singapore, who shared their methods on cutting costs for their home reno.

1. Look for bundle deals when shopping for appliances

Modern Kitchen appliances

Image credit: @savana.arq on Instagram

Apart from taking up a personal loan and dipping into savings, our colleague Sarah hunted for bundle deals when shopping for appliances for her resale maisonette HDB in Pasir Ris. Altogether, her reno cost a decent $90K.

“We didn’t buy any new furniture as we kept the pieces from our previous home. We also set a budget for the materials we used – for example, vinyl flooring and tiles were capped at $3.50 psf. On top of that, we sought out bundle deals for our curtains, blinds, window grills, balcony ziptrak. For appliances, they give discounts when you buy everything from the same brand. We bought LG for the fridge & washers, then Mayer for the hood, hob, oven, and microwave.”

2. Negotiate for extra deals in your ID package

Thinking deals in ID package for HDB reno

Image credit: TheSmartLocal

For those who’d rather leave their reno in someone else’s hands, turning to an ID can be the best option. For Melissa, she negotiated for extra deals in her ID package, which allowed her to cap the renovation cost of her 4-room resale HDB in Toa Payoh to $40K.

“We negotiated for extra things in the package, such as free toilet bowls and cheaper cleaning fees. We also opted for fewer aircon units at first, which we regretted later. We told our ID that we were looking at a few IDs to get the best deal. Finally, we opted for vinyl laid over tiles instead of hacking for some surfaces.”

3. Be firm on your budget when communicating with your ID

With the assistance of a loan from her in-laws, Andrea forked out between $45K to $50K for the renovation of her 4-room HDB BTO. That said, what really helped streamline her expenditures was being firm on her budget when communicating with her ID.

“The bulk of our furniture was sourced second-hand, so we were able to save on those. Reno-wise, we only opted for simple built-in carpentry in the master bedroom, kitchen, and living area. The other rooms had loose furniture. If you have a strict budget to follow, make sure you communicate and emphasise that to your ID. I’ve heard that some IDs don’t respect their client’s budget, so make sure you’re firm on that if you need to be.”

4. Think twice before hacking or building walls

Open concept HDB reno

Image credit: @thebareloft

While hacking or building walls does wonders in switching up the whole feel of our home, it’s very often a costly affair. In order to save money for her condo reno, which rounded up to $115K, Alicia avoided hacking or building walls.

“We stuck to the original flooring as the marble was in mostly good condition, and went basic in design with the built-in wardrobes. We avoided hacking to expand our bathrooms, which we initially wanted to do but eventually decided against. Plus, we used cheaper tiles for the bathroom flooring. If you’re using an ID, it’s good to compare at least 3 quotes and ask them for their design ideas so you have a gauge of how creative they can get before showing your own inspiration board.”

5. Save on furniture by buying second-hand

interior of thrift store in SG

As they say, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, and second-hand furniture can spice up your abode just as well as brand new pieces if you design your home well. This is something Reddit user Jeemchan can attest to, having managed to finance his home reno fully in cash together with his partner.

“Try not to scrimp on permanent things such as power outlets, floor and wall repairs, and kitchen cabinets. If there are cash flow problems, scrimp on furniture as you can get it second-hand on Carousell, Taobao, IKEA or Shopee. It can tide you over for a few years before you need to replace it. Plus, when people wish to move houses, they often want to get rid of their furniture ASAP, so you can very well get expensive branded furniture at a much cheaper rate.”

6. Don’t assume that your current place will be your “forever home”

Lighting in HDB after reno

Image credit: Free Space Intent

It’s common for people to justify throwing huge chunks of their savings into their dream reno by saying that they will live in their current place for life. Conversely, u/bigspicytomato noted that he has seen many previously childless friends do just that, only to have kids in the future and not have sufficient financial means to hunt for a bigger space.

“Don’t say that your current place will be your “forever home” too soon. As the saying goes, ‘the only constant in life is change’. Just like others say, keep your first house simple if you can’t afford [extensive renovations]. A comfortable home doesn’t need a faux ceiling, feature wall TV console or LED lights under your bed frame. I’ve seen so many friends throwing tons of money into renovation and decor. That was all good until they had kids.”

7. Go directly to contractors instead of looking for an ID

5D plan of reno house

Image credit: Planner 5D

While some homeowners have been blessed with IDs who can bring their dream home to life, others bear stories of shabby work and being scammed by IDs. 

As such, u/Head_Calligrapher670 suggested that going directly to contractors can not only be more financially sustainable, but also a more “guaranteed” option.

Drop the ID. Go for direct contractors. If you don’t know how to draw 3D designs, you can pay a small fee for a freelancer to do one for you. Source for furnishings from Taobao. Try second-hand furniture too. Upgrade next time to better ones when you have more funds.”

One thing though; you need to ask yourself whether you’re prepared to handle the big reno project by yourself as IDs are often project managers too. This means you should have your fair share of knowledge regarding reno terminologies, as well as how to liaise with contractors.

8. Buy your carpentry off the shelf instead of having them built in

Walk-in wardrobe

Image credit: IKEA Singapore

Very often the most expensive portion of your renovation, carpentry can create a lot of hassle during the reno stages. Even its demolition can cost you a lot of money. As such, u/Classic-Initative14 highlights that instead of investing in built-in carpentry, getting them off the shelf could be much more affordable.

“Carpentry is the most overrated and expensive reno item. Skip the feature wall and built-in shoe cabinet and wardrobe. You can buy a TV console, shoe cabinet, and wardrobe off the shelf. IKEA PAX series is customisable and high quality. Even their kitchen cabinet is also good. If you really need to spend on carpentry, it should be for the kitchen.”

9. Choose materials that are more affordable

Laminate kitchen countertop

Using laminates for your kitchen countertop is a popular choice due to the material’s affordability.

Image credit: AROVA

Above all, one of the biggest factors that determine the cost of your reno is the materials. You can save loads of money by choosing more affordable materials for different parts of your home, as mentioned by u/PeanutBlocks

“My family does renovation. One thing that costs a lot is built-in cabinets and wardrobes. These can easily go up to 10-20k. Ultimately, it depends on what materials you want to use for your renovation. Materials you use is a big part of how much it will cost. For example, use vinyls instead of tiles, and blinds instead of curtains.”

10. Be savvy when sourcing furniture from Taobao

Taobao furniture

Image credit: Taobao

Taobao is our go-to treasure trove of furniture at affordable price tags, but its cheaper price points could also mean that quality is compromised. That’s why u/artmesh has advised being savvy when shopping on Taobao, and that it’s best to get items meant for personal use from Singapore.

“Anything that touches things that eventually goes into your body should be bought in Singapore. Examples are water taps and maybe shower fittings. I learnt this the hard way – I got all these from Taobao and rusty water started coming out after less than half a year of use. I had to get new taps in Singapore and paid for installation. Yes, these things are expensive in Singapore, but it’s so for a reason. The importers have to ensure minimum standards and more importantly that they don’t rust.”

11. Save an extra 10% of your total budget as a buffer

saving money

Image credit: TheSmartLocal

As with buying anything, allocating a bit of breathing space is always recommended – there may be unforeseen things coming your way that you’ll have to pay for. Apart from actual reno, you’ll also have to pay for components such as electrical works, lighting, and furnishing, which are sometimes not included in the final quotation.

Reddit user u/mifenmian said, “Usually the reno quote you get doesn’t include what I’ve just listed, and when people talk about how much their reno cost, they only remember the quote number. But all the other things add up as well. People usually only say ‘Oh, my reno cost 50k+,’ when actually getting the whole house in that shape cost 80k+.

Once you’ve come up with a budget for all of it, save about 10% more than the budget. This gives you breathing space. Then, when you’re hunting for quotes and they ask you for your budget, say that it’s 5-10% less than what you’ve actually budgeted – not what you’ve saved. Costs usually add up during the course of a reno due to unforeseen things.”

12. Use credit cards with rewards

pay using credit card

Image credit: TheSmartLocal

Financial savviness comes in many forms, and you can take advantage of credit card benefits to accumulate cashback, miles, or rewards during your reno journey, as u/mifenmian further shared.

“As you’ll be making lots of big ticket purchases, it’ll be wise to use credit card(s) with your choice of perks – either cashback or miles. Since you’ve already saved the cash [on hand], using the credit cards first then making sure you pay them off each month helps to [milk] additional [benefits] out of the money that you’ll be spending anyway.”

Bonus: Try not to take any renovation loans

thinking of taking renovation loans

Image credit: TheSmartLocal

Unless you are holding onto loads of spare cash when buying your house, you’ll likely need to take up a mortgage. Speaking for most homeowners, that’s no easy debt to clear. So, as much as possible, try not to take up a renovation loan as it will only put more unnecessary stress on your finances.

How to afford your HDB renovation & cut costs

Building a dream home calls for an exciting new adventure, but it’s easy to get carried away with building our Pinterest feeds and collating our dream furniture without being mindful of its affordability. 

This is so especially if it’s your first home – you wouldn’t want to empty your bank accounts over your renovation, only to have to scrimp on your day-to-day living for years afterwards. By giving thought to these cost-saving methods, your HDB reno can go easy on your wallet and turn out just as beautiful once it’s done.

Other ways to save money for your HDB:

Cover image adapted from: @savana.arq, TheSmartLocal

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