5 savvy ways to save on resale flat renovations

9 min read

With the average waiting time to acquire a BTO flat between four to six years, many have pivoted to purchasing from the resale market. If you’ve managed to snag a home for yourself, congratulations! Now you’re faced with what will probably be the second biggest expense in your life after buying your flat – renovations.

Building your dream home is a rewarding yet daunting journey that consumes a significant amount of both time and money. Furthermore, no thanks to Covid-19, you’re facing an increase of up to 20% in renovation costs due to the shortage of both manpower and materials.

To make your renovation journey easier on your wallet, here are 5 ways you can save on your renovation costs. 

How much does a HDB renovation cost?

First off, let’s get an idea of how much you would need to pay for a renovation. Based on the figures from renovation portal Qanvast, the cost of renovating a resale flat will set you back anywhere from S$40,000 up to S$79,000. 

HDB resale flat type Estimated prices in 2020
3-room S$40,000 to S$55,000
4-room S$45,000 to S$52,000
5-room S$59,000 to S$79,000

Keep in mind that these are just ballpark figures. There are other factors to consider, such as:

• The size, age and current state of your resale flat
• If hacking or other extensive work is required
• The extent of your desired renovation
• Which contractor or interior designer you go with
• The types of materials used
• Cost of other furnishings and appliances  

Suppose you’ve picked a resale that’s fresh out of a 5 year Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP). In that case, chances are that the unit is still in pretty good condition, especially if the previous owners have done their own renovation. 

To save money, you can consider living with the previous renovation for a few years before deciding to change it up. You may be surprised just how much a new coat of paint can completely transform a room and make it look brand new. 

painting house
Nothing like a fun weekend bonding over painting your new home

Living in your home before renovating will give you a better idea of what you truly want and need for your space.  

Older units tend to have more wear and tear that naturally comes with age. Higher costs may also be incurred, such as hacking off existing work and dismantling incompatible components such as air-con piping. 

1. Opt for loose furnishings

While built-in cabinets might be more space-efficient and customised to your specific needs, they are more expensive compared to getting freestanding furniture. 

Furthermore, it may be a disadvantage if you decide to sell your home. Future buyers may not like your custom floor-to-ceiling display for your Marvel figurine collection and decide to hack it off. This may result in them trying to get a lower price on your flat to defray their renovation costs. 

With loose furnishing, you’re able to switch up the configuration of your rooms easily should you experience a lifestyle change, such as converting your office into a baby room.

A new addition to the family means converting a room into a nursery

Only go for built-in furnishing if you need to build around and conceal odd corners in your home to optimise the space. 

2. Renovate in phases

You don’t need to renovate your entire flat all in one go. Breaking it up into many small projects and renovating different areas of your home over a few years will be more manageable on your wallet. 

Some upsides are also learning from your renovation journey and avoiding making the same mistakes. This includes choosing materials, your likes and dislikes, and if you work well with your contractor or interior designer.

Consider which areas of your house you enjoy spending the most time in. If you’re an aspiring MasterChef and love testing out new recipes regularly, prioritise renovating the kitchen to your liking. 

Prioritise the areas for renovation

When I moved into my freshly MOP-ed resale flat, my partner and I could not stand the default BTO bathrooms. We immediately decided that the bathrooms were our top priority, followed by the kitchen. The rest of the house was left untouched, save for a fresh coat of paint. Use Qanvast’s renovation calculator to get a sense of how much you should set aside for each section of the house.

Kitchen. One area where built-in carpentry is unavoidable will be the kitchen. Unless your flat is in good condition, chances are you will need to demolish the entire kitchen and rebuild from the ground up. Expenditure includes countertops, kitchen cabinets, hob, hood, sink and other miscellaneous items. You can expect to spend about S$10,000 to S$15,000 on average, excluding appliances. 

Bathrooms. If you’re like me and consider the bathroom your sanctuary and spa, be prepared to shell out between S$10,000 to S$15,000 for both bathrooms. This includes built-in vanities, bathroom accessories, shower screens and vanity sinks. Should you decide to hack away the existing tiles and walls instead of going for an overlay, be prepared to pay another S$3000 to S$4000. 

Living and dining rooms. The most significant expense for renovating the living area will be carrying out masonry work on the floor. Be prepared to spend anywhere from S$8,000 to S$13,000. Opting for an overlay such as vinyl flooring instead of hacking will prevent you from burning a hole in your pocket. Alternatively, you can decide to polish your existing flooring and repair cracked tiles to save even more money. 

Bedrooms. Similar to the living room, the main cost of renovating your bedrooms will be the flooring. You may also decide to have a built-in wardrobe, which can cost anywhere from S$2,000 to S$3,000 for one bedroom.

Other overlooked costs. Allocate at least S$10,000 extra to tackle important work such as plumbing and electrical works, ceiling fans, aircon units and doors. 

3. Choose cost-effective alternatives

In the same vein as choosing freestanding furniture instead of built-ins, select wallet-friendly alternatives when designing your dream home. Customisation means tacking on higher bills to your already substantial renovation invoice. 

Instead of paying S$1000 to S$3000 for a feature wall, go for wallpaper or laminates instead. Alternatively, hang up some pictures or paintings to give your space a personal touch. Feature walls get outdated within a few years, so if you get sick of looking at the same wall, you’ll have to pay to uninstall it. 

Putting up frames doesn’t just save you money, it gives your home a personal touch. You can also easily change out the pictures

This extends to the rest of the house. Instead of building an entire bar, why not get a quirky bar cart to display your alcohol collection and glasses? 

If you hate how old and dirty the kitchen cabinets look, refurbish them by slapping on a new coat of paint or contact paper. These come in many different colours and textures to suit the mood you’re going for. Just by replacing the knobs, you can achieve a whole different look altogether. 

4. Don’t cut costs

That’s correct; you read it right. To save on your renovation, make sure to never cut corners by blindly picking the cheapest option. 

Contractors and interior design companies offer attractive prices and packages in this highly competitive industry. However, picking your home renovation based solely on price can only bring about the type of renovation nightmares you love reading about online. 

During my HDB renovation last year, I picked an electrician subcontractor off of Carousell. He appeared promising and reliable, based on his multiple good reviews. 

He gave me an affordable quote based on what I requested, and I thought it would be smooth sailing. Spoiler: It wasn’t. What was supposed to take a month to complete ended up dragging on for almost four times that. 

He didn’t have the proper tools on hand, and at best, his work was shoddy and haphazard. At one point, he even tried covering up his mistake of cutting into the wrong wall by blaming a random painter who was innocently painting the room! My partner was fuming mad and ended up throwing him out of our house altogether.

In the end, our main contractor ended up taking pity on us and taking over his project at a discount. I ended up shaving a few hundred dollars off my budget, but it cost me months of sleepless nights and undue stress. 

Remember; if you buy cheap, you might buy twice. 

5. Skip the smart home system

This may be an unpopular opinion in this modern day and age, but hear me out. Installing a smart home system might give you bragging rights to tell your friends how your curtains automatically open at the crack of dawn. However, building a smart home means pouring in anywhere from S$2,500 to an eye-watering S$20,000… which is not so smart if you’re trying to renovate with a tight budget. 

control lighting using smart tablet device energy efficient
You won’t be smiling when you realise how much smart home appliances cost

Not to mention the more intelligent your home is, the higher the risk of being hacked and having your security compromised. Once compromised, it’s easy for the hackers to perform several activities, such as stealing your bank account details or watching you through your home security cameras.  

The life cycle of technology is also pretty short, and you need to stay on top of either buying new gadgets or constantly updating the software, which will cost more in the long run. 

Just bought a resale flat and want to renovate? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook post.

If you found this article helpful, check out How to do up your home without taking a renovation loan and Seven homeowners and their biggest reno regrets.

Looking for a property? Find the home of your dreams today on Singapore’s fastest-growing property portal 99.co! If you would like to estimate the potential value of your property, check out 99.co’s Property Value Tool for free. Also, don’t forget to join our Facebook community page or Telegram chat group! Meanwhile, if you have an interesting property-related story to share with us, drop us a message  — and we’ll review it and get back to you.

Looking to sell your property?

Whether your HDB apartment is reaching the end of its Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) or your condo has crossed its Seller Stamp Duty (SSD) window, it is always good to know how much you can potentially gain if you were to list and sell your property. Not only that, you’ll also need to know whether your gains would allow you to right-size to the dream home in the neighbourhood you and your family have been eyeing.

One easy way is to send us a request for a credible and trusted property consultant to reach out to you.

Alternatively, you can jump onto 99.co’s Property Value Tool to get an estimate for free.

If you’re looking for your dream home, be it as a first-time or seasoned homebuyer or seller – say, to upgrade or right-size – you will find it on Singapore’s fastest-growing property portal 99.co.

Meanwhile, if you have an interesting property-related story to share with us, drop us a message here — and we’ll review it and get back to you.

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Reader Interactions


    • I like the idea about renovating in phases since it allows you to manage the overall budget budget much easily plus, it makes the process much flexible. Thanks for sharing!!1

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