Ready to Renovate? Think Again! – Four Insights to Consider Before Renovating

The word “shiputzim” quickly enters the vocabulary of the English speaker who buys an apartment in Eretz Yisrael. While the word literally means “renovations,” it’s not as simple as it seems. Laying tiles may seem like a simple job, but before you embark on any renovations or construction in Israel, first read up on these four important things:

1)      Two is Better than One

An incompetent architect can make an expensive renovation practically worthless. While it may seem like a waste of money, it is a well worthwhile investment to hire two separate architects to give you their idea of what the space should look like when complete. Since each one is limited by his or her own mind and styles, getting two totally separate viewpoints will give you a myriad of new ideas and insights that will help you make the apartment as close as possible to the dreams you had of the perfect apartment.

2)      Is the Other Quote Really Cheaper?

Most cheap quotes are expensive by the time you’re done. When you price a construction job, the estimates can vary widely in range. It’s not uncommon for unscrupulous contractors to try to get their foot in the door by offering an unrealistically low estimate knowing full well that they will find excuses to charge more than they originally proposed. Don’t think that you can always go to beis din if he tries to pull schtik. It’s not worth it! Furthermore, there are some “honest” contractors who keep to their low end quotes precisely because they cut back on quality. You want the job done right the first time around even if it costs a little extra!

3)      Stick to the Plan

Once you’ve followed the above steps, make sure to stick to your original plan and don’t be persuaded by “special” bells and whistles that the contractor recommends. Budgets always rise during construction if you aren’t careful. Don’t start the work until you are absolutely certain what you DO and DO NOT want done. This is especially true for the kitchen, which people tend to leave for last and inevitably end up with high construction cost and delays.

4)      Time IS Money

It’s essential to make up a timetable that includes all the specific details so that you know what to expect and when to expect it. If you hire a construction supervisor to oversee the entire project, he will make sure everything happens in a timely manner, but if not, you have to make sure that the carpenter works within the same timeframe as the contractor, electrician, and plumber. Along with their tool box, contractors have a “wonderful bag of excuses” that allow them to constantly get away with delaying work for one reason or another. Some common excuses include, “the cement needs a week to dry,” or “today’s a Muslim holiday,” or “we’re waiting for a certain part to arrive.”

Make sure to stay on top of them and don’t let them get away with illegitimate excuses. The final 5% of the contractors’ fee should ONLY be paid two full weeks after you move in to the apartment and see for yourself that everything was built correctly and up to the right standards. It is also standard practice in Israel to keep the contractors on schedule by inserting a penalty clause into the contract by which the contractor must pay a set amount for each month of delay (usually the value of one month’s rent).

5)      Stick to the Contract

Sometimes, if a kablan is tight for cash, he will suddenly start working at a frantic pace, to try to convince you that the entire job will be done sooner than expected. “We’ll be finished in no time. Please pay the final installments now. . . .” Stick to your agreement and do not release any additional funds until the agreed upon stages of construction are complete! If you pay up, you can be guaranteed that the project won’t be finished until the last possible date.

The inverse is also true. When the kablan finishes a work stage, have the funds ready. Do NOT start putting them together only when the stage is finished. It’s not fair to the contractor who has workers to pay and other obligations to meet. When you see the point coming closer, prepare the money so it’s ready on time! This makes for an appreciate contractor and a happier end result for both of you!

No one said construction in Israel is easy, but if you stick to these four steps you will save yourself tons of headache and heartache. If you decide to go ahead without putting the proper time into doing it right – don’t forget that I told you so.

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Shia Getter is the CEO of the Shia Getter Group, a full-range real estate services firm in Jerusalem catering to the Anglo-Charedi Community. He is a noted expert, columnist, and author of Everything You Need to Know about Buying Real Estate in Israel (Feldheim 2014). He and his professional team are Israel’s one and only true seller’s and buyer’s brokerage. They provide a unique service by managing and maintaining your apartment and being completely responsible for the entire buying or selling process.

For more information and to schedule an appointment, call Sarah at 0208.150.6082 or email mail@thegettergroup.com.

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