In this day and age of higher prices for almost everything, it can be worthwhile to have a few tricks up your sleeve when it comes to paying for big-ticket items. With real estate values near all-time highs, moving is often not an option for families that need more space, or even just something a little different. But a renovation might be — and you could boost your home equity in the process. I’ve got a hot tip to help you get the most out of your renovation budget.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall?
It’s certainly no secret that the people in the world of construction are busy in the best weather months of the year. In spring and even summer, it’s easy to line up a lot of work and get it knocked out quickly, since the weather is generally cooperative, both indoors and out. These guys are busy during the sunshine months, not just because the housing market is hopping with homeowners getting their houses ready for sale, but also due to those last-minute repairs that must be made for a home to get all the way to closing.
But what about winter and fall? A lot of tradespeople report that they have a lot less to do, both because of the weather driving them indoors and because of the people who hire them having a lot less interest in having someone in their home during the holiday season. Depending on the specialty and the region, a lot of small contractors are left out in the cold, so to speak.
Seasonal discounts abound for homeowners
You may have never considered having your bathroom retiled in November or your basement painted in January, but for people in the trades, this is their slowest season, and the one that may need the most schedule-filling. It’s not just that they need some income during this period, but also that they need work for their team — skilled tradespeople aren’t easy to come by, and sidelining them risks these valuable players leaving for more interesting pastures.
According to Associated Builders and Contractors, the industry averaged more than 390,000 open jobs per month throughout 2022, which was the highest rate on record, and is only projected to grow through 2023 and 2024 as more and more tradespeople age into retirement. So, for small shops especially, it’s vital to keep the workers they have engaged and busy, even if that means not making very much money per project for the business overall.
That can mean big savings for you. For example, my arborist gives a 10% discount for work performed from November to January. I have a massive tree that practically has its own ZIP code, so for many reasons, winter is the best time to have anyone touch it without breaking the bank.
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How to score renovation discounts
It’s important to understand that not everyone is going to offer you a discount, and not everyone will like being asked for a discount directly, and not everyone will even tell you that you’re being given a discount if you have a job bid in the winter. The only way to be 100% sure is to have the same company come out in the spring to bid for the job and again in the fall.
But what you can do to ensure you’re getting the best price on your renovation is to have several companies bid the work you want done. This is important if you’re using a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or another kind of mortgage loan to pay for remodeling work anyway, so it’s good to get into practice getting multiple bids. Small shops are more likely to offer off-season discounts, but it never hurts to have a larger shop come in and take a look, too.
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You may also find that materials costs are slightly lower in the off-season, as many home improvement stores will have rapid-fire sales on all sorts of supplies, so it’s a bit of a double-win. Especially if the contractor will let you provide your own materials so you can be absolutely certain you’re hitting the sales.
Seasonality is the trick to get the most bang for your buck
Whether you’re trying to stretch your home equity money or you’re trying to add some value to your home so that a mortgage lender will give you a more favorable rate down the road, you’re far more likely to get the best renovation value by using seasonal demand swings to your advantage. It helps keep tradespeople busy and happy, and it helps you save money, so it’s really a win-win.