Home renovation in New York City is a logistical obstacle course, and that’s putting it lightly. What you pay for, how it arrives, and what you can do with it all revolve around contracts with the city, the architect or the building.

We can’t solve every renovation hurdle you’ll encounter, but we can help give you a benchmark to be sure you’re on the right path.

Your Budget and What it Covers

Prices for renovations tend to be higher in NYC for a few different reasons, mainly revolving around access. Finding parking, arranging material deliveries, and even getting into the home can present major logistical complications. You may also need to pay engineering and architecture fees required by the city.

Don’t be shy about asking your contractor how to bring down that bill. You know what you want, and your contractor probably knows how to get you there if you allow for some wiggle room.

Speaking of “your contractor”, do be sure you have actually chosen the contractor. Your super probably has a recommendation, and you should consult with this person, but look for at least two or three other contractors for comparison pricing. Allow them to pitch you and you may be surprised at their approach or their ideas on cost saving.

Important Terms to Know

Here are a few of the important terms to know to help you in the contract phase:

  • Project Scope: This is the outline of work that you’re asking for. This part is extremely important because it defines what the contractor will and won’t do in your home (at least not without being paid more).
  • Milestones: Milestones are often used to define when a contractor is paid. It’s common to pay some upfront costs, and then a bit more towards the total cost upon reaching new milestones defined by the contract.
  • Liens and Waivers: Liens are scary, but waivers provide you some protection. Any contractor can claim work was done that was not paid for and place a lien on your property to try and reclaim their money. A waiver is like asking the contractor to “sign off” that work was completed and payment received.
  • Expediter: Approvals from the city can take anywhere from days to years. Contractors may utilize an expediter to speed up this process.
  • Alteration Agreements: Your building has certain rules for what can be done during a renovation. Make sure you’re not buying materials for a job you can’t do by familiarizing yourself with them.

Optional Upgrades that Make a Difference

Should you soundproof? Good question, because NYC never stops. Soundproofing is expensive, but can also improve energy efficiency with insulation. However, you can improve soundproofing by adding carpet, rugs, and art to your walls to try and dampen sound. Energy-efficient appliances, better lighting, and upgrades to closet storage are also practical upgrades that offer real benefits.

You can improve your home’s value, and its impact on your life, with the proper upgrades.


Become an insider