Personal Finance

Don’t lose sleep over that dream home

Meera Siva | Updated on December 16, 2018 Published on December 16, 2018

Online tools, platforms can make the process a breeze

Doing or redoing interiors can be a tedious and stressful exercise for many home owners. For one, identifying professionals who will do quality work and complete on schedule is near-impossible. And the projects often go way beyond the initial budget. And, after all the hassles, the result may not be what you imagined.

Home owners can consider tapping into resources such as online platforms and tools when they start their home improvement project.

Full service

One option is to look at platforms that offer an end-to-end solution. These online portals often start with giving owners options to select designs. They can call to discuss with designers and other experts. Based on your inputs and budget, a design is created and improved upon. A work plan is given and implemented by a team of service providers.

Some service providers in this space include Design Cafe, HomeLane, Livspace, ContractorBhai, Urban Ladder and Pepperfry. Most of them work on a similar process with small differences. For example, getting started is free with Pepperfry; Urban Ladder charges ₹299 for consultation, but this can be adjusted against future purchases. What you pay at different steps also varies — Design Cafe requires 15 per cent of the estimated order to be paid at design and 35 per cent more when it is moved to production. Livspace charges 10 per cent to get started, 40 per cent for production and the balance 50 per cent before installation.

Services covered are wide-ranging, including design, civil works, custom furniture, plumbing and false ceiling. Fittings and furniture are typically customised, but some providers may limit the offering to what is in their catalogue or can be sourced without reworking.

Compared with offline providers, the advantage of online is that you can monitor the progress and be involved in the work. For example, ContractorBhai has a tool that lets you see the design in 3D for ₹12 per sq ft of carpet area.

There are also tools and data on costs of different materials and services. You can also be assured of quality, as the work is typically done in-house or by verified service partners. Warranties are given for the work and the products supplied. Pepperfry, for example, offers a five-year warranty on modular furniture such as those in kitchens. Another advantage is that many providers have also partnered with lenders to help you get loans for the project.

Do it yourself

If the project is simple or you have a flair for design, there are ways to cut costs and do it yourself. You can take the help of online portals that offer blogs, kits and other tools. Homify, for instance, has a DIY section to provide various design ideas for projects.

You can also use many free or paid design visualisation tools. In case of painting, major paint-makers, including Asian Paints, Kansai Nerolac and Dulux, let you virtually try out paint colours on your walls by uploading a picture of your room. Besides free tools, you can also try out design software that are used by professionals. Infurnia, for instance, offers interior design software for a monthly subscription.

There are also tools to help you select furniture and home décor. For example, you can drag and drop different furniture with Urban Ladder’s interior design tool and create a 3D room view. If you are motivated, you can connect this to a Google Cardboard and get a virtual reality view of the room.

Other apps such as from Olive Theory let you identify and source furniture and home décor from a wide variety of places. You can upload a picture, and the app can find visually similar products from their many partner sites and source them.

You can also consider buying kits instead of individual components for your DIY project. Asian Paints sells painting kits that contain items, including roller, tape, paint and stencil sheet to add designs on walls.

Points to ponder

Before you sign up, do not be lulled by the website; check out the company’s reputation online and through references. Get a contract and take the time to understand costs. Providers such as Livspace charge a flat design and management fee of 7 per cent, while others come with different cost structures. You must also check the refund policy. Providers may only give a partial refund if you decide to cancel. Refunds may not be given if you quit at a later stage; you may get store credit rather than cash.

You must also budget for unexpected expenses. There may be unknown issues — plumbing leaks or structural defects — that become visible when you start work. Verify if the provider can offer these services and their costs early on.

Be sure to check out the best financing option, rather than go with the lender offered by the online platform. A top-up from your housing loan institution is a good option as the rate of interest is low and the monthly outflow will be lower with a long tenure. While opting for home renovation loans, consider multiple choices as many lenders offer this product.

The writer is an independent financial consultant

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