Bargain-hunting can lower renovation costs (2024)

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — I’ve never visited the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel in Denver, but I can pretend.

That’s because I have a stainless steel soaking tub in my master bathroom that’s made by the same company that built the custom tub for the Four Seasons spa.

It’s not that I have a limitless budget, but I temper my expensive taste in bathrooms with discount shopping. A look around my master bath is a primer on where to find bargains: display models, clearance sales, Craigslist, eBay and architectural thrift stores (also known as repurpose or re-use stores).

For instance, I found my Japanese soaking tub for half price on the manufacturer’s website.

“It was the luck of the timing,” said Diamond Spas Inc. owner Stephanie Bennett. The company was selling its display models before moving into a new facility in Frederick, Colorado.

I picked my tub up in person, but many other buyers only saw photos and then paid to have their purchase crated and shipped, Bennett said.

While that’s riskier, I’ve done it too. After seeing an ad for the Kohler WaterHaven shower, I searched online and found one on Craigslist in Minnesota. With a $6,300 retail price, it features dual telescoping shower heads, four body-sprays and a hand shower. I paid $1,000, including delivery, since the seller’s brother was moving to Colorado.

Research is key to a good deal. Learn if the item will have a manufacturer’s warranty and, especially with plumbing, comes with all the components, or what their replacements will cost. Inspect items carefully for dings and defects, and decide if you can live with them.

Since many contractors — including plumbers, electricians and designers — buy items discounted and then charge customers full price, know beforehand if the workers you hire are willing to forgo that markup and use your products.

Cathy Ratschowsky of Fort Collins bought granite for her vanity remodel at an auction. Before that, she priced out remnants and compared bullnosing costs. She also asked about charges for picking the piece up from the auction site. That gave her an idea how much she could spend and still get a bargain.

“I had to be flexible,” she said. “I couldn’t fall in love with just one piece.”

Discount renovation shopping isn’t for everyone. It won’t work for those who have set ideas what they want, or those on a tight schedule. It takes patience and persistence.

When I was working on the bathroom remodel, I’d stop in to a repurpose store every few weeks, and check its website and Twitter feed to monitor new donations.

That paid off when I found a 58-inch concrete trough sink that was perfect for our space.

I wanted to know if it had been donated because of a defect, so I called the manufacturer. It turned out it was a demo they’d made to try out a new design. I also learned it hadn’t been sealed, so I factored in that expense.

Interior designer Carin Atterbury of Surface shops for her clients at the Pratt & Larson Tile Outlet Store in Portland, Oregon, where handmade ceramics sell for about 75 percent off retail.

“There needs to be some design forethought into using their close-out material, because the colors are limited and the quantities are limited and there is no trim,” she said. But “it’s definitely a great resource if you need a small quantity for a pop of color or a pop of design.”

Tile is often available at clearance sales, faucets are sold off floor models when the style is no longer current, and display boards with towel bars and toilet paper holders cost pennies on the dollar when they are retired.

Some bargain-hunting hints:

— Ask plumbing and bath stores if they sell floor models or seconds, and if they have clearance sales.

— Subscribe to mailing lists for auction houses.

— Use the Internet to track down an item you like. Set up an alert for the item on eBay.

— Scrutinize items before buying. Most are non-refundable.

— Check the spec sheets and see if your contractor is willing to inspect the item. A plumber I know found hairline cracks in a clearance-room bathtub, and my sink faucets required expensive metric connectors.

— When possible, buy from a business. If there are problems, they’re more likely to help you sort it out.

— Make sure you buy more tile than you’ll need to allow for breakage. An extra 10 percent is recommended.

— Consider delivery or shipping costs, and think about where you’ll store the item until it’s time for your remodel.

Since renovating on a budget requires flexibility, I ended up with things that didn’t work. For instance, a Dorbracht floor-mounted tub filler that I bought at a tent sale before I bought my soaking tub turned out to be too short.

Since I couldn’t use it, I did what anyone on a budget would: I resold it to a fellow bargain-hunter.

Bargain-hunting can lower renovation costs (2024)


How does HGTV do renovations so cheaply? ›

We're sorry to say that HGTV renovation costs aren't often realistic. One of the things that makes HGTV renovations so cheap is that they are frequently operated on labour donated to them by companies in return for publicity.

How much money should you spend on renovations? ›

You don't want to spend more than 10 to 15 percent of your home's value on a single room. If you spend more, the value of the renovation will not proportionally add to the value of your home. For example, if your home is worth $100,000, the maximum you should spend on a kitchen or bathroom renovation is $15,000.

Do renovation shows pay for renovations? ›

These policies are commonplace for HGTV home renovation shows. According to the network, "Homeowners have to come up with the money for the projects. While HGTV doesn't front the bill...the network does, at times, contribute construction funds to help enhance and speed up projects for television."

Is it less expensive to build or renovate? ›

In most cases, a home that needs renovations is going to be cheaper than new construction. It is important to understand what you are getting into when you buy a home to renovate, however. If the costs of the renovations are too high, then you won't have much of a return on your investment.

What is the 30% rule for renovations? ›

The 30% rule is a practical guideline in home renovation.

It helps you renovate without risking overspending. The 30% Rule advises keeping your renovation budget within 30% of your home value in the market.

Is $100,000 enough to renovate a house? ›

With a $100,000 budget, you can accomplish a significant amount of renovation work, particularly if you prioritize your project goals and work closely with an experienced team like Multigroup Contracting.

How does house hunters renovation work? ›

In House Hunters Renovation, our buyers look for a new home that is anything but turnkey. Watch as they tour three potential homes and ultimately choose the one that's waiting for their special touch. Then stay as they renovate and decorate, ultimately revealing their new space.

Do people pay for renovations on this old house? ›

But before you get too excited, be aware that the renovations are completely funded by the homeowners and not “This Old House,” though the show coordinates product discounts and donations where possible. All donated items are considered gifts, on which the homeowners pay taxes.

What is the fakest show on HGTV? ›

'House Hunters' Is Totally Fake

House Hunters invites viewers along on a journey, as would-be homeowners search for their perfect pad. The reality is that most of these people have already found their dream home before HGTV steps in.

How do you depreciate renovation costs? ›

You depreciate these capital improvement costs over 27.5 years for residential rentals and 39 years for commercial property. Each year, you'll deduct a portion of the depreciation. Minor: These are smaller renovations like simpler repairs and maintenance that don't drastically improve the property.


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