Definitely worth considering
Long-term readers may remember I bought an old flat last year (a 'manshon'). We'd actually been renting it for a while and liked the place, liked the neighborhood, and as we bought it from a friend, we got a great price.
However, it is both 25 years old and has been through the big earthquakes in 2011. It needs a bit of TLC and there are a few things we wanted to do to it to make it even more pleasant to live in.
There is a fair amount of work, so I decided to do it slowly, piece by piece. I'm not at all handy, so will be farming all the work out to contractors. I figure we'll probably get better deals (and better work done) by dealing with each job separately, getting quotes from a number of companies, and paying close attention to the work. I am guessing that if we rolled everything up into one giant job it'll be much harder to keep track of and would probably cost more.
Here's my rough plan (each step will be handled separately, as time and money allows):
- Make the house warmer (double/triple glazing, etc.)
- Ventilation (mechanical heat recovery)
- Remodel bathroom
- Remodel kitchen
- Wallpaper/interior design
We just completed stage 1, and I think my plan to space things out was a good one. If we were dealing with all six of the above at once right now, I would be completely overwhelmed.
This was a relatively simple job: install inner windows and a second, inner door to isolate the front door. In Japan the outside of manshons, including windows and doors, are commonly owned and it's difficult to get permission to make changes -because of this the inner window is very common. Basically you install insulated windows inside the current windows, which stay in place. It's a quick and relatively easy job to install the windows, which are made to measure and just need to be slotted into place.
I learned many things. The first was the importance of talking to and getting quotes from several companies. The range of quotes was incredible, with the most expensive being twice what we ended up paying. Talking to different companies is also useful as you can learn about what the job will entail, which makes it easier to negotiate and check work.
The second thing I learned is that it is vital to know what you are talking about and be very precise with what you are ordering. We ended up getting Lixil Inplus windows, and by talking to another company I learned that there are four types (from single pane to double pane funky glass). Going back to the company we eventually went with I discovered they had assumed we wanted the cheapest, whereas we actually wanted the highest quality (which were only slightly more expensive). I managed to get the contract changed before we signed it.
We also got an interior door built. This is less common than the double glazing, so I had to really help the company figure out how to accomplish the job. We had two problems: they assumed we'd want the door to open to the left, while I wanted it to open to the right, and they decided to go with the medium size (doors come in three sizes here apparently!) while all the other doors in our flat are large. Fixing both of these required the building work to be rescheduled, although it was of course all done at their expense.
We're also eligible for government subsidies, as shown on the form below. We should get 76,000 yen back at some point.
The whole thing took about six months and required a lot of back and forth. The company was fine and didn't try to charge us more, but it's been a fairly stressful experience trying to co-ordinate and renegotiate (and find time to be home to supervise the work).
Still, it's finished now and the results seem very worth it. The flat is much warmer and more pleasant to be in, the noise from outside (we live on a main road) has almost disappeared, and we don't need anywhere near as much heating as we used to. I'll have to see what this does to our electric bills, but I'm expecting a significant reduction in both winter and summer.
With the subsidies the job cost just under 470,000 yen, so purely in terms of money I expect we'll easily make it back within ten years, and the quality of life boost in the meantime is huge. Well worth it in my opinion and I'm really happy we did this. I also learned a lot, which should help with future stages :)
Anyone else have similar or different experiences with home improvments?