Talking with Amy Matthews about affordable, organized home improvement projects
Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with HGTV and DIY Network host and contractor Amy Matthews. We discussed home improvements, how to pay for them, and practical tips on how to manage kitchen makeovers, bath renovations or other home improvement projects you may be thinking about in the new year. So, without further ado, here’s our conversation with Amy Matthews:
What do you advise for people who think they can’t afford home renovations?
We all have a budget. It is no fun if you go over that budget as it can cause emotional, mental and financial stress. Separate your must-haves from your want-to-haves and start putting together pictures of the renovations you desire to implement. You must have a photo to visualize, and Pinterest is a great designing tool for that. In fact, I have an active Home Improvement Pinterest board for my clients to grab visual inspiration from as well.
Piecemealing a home project is not the way to go, and someone planning this kind of home improvement should have all parts of the renovation lined up and ready to go before they start to prevent excess costs. Any desired product needs to be heavily researched and a contractor’s stock product is not always the best route to take regarding your specific budget needs. Don’t sell yourself short, but be realistic. I have 6 easy steps to narrow down what to do when people think they can’t afford a home renovation:
- Be realistic about your budget
- Decide where you will get the best Return on investment (ROI)
- Separate your needs from your wants
- Design your space like a designer would from the ground up to ensure the best-finished product
- Be ready for surprises and always build 10% into your budget for contingencies
- Remember there are creative ways to save money on a product so you can splurge on the design elements that you want and save on the parts that you need
What was the most creative way someone paid for a job?
I have these two friends. One is a hairdresser and the other is an electrician. The hairdresser needed lights installed in her kitchen, so she traded services with the electrician so his wife could have her hair done. They cut costs and bartered services!
What was the most challenging renovation you’ve ever had to deal with?
On an episode of Renovation Raiders, I had a crew of 7 guys to renovate the attic of a 1920s home into a beautiful master bedroom and bathroom and we only had one day. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, our large TV and demo crew of 25 (When you’re shooting a TV show, there are a TON of people behind the scenes) only had a tiny staircase to get up and down from the attic while we moved large materials, tools and product to and from. We needed a second option, so we built a slide from the second story window to the ground, in order to get the demo’d materials out of the space. The couple that was being surprised on the show was enjoying a nice day on the ski slopes and were finishing up too early, so I had to get the ski location in on the action by asking them to stop the lift and leave the couple dangling for a little longer and then have the husband (who was in on the surprise) take his wife to the Chalet and warm up with dinner and hot cocoa.
This particularly challenging episode was filmed on the coldest day of the year and the temperature was negative 4 degrees and the materials kept freezing! By the time we were done with the project, the master bedroom and bathroom came out beautifully, but it was probably the most challenging renovation I faced on the show and we were all really, really cold.
Which kinds of projects have the best payoff on overall home value?
Kitchens and baths. Those are the areas that sell houses. Curb appeal is also crucial, but curb-appeal projects need to be planned about a year in advance so that the freshly landscaped garden has time to grow. New front doors add value as well, because they make such a big impact and are a good return regarding cost vs. value. If anyone is curious about how to calculate their cost vs. value before they begin this kind of work, a great tool can be found on remodeling.hw.net. It’s actually calculated as if a contractor was doing it.
How did you get into all this?
I was introduced to home improvement at the age of 14, when I was helping repair homes for families in need across the country. On one particular project, I was tarring a tin roof in 110-degree weather in Tennessee. The roof was so hot, that the rubber on my tennis shoes was melting onto the roof. I had previously done some repelling and so I thought it would be funny to make a harness and tie myself to the chimney just to be safe. From that moment on, I was hooked on the excitement of a renovation and a challenge. Later on in life, I was asked to audition in the Twin Cities to host a new DIY network TV show and decided to give it a shot. When I had my audition, everything just clicked. I was able to share content about home renovation in a way that the audience would be able to understand. I loved connecting the dots between inspiration, education and entertainment. I got the callback and the rest is history.
Are you seeing more and more women doing their own renovations?
Absolutely. Without a doubt. Women have started taking on larger projects and doing it themselves. Not only are they doing these larger projects, but they are motivating them within the market and motivating their families to be involved as well. On a large scale, I’d say the nature of the industry has changed. However, I am still an anomaly. There are still not many female contractors that are in this industry.
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