My husband and I have been researching through ID companies and contractor companies to renovate a resale HDB we bought in Punggol. However, due to our tight budget and tight timeline (we had to do the renovation before the Chinese 7th month and move in within 2 weeks after getting the keys), we had a hard time trying to find the right ID or contractor. We had asked for quotes through renovation forums which proposed a minimum of 5 different ID or renovation companies each, and my husband had even asked for some of his contacts who are working as IDs, to give a quote. My husband was prepared to give the entire renovation project to his contact.
We had also research online to have some ideas of what we would like our home to be like and base on the tight budget we have, we are prepared to see what works and what we can do to stretch the dollars. We gave the same basic requirements to the ID and renovation companies, as well as our budget, and asked for a quote from there.
However, our experience is that most of the ID companies and even renovation companies are quoting us way beyond our budget, not to mention some of these companies even told us that their quotes do not even include certain fees which they cannot give upfront and which are hidden cost to us. Some of these companies we met were quite pushy and asked us to sign up with them the first time we met by putting a signature and deposit. Another company also kept trying to push us to confirm them (even though they are quite expensive) and said that it is because we have a tight timeline for the renovation. Then there were companies where we gave them all the information, i.e. floor plan, existing conditions, but they did not even get back to us on a quote and basically MIA, even though we had followed up and tried to give them a chance to come back to us.
Luckily for us, one of the ID person we met is Ken from Areana Creation. The very first meeting with Ken, he came down to my office during my lunch hour (I work in an industrial zone and my office is not easily accessible to MRT etc) knowing that I am tied up at work and can only spare lunch hours.. The meeting was a very pleasant one, as I had already met 3-4 other IDs/ renovation contractors, and I knew the experience was less than ideal, as after the previous meetings, I was left feeling either the IDs person does not clearly have an idea what I will like to do for my home, or they are pushing me to go for something which is way beyond our budget.. With Ken, Ken understands we have a tight budget and tight timeline, but the first thing he understood was what kind of ideas we like, and what we like our home to be like, i.e. the feeling of home to every individual family/ couple. Then base on our ideas, he will propose alternatives if what we initially thought of is really too expensive, i.e. we were initially thinking of building a stone wall as feature wall, but it will be too expensive and later we discover that what we like is minimalist design so a simple yet elegant feature wall for the TV area will bring out the life and the feel in our living room also, i.e. cosy and simple. Ken proposes alternatives, taking into considerations what we like, and giving suggestions on things we have not known or thought about so that we can make an informed decision. Ken also does not push us to go expensive stuffs, i.e. if we wanted to do something that he feels is not worthwhile the price, he will give us his two cents worth so that we do not end up paying for something which is not practical and cost us more at the end of the day.
Throughout the entire process, Ken followed up with us promptly, and he even prepared some drawings to show us during our 2nd meeting to give us an idea of how the design will look like, base on our initial requirements given to him. And the drawings have been done even before we had confirmed Ken for the renovation project, as we only made the cheque deposit payment during the 2nd meeting, and the drawings were prepare before that (I had the first meeting and discussion with him, and had also some email correspond and phone calls and sms where he asked to understand our needs and requirements, before the 2nd meeting).
When we had to choose the lights / fan/ accessories for our house, Ken brought us to respective shop to choose them, and he even told us that if we find that their quotes are too expensive, don’t buy from them, and if we buy something in bulk, Ken will help us to ask for a discount from the shop. This made me feel that he is not here to “chop” us but to try to get the best for us, as Ken will share with us what is the market price for certain items and if the prices quoted are reasonable or not.
Initially I was thinking if Ken has a website where I can look into his projects before we confirm him, but could not find anything. However, some of my husband’s ID contacts showed some portfolio, but did not get back to us or went MIA. Ken on the other hand, has proven to be reliable, trustworthy and he offers suggestions on how we can save money while at the same time offering us advice from an ID point of view what would look nice and practical and what not. His quote is also among the most reasonable, in fact the most competitive even compared to some renovation contractor companies which are not ID companies. The renovation contractor companies did not even meet up with us and only quoted us from an email I sent to them, and they also did not ask for a meet up. The few thousand dollars that we had saved from engaging Ken (instead of other IDs/renovation contractors), allowed us to buy more accessories and furniture.
Now that our flat is renovated and done up, we are very happy with the work done and the fact that we can shift in on time within 2 weeks of getting the house keys (Ken has arranged for his carpenter to start the carpentry work 1-2 weeks before us getting the house keys so that the renovation work can be completed on time for us to shift in, and to rush the timeline to start the renovation before the Chinese 7th month). All these would be have excuses or reasons for other IDs to quote us a much higher price and our experience would not have been so pleasant if not for Ken. Overall, we are treated like a friend and not just a customer.
After the entire renovation is completed, I asked Ken why he did not have a website and some references/testimonials online, as it is quite common that consumers go online to check for project references for renovation; Ken’s reply is very humble and said he has always relied on word-of-mouth and referrals from clients he has serviced, and has not thought of asking for any recommendations or referrals (and I told him he should do so, because he has done a good job).
Because of the service rendered, and the very good experience we had with Ken, I really think that he deserves to have more people knowing about what he can offer, and hence even though I am quite tied up with work and family, I wanted to take the time to let people know our experience to show our appreciation for the work Ken has done. I hope that by sharing our experience, home owners / couples especially young couples who have a tight budget will be able to benefit from choosing the right IDs/contractors for their home renovation.