If you haven’t heard of Sweeten yet, you will, especially if you’re looking to tackle a renovation on your home in the near future. That’s because Sweeten is a renovation matchmaker – much like the renovating Match.com. They connect homeowners with the best general contractor for your renovation along with a project advisor to provide support until the work is complete.
The New York-based company just expanded into Westchester and Fairfield County and the best part is, it’s absolutely free to the renovators.
We all know a renovation can be costly, take up a lot of time, have a lot of bumps in the road, and be stressful. And after founder and CEO Jean Brownhill went through a disastrous renovation of her Brooklyn home, she set out to fix the “broken” process. From that came Sweeten, which was founded back in 2011 by trained architects.
Here, Brownhill offers up some of her best advice for anyone embarking on a renovation of their own:
Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when entering a renovation?
A: “People tend to begin at the end — selecting their fixtures and finishes,” says Brownhill. “Inspiration is the easy part, but first spend real time defining what the dream is and planning. Take it one day at a time, and when you’re ready to start, hire your team.”
Q: What are the best tips you offer for someone entering a renovation?
A: “First, create a wish list with two columns: must-haves and nice-to-haves. Think of what’s motivating the renovation — that’s your priority and where to concentrate spending,” says Brownhill. “Next, decide on the budget,” adds Brownhill. (Check out Sweeten’s budget tips on their blog.) “Add an extra 10 percent to 20 percent as a buffer. Scoping the project typically means hiring an architect or general contractor to understand if filing is required. If you are not moving plumbing or electrical and not knocking down walls, a contractor may be able to handle it. If the work involves the house’s foundation or knocking down walls, you’ll need to start with an architect, then hire a contractor.”
Q: What do you offer to your clients?
A: “Let’s say you are a homeowner wanting to renovate your home. You go to Sweeten.com and share some project details. Based on those, we assign you a project advisor and match you to 3-5 screened general contractors based on location, scope, budget and style, and we check their availability. You choose which contractors you like best, arrange site visits and get estimates, which we can help you evaluate. Once a contractor is hired, Sweeten checks in along the way, to make sure the work is done right; we are with you from Pinterest to punch list. The contractors meet the “Sweeten standard”—a rigorous screening process based on our decades of experience in architecture and construction,” says Brownhill.
Q: Are you open to any kind of renovation?
A: “Our clients tend to want to transform their spaces,” says Brownhill. “Our projects range from a $15k bathroom to gut renovations with budgets well over $1 million.”
Q: What makes the perfect match between a client and a contractor?
A: “Most important is clear, aligned expectations and a good match of communication styles,” says Brownhill. “The contract should not only specify milestones, but also spell out frequency and mode of contact. Do you want a daily text? A phone call every Friday with progress reports/photos emailed in advance? Or to hear only if something is problematic? Keep in mind this professional will be around you and your family for months. Consider the people in your life you work well with and hire a pro with those same qualities.”
Q: Who is your dream client?
A: “It honestly has nothing to do with budget… the dream client is someone who has clear, realistic expectations, which we meet — and exceed. Someone who understands this is a collaborative effort and approaches it in a positive way. Being overly stressed can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sweeten’s mission is to help people build their dream space, and to enjoy the process as much as the result,” adds Brownhill.