Living in a space being renovated is often perceived as a headache. But for multifamily owners and residents, a thoughtfully managed renovation can actually be a big win for everyone involved.

Multifamily owners and developers who have lived through an occupied renovation project know the potential hazards: frustrated residents, missed timelines, poor planning, extended schedules, sloppy subcontractors, weak project communication, and, of course, relocation costs, and headaches.

Kyle Weaver, managing director of affordable housing at Katerra, understands this. Katerra’s team specializes in occupied renovations of affordable housing communities. “We save the owner relocation costs. That not only means a delighted resident but also more budget dollars for other project needs,” Weaver says.

What’s the secret to a successful resident-friendly renovation? Weaver advises any owner who’s considering interior or exterior upgrades to keep several factors in mind:

  1. The 30% Rule. Recognize about 70% of the work in most renovation projects such as cabinets, countertops, flooring, and paint are comparatively easy to budget and schedule. The other 30%? “That’s the part that’s different on every project. In older projects, it could be asbestos, lead, solar, or project energy efficiencies. Every project has a different X-factor that must be accounted and properly planned for to complete the project successfully,” Weaver says.
  2. Pre-Construction Planning. Nailing down a comprehensive pre-construction plan is by far the greatest factor to project success, according to Weaver. What are the owner’s requirements? What is the project timeline? When will the specified materials arrive? What are the limitations or constraints of the site? How do you assemble the best internal and external team for each specific project? What does the state and city require? How can previous projects inform this one?
  3. Resident Relocation. Make sure the general contractor (GC) does everything possible to keep residents in their home through skilled planning, great communication, strict oversight, and training of project subcontractors. Occupied renovation projects are not business as usual for most trade professionals.
  4. Material Discounts. Learn how the GC helps you save every dollar possible on materials. Katerra manufactures key components and materials, while also utilizing a global supply chain and aggregated buying power across a national platform. Since material costs comprise more than 50% of a multifamily renovation budget, successful material buyout is critical.
  5. GC Experience. Verify the GC is staffed with veteran professionals in occupied renovations. Are they prepared to train local subcontractors in the special expectations of an occupied renovation? What is the GC’s track record? How do they perform in tough permitting states like California? Do they inspire trust and confidence through rigorous, comprehensive pre-construction planning? Do they offer in-house architects skilled in budget-smart design? Do they staff projects appropriately to ensure exceptional management and oversight?

Weaver says Katerra goes beyond traditional contractor expectations to deliver exceptional owner value and resident satisfaction. “We work on occupied renovation projects throughout the U.S. It’s gratifying to see how residents respond to the transformation of their home with new cabinets, flooring, and fixtures,” he says. “We recognize each project directly impacts lives and communities.”

There is also an impact to property owners. “Owners are recognizing the value of occupied renovation programs and moving towards this model on most of their affordable housing properties,” says Weaver.

A successful occupied renovation program improves asset value, life span of the property, and enhances resident satisfaction. Plus, saving on resident relocation allows owners to reinvest in other property areas to their benefit and to the benefit of all who call these properties home.