Renovation Discoveries from Sweeten’s Summer Interns!

by Shera Nuss


This summer, we’ve been fortunate to be joined by Josh, Ron, & Kevin — Sweeten’s summer intern fleet! These guys have been impressing our team with their enthusiasm and insightfulness for the last 6 weeks, and today, they’ve outlined some of their favorite discoveries so far about the notoriously obscure and daunting process of renovating in NYC.


Josh on how renovating is much more complicated than Home Improvement

Before starting at Sweeten, my knowledge of home renovations came from re-runs of Tim Allen’s 90’s sitcom, Home Improvement. I always thought that home renovations were an easy process that only required some time and money -but of course, I was wrong. I quickly learned that there is so much more that goes into the home renovation process, the foundation of which is trust.

Without trust, a general contractor will have hesitations while doing his/her job and a homeowner will be uncomfortable throughout the process because of a lack of confidence in the contractor. This has been the norm in the industry until Sweeten came along. I’ve seen that Sweeten has done a great job in making sure that both the homeowner and the contractor are matched well and that each has a foundational trust in the other prior to starting the renovation process. Sweeten incorporates references and bios for contractors that serve as a good way to put a personality behind the contractor’s company name and logo. Since the renovation process can last weeks or months, Sweeten knows it’s important to facilitate the growth of a healthy working relationship between a homeowner and a contractor.

Sweeten makes a big difference in the process for the homeowner and the contractor, breaking the traditional system to help ensure a safe and satisfying experience for all involved in the home renovation process.

Josh is a rising college senior, studying finance at Babson College – Spirit animal: Wolf – Favorite LES lunch spot: Prince St. Pizza – Favorite Sweeten blog post: What to Expect When Combining Apartments


Ron’s realizations about the true work of a General Contractor

Coming into my summer internship at Sweeten, I was pretty much clueless about the renovation process in general, and in NYC in particular. Perhaps being part of the “now generation”, where everything other than instantaneously is not satisfactory, I just thought it could not be such a big deal. Boy was I wrong – I just did not realize how many aspects are there to a renovation project, and how costly and timely process it can become.

There are a couple parts that really surprised me about the process. The first one is that a General Contractor is skillful and knowledgeable, but he or she cannot do everything. While the actual work is being done by a contractor, they are neither a designer nor an architect, and if as a homeowner you have no clear vision of the space, you will need one of those guys as well. Second is the number of things that a contractor needs to take into consideration, aside from the work itself, especially in apartment buildings, are insane. He has to please the neighbors, the superintendent, the doorman, and the freight elevator operator. He has to plan his materials size according to the elevator size, doors, and stairs. Finally, he has to find and pay for parking (or tickets) or, at times, hire a designated person to stay in the car.

Realizing these facts and much more, I now clearly understand why so many homeowners get frustrated and choose Sweeten to help them in the process!

Ron is a rising senior studying Economics & Philosophy at Columbia University – Spirit animal: Tasmanian Devil – Favorite LES lunch spot: Gaia Italian Cafe – Favorite Sweeten blog post: Who do I hire, first?


Kevin on the costs, considerations and timeline of renovating

As a person who has never done or even considered renovation, I was clueless about the industry and business of renovating homes. But, in my time interning here at Sweeten I have gone through a fair amount of data about projects and have found some interesting things. When homeowners post their projects, many have no idea how much their budget should be or what it is exactly that they want. I would have done the same and thought that material costs and labor costs would pretty much cover it but there are so many elements that must be considered for a renovation. Plumbing work, permits, and inspects costs among other things can add up to thousands of dollars alone. Then you have to consider quality of labor and materials that go into the project which can start as low as $100 per square foot to as much as $2,000 per square foot depending on the customization of the project.

Of course costs are on everyone’s mind during the process, but the most surprising thing for me is the amount of time and planning it takes prior to the actual renovation. Clearly the actual renovation takes a significant amount of time and preparation, but that’s only half of it. It often takes almost 2 months to find the right contractor, and deciding between estimates can take a month alone.

Kevin is a rising college sophomore, studying mechanical engineering at Binghamton University – Spirit animal: Owl – Favorite LES lunch spot: Lucky Plaza Restaurant – Favorite Sweeten blog post: Michael Vargas on Home Renovation & Appraisal Value in NYC


Many thanks to Kevin, Ron & Josh for sharing their keen observations – the Sweeten team is looking forward to working with you for the rest of the summer!

Explore other stories