image of nyc renovation team

You’re going to need a great NYC renovation team to get that transformation done. (Sweeten)

You’re finally ready to embark on renovating your NYC home. But while the final vision for the home is up to you, you’re going to need expert help to bring it to life. Since the array of professionals needed for a NYC renovation can be vast and confusing, we consulted the experts at Sweeten, a free platform that matches homeowners with vetted general contractors and monitors projects to completion. Here, we outline the members of the NYC renovation team you’ll need, why you need them, and how to find them.

The Architect

A licensed professional who makes sure the structure is sound, complies with building codes, and designs the space.

What they do: Typically, if your project is a whole-home project; a gut renovation; or involves major layout changes, moving walls, plumbing or gas lines; or is a landmark property, you’ll need to hire an architect. When you hire one, you can choose a full suite of services (planning and development, project management, and obtaining permits and approvals). Or, you can opt for select services, where the architect will focus on one part of the package offering, usually the planning and development stage.

image of nyc renovation plans

For a full gut renovation, you’ll likely need new plans from an architect. (Courtesy AlexAllen Studio)

For example, if you’re ripping out old items and replacing them in a kitchen, you could hire an architect for space planning and material selection. Many interior design and general contracting firms have started to offer those services to clients.

How to find one: Asking a friend or colleague for a recommendation is a great place to start, as is contacting your local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Whichever way you decide, it’s important to keep a couple of questions in mind to ensure a successful match. Are they familiar with the logistics of the location, property values and comparison properties (to avoid over-designing/investing)? Have they worked with clients successfully at your price point and scope?

Manhattan 2BRs Under $800K Article continues below

The General Contractor

A licensed professional who handles all things related to construction to fulfill your vision.

What they do: General contractors manage the project from start to finish, securing proper licenses (sometimes the architect will oversee this process) and insurance; coordinating and overseeing subcontractors and deliveries; defining the work and payment schedule; communicating with architects and engineers; and providing skilled labor.  There are also design-build firms, which offer a full package of design, construction, and project management services with a single point of contact.

How to find one: Much like finding an architect, you’ll want to ask around for general contractor recommendations. A great way to start is by checking with someone in your building who has already completed a renovation. That way, you can see their craftsmanship and how it has held up. Plus, you’ll know they’re familiar with any location-specific logistics or rules.

There are also matchmaking services, like Sweeten, which has “a multistep application and vetting process for general contractors that covers license, insurance, work experience, references and client service skills,” says Jean Brownhill, Sweeten founder and CEO.

The Mortgage Broker

A licensed intermediary who brings together mortgage lenders with borrowers looking for loans to complete their renovation.

What they do: These financial professionals act as the bridge between you and a variety of lenders to secure the loan you need for a renovation. They help originate loans, connect you with banks who are the best fit for your financial situation, secure the best interest rates possible, and assist with the necessary paperwork to make the financing come to fruition.

Article continues below

More on Renovating in NYC

How to find one: Aside from asking an acquaintance, you could ask for a recommendation from a real estate agent you trust.

The Interior Designer

Responsible for the planning and design of interior spaces.

What they do: An interior designer’s expertise includes space use and flow, color palettes, choosing art, and managing the acquisition of materials such as fixtures, furniture, and lighting. This is a distinction from a decorator, who typically helps with surfaces (window treatments, trims, floor coverings) and is not as deeply involved in the construction plans.

How to find one: Reading design-specific publications is a great place to start. Magazines like Architectural Digest and Elle Décor, for example, provide you their top picks in New York.

The Inspector

Enforcers of the NYC Building Code and NYC Zoning Resolution.

What they do: Throughout major construction, the city will require several inspections, including plumbing and electrical. At the end of the project, a final inspection is performed for the Department of Buildings to sign off on the job and close the permit. An inspector acts as the eyes for the Department of Buildings to make sure the completed work is compliant with the filed plans.

How to find one: In this case, the general contractor or subcontractor in charge of securing the permits for particular parts of the project will be assigned an inspector by the Department of Buildings. Sometimes the architect can also self-inspect. But, typically, it’s assigned via the permitting process.

The Expediter

The middleman between the architect or contractor and the Department of Buildings.

What they do: This player shepherds the plans for a renovation project through the local governing agencies to get proper permissions and permits. They will stand in line at the Department of Buildings to file the documents necessary, manage the permitting process, explain building codes, and can help keep the renovation project on schedule and budget. That’s why their official name is “filing representative.”

Brooklyn 2-3BRs Under $1M Article continues below

How to find one: Usually, a contractor or architect will have someone they suggest. Otherwise, a quick Yelp search will yield many results. From there, check to see if they’re registered with the Department of Buildings and inquire about previous work. Rules and regulations can change block by block. So you want to make sure they know the ins and outs of your specific neighborhood and block.

The Building Architect and Superintendent

Other secondary players who may play a significant role in approvals, scheduling and access include the building architect (often an outside firm or architect living in the building who must review/approve all plans to ensure whatever work is being done is in line with the structural and functional integrity of the building) and the building superintendent. Also, while co-op and condo boards are not a “player,” exactly, you’ll of course want to check your alteration agreement with them before you renovate.

Inspired to find your next place in New York? Whether you’re looking to rent or to buy, search NYC apartments on StreetEasy.