Dear APEX Clients,
- Projects in production – We are monitoring the health of our workers, our clients, and ourselves daily and will not go to work if anyone is not feeling well. When we do go to work we are taking extra precautions to keep our distance via additional containment barriers on the jobsites and asking clients to respect the new social distancing norms. We will also ask clients on a regular basis if they are comfortable with us continuing our work in their homes.
- Projects in design – Aside from the physical on-site need to take measurements, we are/will be using technology for all communications: email, teleconferencing, and when possible, video teleconferencing via Webex with presentation/whiteboard capability.
- Future projects – When possible, we are replacing on-site project previews with client “before” photos, sketches, and emails to assemble a general scope of work and render a ballpark budget range.
I expect projects currently in the design phase to continue into construction if essential services continue to be allowed to work.
APEX Construction Management
APEX projects are not just about making everything fresh and new. We recently completed a Vadnais Heights kitchen remodel where preserving family heritage was every bit as important as the granite counters, custom birch cabinets and new appliances.
Barbara’s dad had designed a wall of cabinets when she and her husband Pete bought their home. They wanted to keep the upper cabinet, which still was in decent shape after 17 years. APEX’s custom cabinetmaker matched the design for all of the new cabinets. He even incorporated the original flour and sugar bins in a lower cabinet drawer.
Keepsakes on display
Barbara also wanted to be able to display her grandmother’s fine English china, which had languished in boxes in the basement for years. Because space was limited, APEX Designer Lisa Stoll incorporated a built-in china cabinet with glass doors facing the dining area. Now Barbara can appreciate the pieces every day and access them on special occasions.
Meanwhile, Pete wanted the kitchen remodel to showcase the old bird clock that played different birdsongs on the hour and had guided family schedules since the children were young. “The morning dove means it is 7 o’clock. That was time to get the kids out the door for school. It’s been the way this family works for a long time. We know what all the bird sounds mean. It’s how we keep track of time,” Pete explained.
Lisa chose a dark stain for the panel over the new range to create an eye-catching accent surface for the clock that’s visible from the dining area.
Finally, the couple hated to lose the 17-year record of their children’s heights when we replaced the coat closet door in the dining area. This time, APEX Project Manager Matt Grudzielanek had the solution. He salvaged a foot-wide strip of the marked plywood from the old door and laminated it to the back of the new door, complete with the tiny childhood photos.
At APEX, we look for opportunities to preserve a bit of the past when we remodel because memories are what make a house a home. Our goal with every project is to enhance our clients’ quality of life at home. By taking time to get to know our clients, we can incorporate design element and features that make each project unique and special.
Kitchen remodel’s functional features
Still, APEX understands that it takes more than nostalgia to pull off a successful remodel. We also must conduct ourselves with integrity, stay on schedule and create an environment that’s attractive and works. This Vadnais Heights project features natural birch cabinets with soft-close drawers and doors, a deep undermount sink with spray-in spout faucet, two ovens, undercabinet and recessed ceiling lighting, easy-clean luxury vinyl flooring, and an upgraded electrical panel and new water heater.
Excellent Value, 5 ‘Ruff’ Rating for Kitchen Remodel
“I would definitely recommend APEX. The workmanship was high quality. What a pleasure it was to have people who are experts in their field do the work after living with the results of not-very-good DIY work,” Barbara said. “With APEX, you get an excellent value for your money. They’re not the cheapest, but I would not want to go with the cheapest anyway. “We had another contractor give us a quote that was so low and at the bottom it said, for an extra $500 he would file permits. I don’t want to work with somebody who is going to try to do it under the table. That’s not what I believe in. I’m not trying to cut corners because you pay a lot more in the long run.”
Barbara gives the entire APEX team high marks. “All the people who worked on the project did a great job. They also were very friendly and they were nice to our dog, Sparky, who can be difficult. It was a good experience,” she said.
Note to self: Restock trucks with treats.
“What will my remodeling cost?” is one of the first questions many homeowners ask APEX when considering a project. That’s fair. It’s not like they can go on Amazon and compare prices and features for a new kitchen or room addition. And how could they possibly know remodeling labor, materials and project management expenses.
Fortunately, Hanley Wood LLC, the nation’s biggest construction industry publisher, issues a report each year that estimates costs and resale payback (value) for dozens of common remodeling and replacement projects. The Remodeling 2019 Cost Vs Value Report draws on a leading construction estimating tool to price the jobs. Then it asks experienced Realtors from different regions to score how each project would impact the home’s resale value so it can calculate payback.
Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Costs
Here are a couple of examples. The report prices a mid-level quality major kitchen remodeling for our West North Central region at about $64,400 (62.1 percent payback) and an upscale kitchen at about $128,700 (59.7 percent payback). It pegs a mid-level bathroom remodel at about $19,600 (67.2 percent payback) and an upscale bath at $62,500 (60.2 percent payback).
I think this independent cost/value benchmarking provides APEX Construction Management clients with a valuable frame of reference. We share the link to the annual study because well-informed homeowners are our best clients.
Basis for Remodeling Costs
Like the study’s publishers, APEX doesn’t pull a big number out of the air based on what a similar project cost last year. Rather, we tally all of the tasks and materials that must be completed and add overhead and a reasonable profit. We build each estimate from the ground up, just like our award-winning additions.
As expected, the latest report shows that both project costs and values increased last year. Steel tariffs, skilled labor shortages and strong demand will do that. For instance, the authors noted that the cost of replacing a steel door increased 24 percent from the previous year. That’s also why our design estimates come with expiration dates.
You Come First
The value or payback part of the annual remodeling study reflects its source: Realtors. Once again, exterior facelift projects such as garage doors and stone veneer accents retain the most value because their costs are relatively low and they help to make a good first impression among prospective homebuyers. Realtors say this enhanced curb appeal raises price expectations.
Payback should be considered if you are improving your home to sell. In that case a minor kitchen remodel at $21,900 may be worthwhile. Realtors in our region say it should retain 80.5 percent of its value. But, in reality, most APEX clients tell us they plan to stay in their homes and are remodeling for themselves to improve their quality of life. As the study suggests, the composite deck will cost more than wood, but what is it worth to avoid sanding and re-staining every couple of years?
Download Complete Report
To learn more, download the complete Remodeling 2019 Cost Vs Value Report free here. Be sure to review the scope for each project so you understand how it compares to what you plan. If you have any questions, please contact me.
Although I earned my CAPS (Certified Aging In Place Specialist) credentials many years ago, I was eager to hear Louie Delaware from the Living In Place Institute in Colorado speak at the NARI MN meeting last week. I wanted to learn what’s new to help people live comfortably and safely in their homes for as long as they like.
While the information was very familiar, marketing of the design principals certainly has evolved. If Louie is right, it’s more about what you don’t say to get homeowners to adopt and invest in accessibility upgrades to their homes.
Making Accessible Design Appealing
He expained that the movemement toward barrier-free living started in the 1950s. The American Standards Association published the first acessibility standards in 1961. By 1973 some 49 states had adopted their own rules. Federal guidelines came in 1984.
The initial Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements applied to public spaces and businesses, not private homes. And many of the products designed to achieve accessibility looked decidedly institutional. The first focus was on people with physical disabilities. Later, the concept of Universal Design broadened the scope to benefit people of any age or ability. The idea was that accessible design could look attractive and make life easier, safer and more comfortable for everyone. That was followed by the “Aging In Place” buzzword, which spoke to the enormous Baby Boomer generation that wants to continue living independently in their private homes.
According to Louie, the trouble is that most people don’t want to focus on aging; they prefer to think about living. Which is why he founded the “Living In Place Institute” to teach and certify contractors and designers.
The principles are the same whether you call it Universal Design, Aging In Place or Living in Place. Good design is about more than good looks. It also should improve your quality of life at home, however and whenever that life changes.
Here’s just one example from Louie’s talk. Install a GFCI-protected electrical outlet behind your master bathroom toilet when remodeling the space. Use it for a nightlight now. But it will be available to support a bidet toilet seat down the road. Louie claimed inability to take care of personal toileting is what causes many people to enter a nursing home.
Bottom line, you can count on APEX to keep an eye on the horizon even if you a focused on the here and now.
Each year at this time, Remodeling Magazine publishes its annual “Remodeling 2018 Cost vs. Value Report” on the average cost of 21 popular remodeling and replacement projects and the value each would retained at resale. Not surprisingly, lower-cost curb appeal projects dominated the top 5 list.
The survey said installing an upscale garage door would actually be worth 12.6 prcent more than its $3,591 Minneapolis market cost. A $1602 midrange-quality steel entry door would hold onto 93 percent of its value. Replacing 300 square feet of vinyl siding with manufactured stone veneer around the entry would retain 91% of its $7,996 cost for third place. Number four was adding a $12,735 16×20 pressure treated wood deck at 79.7 percent. The only interior project was fifth-ranked mid-range quality Minor Kitchen Remodel. The report said it would retain 72.7 percent of its $24,351 cost.
According to research by RemodelMAX, 2017 labor and materials costs for a bathroom addition increased the most (6.5 percent) of the 21 projects from 2016. The price of a minor kitchen remodel rose the least at 2.7 percent.
Cost vs. Value Report Data Considerations
The Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report findings are useful for homeowners to get general idea of what projects might cost in the Minneapolis market. And the payback estimates could help them avoid over-improving their homes if they plan to sell in the coming year. However, the authors warn that the data was assembled last summer and fails to take into account significant lumber price increases our market experienced this past fall.
It’s also important to remember that most homeowners remodel to improve their own quality of life at home, not to make a profit off the investment. More importantly, the survey didn’t even try to put a price on the value of a happy spouse, creating an environment that’s a hangout magnet for your children and their friends, or the peace of mind and safety that comes from an accessible bath in retirement. We’d say it’s “priceless.”
Complete data from the Remodeling 2018 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.
Remodeling is a journey, some would say an odyssey. But nothing dictates that you must travel the route nonstop.
Over the years, I’ve met many homeowners who were reluctant to start down the remodeling path because they weren’t quite ready to commit to spending money on construction. In reality, we would have to cross a number of bridges before we would be prepared to build. So I suggest starting the first leg of the trip sooner and reserving an informed construction decision for later.
By initiating preliminary discussions in January or February, you will be ready to move forward with construction in late winter or early spring when others are just getting started. In our high demand remodeling market, that can make the difference between completing your project in April before grad parties and weddings or waiting until September.
Remodel Feasibility, Budget, Timetable, Design & Estimate
The first step in APEX remodeling projects is to establish goals and get comfortable with each other’s communication style. The communication component is especially important for me because I am profoundly deaf and must read lips. Expect my full attention when we meet. I do have a special office phone that enables me hear most callers when I’m at my desk.
As a General Contractor, our goal is to manage the remodeling process for the smoothest client experience and for the completed project to enhance the quality of life at home for the people we serve. Time spent assessing goals and preferences is critical to achieving this end.
Our first “deliverable” typically is an initial design and preliminary budget estimate. We’re good listeners, but it’s not uncommon for homeowners’ remodeling visions and initial cost expectations to misalign this early in our discussions. When that happens, we explain the various expenses and, if needed, offer options to narrow the gap without compromising quality.
With agreement on the general project roadmap, we will schedule a trade partner preview to confirm the project costs and help drive a more accurate project budget and timetable. Now that we know what is included, how much it will cost, and how long the project will take, we can schedule construction immediately or put it on hold for a couple of months.
You can’t make an informed decision about remodeling until you have a scope of work, project budget and timetable. Ready for Step One?
At APEX, we take grades seriously. We strive for an A+ score on each project and ask clients to tell us directly how we did. We also use the industry’s leading independent customer satisfaction researchers, Guild Quality, to survey our clients after we complete their projects. Guild Quality contacted us this week to say the last 20 APEX clients they surveyed gave APEX the highest score possible for “Likely to Recommend.”
Thank you to all of our APEX customers who take the time to share their experiences through online reviews and these Guild Quality surveys. Guild Quality starts by emailing its survey. If the survey is not completed, it tries again. If that doesn’t work, it calls. And finally, it mails a postcard reminder.
APEX reviews appear on many online platforms, including the APEX reviews page, Google, Houzz, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, Home Advisor and Facebook. The Guild Quality survey is the most time consuming and important because it asks multiple questions. But most people can complete the survey in less than five minutes. The other reviews go even faster.
Repeat business and referrals are the cornerstones of how we have built APEX. These customer satisfaction surveys and online reviews are what keep us on course. Thank you.
Sometimes, bigger IS better, especially in remodeling. But a poorly planned home addition can just as easily make your home worse off structurally, functionally and aesthetically. No worries. We address the critical considerations and common misconceptions during our design-build process so you get it right and there are no surprises. At least no unpleasant ones.
Home Addition Misconceptions
If there’s land, there’s room – Just because you are willing to forfeit some lawn for living space doesn’t mean your community will let you. Zoning regulations require minimum setbacks from your property lines. To be safe, start your home addition concept with your plot plan and survey, not the fence the neighbor erected. Know your limits. There’s nothing worse than planning a project only to have the permit rejected for insufficient sideyard setback.
Going up is always less expensive than bumping out — Depends. Adding a second story saves the expense of a new foundation but the first-floor ceiling joists may have to be enlarged or reinforced. You will need to open up some walls on the first floor to run mechanicals. And you still will need a roof.
Must enlarge to gain space — When existing living space is underused, an addition won’t overcome the problem. The new space could make the old area even less appealing. Before considering expanding up or out, look within. It may make more sense to expand the kitchen into the dining room, convert the formal living room and main level powder room into an accessible bedroom suite. Or make the basement livable with a proper egress window, radon mitigation and drain tile.
Worth Considering for Home Additions
What’s big enough? – I call this approach “go big or go home.” Once you’ve committed to adding on, the cost per square foot actually may shrink a bit when you increase the footprint. On the other hand, if you only need an extra 18-in. to make your new kitchen layout work, keep it small. A cantilevered bump out may be fine.
Melding new and old – Additions need to work with the original structure indoors and out. They should reflect and be scaled to extend and enhance the home’s architectural style. Aligning windows and keeping siding and trim details consistent will help. The enlarged home also should fit the character of the neighborhood. For instance, make a second story addition more down to earth by creating false soffits along the sides. Or add a porch to the front of the home to break the elevation. Indoor considerations include traffic flow and the addition’s impact on natural light and sight lines from existing rooms. Will the porch make the kitchen darker? Will the french doors to the new sunroom conflict with the kitchen table?
The best additions are the ones that look like they were always there. They don’t just add living space. They fit. They flow. They make sense.
Foundations — Additions can be built on piers, footings or foundations. Excavate for a full basement under the addition, install slab on grade if the height is right, or create a crawlspace. Incorporating the new basement with the old will require engineering for a beam to support the load where the original foundation wall is removed. However, if you already have a 36-in.-wide window in the existing foundation wall, you can convert it to a doorway to save time and money.
What’s Keeping You?
Perhaps the most important question when considering a home addition is whether it makes more sense to move to a bigger house or expand the one you’ve got. If you like your neighborhood, have the room and plan to stick around, an addition is a fine option. Let APEX help you improve your quality of life at home. Contact me.
Study Rates ROI, APEX favors Quality of Life Impact
Each year, Remodeling magazine publishes its annual Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. The study estimates the cost of 29 typical remodeling and replacement projects in various markets and asks Realtors to assess the resale value based on comparable homes (comps). For example, if two houses were identical but one had a recently remodeled kitchen, how would it impact the home’s sale price?
The 2017 report provides you with three pieces of information to help you make a more informed financial decision regarding your remodeling project:
- On average, how much is remodeling expected to cost this year compared to last year and what will you get for your money?
- On average, how much more are the improvements likely to be worth?
- Which remodeling and replacement projects will recoup the greatest percentage of cost upon resale?
According to the report, remodeling costs are up 3 percent this year and the average value of projects is up 4.2 percent. Resale value might mean more if you are a fan of HGTV’s Flip or Flop show or are concerned about over-improving your home. But items 1 and 2 send a clear message to Twin Cities area homeowners: You will save money by remodeling sooner rather than later, and our healthy real estate market means your return on investment (ROI) will be slightly higher this year.
Curb appeal projects continue to please
Not surprisingly, the report shows that Realtors still love exterior facelifts and curb appeal projects. It’s all about making a good first impression. For instance, consider two side-by-side homes. One has a modest stoop and an exposed main entry. The other has entry portico or, better yet, a street-facing porch. Guess which one is going to be more appealing to homeowners and homebuyers alike?
Popular trends not driven by financial payback
The popularity of three remodeling trends is beyond debate: integrating interior/exterior living areas, universal design features that support aging in place, and adapting homes for multi-generational/multi-family living. But the report suggests financial ROI for these projects would not be as compelling as for some other projects. These are improvements with significant labor costs so it can be more difficult to recover those expenses.
Report’s top three remodeling, replacement projects
Remodeling divides projects into mid-level and upscale categories. In 2017, the top three mid-range projects include a steel entry door, attic sealing and insulation, and a minor kitchen remodel in that order. For upscale projects, the winners are garage door replacement, wood replacement windows and vinyl replacement windows. But none of the upscale projects came close to the mid-priced project’s ROI.
APEX view of true remodeling value
Industry studies such as the annual Cost vs. Value Report provide interesting benchmarks, but it is important to remember what motivates most of us to remodel our homes — quality of life. Ever since I founded APEX, our core purpose has been to help our clients enhance their quality of life at home. It still is what gets me out of bed each morning. My point is that prospective homebuyers may value a new entry door or garage door, but it’s doubtful those are the projects that would truly elevate your quality of life.
At APEX, we don’t need a national magazine study to tell us what delivers value. We simply listen to our clients. It’s the beautiful, high-function kitchen where they are proud to entertain. Or the finished basement that’s a magnet for their kids and friends. Or the sunny addition that quickly became their favorite lounging area. Or the enlarged garage and mudroom that made Minnesota winters tolerable. Or the new master bath with enhanced accessibility, lighting and storage.
Rising prices and mortgage rates impact remodeling
Perhaps the most important prediction, made by Remodeling’s sister company MetroStudy, is that with rising mortgage rates and home prices this year, people will be more likely to improve their current homes rather than invest their equity into buying new homes. Which takes us back to the beginning.
The smart money says the sooner you remodel the better. And I would add – invest in what you love. Homes are way more than investments. They literally shape our quality of life. — JB