I’m lucky. I hate to shop, but my spouse loves it. So she buys groceries and I merely carry the bags into the house from her car. The downside is that I’m largely clueless about what food costs. For most people, the same is true with remodeling. They are unaware of what projects cost because they don’t have much recent experience buying them. That also may explain why remodeling sticker shock is so common.
Softening initial sticker shock
Remodeling sticker shock often comes in two stages. The first occurs when contractors provide ballpark estimates of what a project might cost based on similar projects they have built and a rudimentary understanding of the owners’ goals. The second occurs when the homeowners are presented the actual construction agreement quote that’s based on detailed plans and specifications.
You can soften the first jolt by asking friends what they spent on their projects and by consulting the 2019 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. Its prices are based on popular construction industry estimating software. I would steer clear of cost guides from Home Advisor and Angie’s List because they bear little relation to what established contractors charge.
Clients play a big role in whether formal quotes exceed expectations (in a bad way). “It’s fairly common for a couple to start with a narrow project, get excited and expand the scope when they meet a qualified remodeler and designer who can make it all a reality,” explained APEX President John Biancini.
Biancini said couples should try to reach a consensus and prioritize elements up front so they can back out the least important things if the expanded lists exceed their budget.
APEX Designer Lisa Stoll advises clients to choose materials and fixtures from the options she presents because they reflect the allowances used in the initial estimate. It also simplifies the selection process. “Walking into a showroom can be overwhelming because of all the options. A good designer will narrow the field so the client can’t go wrong,” she said.
“Most people say, ‘We don’t need the most expensive.’ But if they end up choosing marble instead of granite or imported tile, it’s going the increase the cost,” she said.
Stoll also reminds clients to be sure to earmark money for appliances separately. “Buying your own appliances will save you money. Just be sure to set aside funds above and beyond the APEX contract to cover those costs,” she said.
Do your part
Biancini and Stoll agree on one thing: Clients who want the best pricing should take their own pre-construction tasks seriously and complete them as scheduled.
“Major remodeling is not a spectator sport, it’s a collaborative effort. Designs that drag on because clients delay decisions are the ones that tend to cost the most,” Stoll observed.
Closing the budget gap
Prospective clients also should understand that established remodelers set prices based on what they need to operate successful businesses. It’s not a negotiation like buying a car. If the price is too much, something will have to go. You can’t just take 5 percent off the gross amount. You will have to eliminate something from the scope of work or substitute less expensive materials.
One caveat: Cabinetry typically is the single biggest line item in kitchen remodeling budgets but standard-sized box cabinets are not necessarily cost effective because installation is extra and it can take longer to make them fit.
Biancini typically insists that clients use APEX’s preferred trade partners even if they think they know someone cheaper. “When you hear the horror stories about crews leaving a job for a week, that’s not APEX,” Biancini said. “Matt (project manager) sets back to back and, when possible, overlapping trade partner schedules to complete projects in the shortest possible time. We can count on our preferred trade partners to show up and do good work because of our long working relationships. When you are without a kitchen for a couple of months, that’s priceless.”
If you have remodeling questions, please contact APEX Construction Management. We’re committed to delivering great client experiences one project at a time.