Rolling into 2023 with big plans for a new house project? Read on as we get real with you on what to expect along the way and our helpful tips to make it the most successful process possible! In this blog post, we will walk you through what to expect in the process, how we help you work towards both your goals and budget, and what we do if the two don’t align.
What to expect in the beginning stages
The process always starts with an info dump (both from you and from us). We want to hear all about your goals, your requirements, and we will tell you all about what the code will allow. This also includes getting real with your budget and expectations – the more honest we all are, the better job we can do to meet your expectations. Like in life, in any project, compromise is key, and you should be prepared to make some compromises. Our job is to help guide you toward the right choices and those that make the most sense for you. We’ll also help you think through both the fiscal and the emotional ones. While inevitably, there is going to be some amount of discomfort and decision fatigue along the way; we want you to remember it is about the destination, not the journey! So, how do we do this? First, we bring out our toolbelt (theoretic in our case), but just as effective. These tools help set your project up for success, and allow us to evaluate your specific goals, budget, and cost in the best possible way.
Meetings & Questionnaires
We use our questionnaire and meetings with you to suss out the must-haves, nice to haves, and the items you actually can live without. Try not to think about your project as an exercise in adding square feet, but rather an opportunity to add better flow and improved spatial connections. In short, we work to identify your pain points so we can ease them.
We draw upon our previous experience remodeling and building projects just like yours to inform our feedback while discussing your budget. If you tell us your budget is 300K for a second story addition, we will be honest with you about why that isn’t going to be enough. With many years in the industry and many active projects, we are in the know when it comes to what basic projects cost. It isn’t our goal to drive costs up unnecessarily – just the opposite. But, it is important that we are realistic with your budget to ensure that your project is on the path to success.
Preliminary Pricing Exercise
The very best way to understand your project cost is to understand what the scope of work actually is – not what you’d love it to be, or what you think it should be, but what you can actually accomplish. Budget and scope go hand in hand, because what you are willing to spend may depend on what you get. A budget is what you want to spend, while the price is what it truly costs for a particular work. Our goal during preliminary pricing is to figure out how to make the budget and the price align. This preliminary pricing exercise is a TOOL – one step in the process to help you get your budget and scope aligned. It isn’t a final price, but rather a budgetary ballpark number that helps determine if we need to adjust your scope or your budget in order to meet your goals. This is really the scope defining phase.
The preliminary pricing exercise has other benefits as well. It allows you to engage with a builder early on – this is particularly helpful if you want your builder to be a part of the value engineering team, or if time is a significant constraint. During preliminary pricing, we can also explore phasing as a long term planning tool – we like to look at the project as a whole, with the idea that you can phase in chunks if desired.
So, what happens if the budget and the price don’t align?
Honesty really is the best policy!
Together, we are a team and we need to have honest conversations about what you are willing to give on. We will work with you to evaluate options for modifying the scope (adjusting the quantity or quality), phasing the project when desired, or adjusting your budget.
Shopping around to many different general contractors to get the answer you want is not a recipe for success – we recommend contractors to give preliminary pricing that will give you a realistic pricing ballpark for the project. Some contractors will give you the answer you want to hear, and then the costs or quality will be affected later on. It isn’t realistic that a contractor can be 50% of the price of another without significant consequences. Too often, we see people lured by a low number in the beginning, only to have to pay more in the end to fix shoddy work or cover the expense of an item that was missed in that builder’s original pricing. And then you can be stuck in a bad situation where you don’t have the funds to finish the project.
When we recommend general contractors, it is because we trust the quality of their work and trust their budget. Remember, if it feels too good to be true – it probably is. If three contractors give you a similar price that is out of your budget, and then a fourth gives you one that is in it… Don’t assume you found a steal. More likely, they didn’t do a good job budgeting, and you’ll be paying for it later.
If you discover that your budget and scope are not aligned, you have three options. You can adjust the scope (either in quantity or quality), you can adjust your budget, or you can opt to phase the work over time. Typically, phasing the work over time will cost a little more in the long run (contractor mobilization costs, annual increases for labor and materials, inflation, etc…), but it does allow you to tackle the project in more bite-sized pieces. We’ve worked with many of our clients over the years to help them come up with a solid cohesive design for their home and then break it down into smaller projects that can be tackled individually with much success.
If you are set on not wanting to make adjustments to the scope of your project, then we can also talk about ways to find more creative financing. If you want to learn more about different financing options, please attend our free in-person event on March 8: A Guide to Financing Your Home Remodel. Click here to grab your ticket!
The most important thing to remember when you are approaching your home remodel or addition project, is that working with a trusted architect who really listens to you, walks you through all the crucial decisions to make, and helps you evaluate your priorities, is going to be key to a successful outcome.