"Apples and Oranges"
We’ve all heard the cliché, “it’s like comparing apples to oranges”. When it comes to comparing estimates for a potential renovation project, there’s none better! In over 22 years in this business, there’s one thing I’ve learned to be true, and that’s that estimates that vary greatly in cost are not “apples to apples”.
It happened to me again just this past week. My client was a young interior designer who was working on a project for his mother. He came to my showroom, and found some cabinet samples, etc. that he liked, then we discussed the parameters of his project in detail. The existing kitchen space had some walls that ran at a 45° degree angle. On one of those was a pass-thru to the living room. We would eliminate the pass through in order to make the wall space available to cabinetry in the design. The new plan would feature wall cabinets that “wrapped” around the angled wall. Another large door way along a straight wall would be shortened a bit, so that the base cabinets could extend further down as well. On the other side of the room, we’d also extend the cabinetry run an additional 2 feet.
When I called to schedule another get together so we could go over my preliminary design and estimate, my client asked if I could go ahead and give him the estimate number in advance of our meeting. Although I knew better, I obliged him with the preliminary estimate. It’s not that I’d ever want to keep a price estimate from a potential client either. My experience in this industry tells me that I want to be sitting face to face with my clients whenever we discuss a design for the first time or go over pricing. Should questions come up about the design or pricing, and they always do, I like to be able to answer any question about the design with concept drawings, and explain how things within the design can affect the final price.
In the case of the client in question, his reaction was one of “sticker shock”. He explained that he’d already received a quote from a different firm that was approximately half the cost of mine. Knowing that the designs were different, I asked if he’d mind sending me any info he had regarding the other quote. He was more than happy to, and sent the quote as well as renderings of the design that was quoted.
He wasn’t kidding about the price. It was just a little over half of what I’d estimated for him. But the reason was obvious in the renderings he sent. The other design hadn’t wrapped the angled walls at all. Instead the angle was eliminated completely by building new walls in front of it that had a more traditional 90° angle. In addition the cabinetry hadn’t been extended on the other side either. As a result, my design had twice as many lower cabinets, had more upper cabinets, and included custom built cabinetry that incorporated the wall’s angles to fit the angled walls perfectly. My plan also had two drawer stack lower cabinets and had been fully accessorized. My client had been comparing apples to oranges, and was nearly ready to eliminate my firm from consideration based solely on the difference in price.
Whenever you consider any remodeling project, you owe it to yourself to be sure you’re comparing like designs. I understand how important your home is to you, and I want you to understand how designs can differ. Which is why I want to sit down with you face to face when presenting an estimate and design concept. If you were in a room with 10 different designers and described your dream project to them all, you’d end up with 10 different designs that would vary wildly in scope and price. Of course, there are a lot of things that affect the overall cost of a remodeling project. Cabinetry, fixture, and appliance choices are obvious. How easily a small design change can affect your bottom line might not be nearly as obvious. Moving all the mechanicals around, replacing windows and doors, removing walls, replacing the flooring. All these things represent an integral part of any potential design, and have a huge impact on your final cost.
There are a few things you can do when considering an internal remodeling project that will make your decisions wiser, if not easier:
· Start by gathering ideas and pictures. Sites like Houzz.com and Pinterest are great for dream building. Share any idea books you create there with your designer. It is a huge help to all firms in determining your tastes and vision of the space.
· Be forthcoming to your designer about your budget. Many don’t like to divulge this information, I know. But it allows us at least, to try and create a design that will fit not only your budget, but your expectations of the finished project as well.
· Keep your list of potential remodeling firms/designers very limited. Ask friends or family if they can recommend a firm and whether they were happy with the experience and the results. Seeing too many firms can create confusion for you in the long run.
· Check their references. This may seem obvious, but take the time to call a few. Ask tough questions, like, “did anything go wrong, and how did they handle it?” and “did they do everything they said they’d do and finish on time?”
· Take a look at pictures of finished projects, and if possible, go and see one or two of their projects in person. (We’d LOVE to take you to ours!)
· Start the whole process sooner than later. While the actual work on the project could range from 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the overall scope, the actual design process starts much sooner than that, and products have to be ordered ahead of the actual project start date.
I hope this read was helpful. So many of the things I take for granted because I work in the industry everyday, aren’t nearly as obvious to others. I’ve always tried to take an educational approach in giving my clients as much information about design, scheduling, products, etc. as possible, feeling that the more they know, the better they’ll be able to compare Apples to Apples!