Let me get to the point right away. Remodeling and renovating one’s home is EXPENSIVE. There’s no way around it. I could write a dissertation on all the reasons why I think it is so, but I’ll spare you. From my experience, if the price looks to good to be true, it probably is. As the weeks and months and years of my business go by, I spend more and more of my time working with my clients, not on the design of their renovation or addition, but on budgeting, managing expectations, comparing bids, re-budgeting, looking for qualified contractors, and getting my clients from design to actual construction. I try my hardest to be in the know as far as construction costs so that I can effectively manage their expectations at the earliest stage of the project by doing research, talking to contractors, talking to real estate agents, reviewing other past and current construction bids. The majority of the time I am in the realm of reality with my guesstimates, but occasionally I am too low and shock, awe and some drinking of adult beverages is involved. More recently I had to inform a prospective client that their two-story addition was going to cost $200,000 and not $100,000. I hate it. Hate.
First of all, most of us (your design and construction professionals) try really hard to to make the process as easy as possible. Most of us are not out to get you or rip you off or trick you into spending more money, because in the end, that doesn’t serve anyone. If you feel like your architect, designer or contractor does not have your best interest at heart, then you need to address it with them.
Second, before you start assembling what I like to call ‘your team’ (architect, contractor, interior designer, landscape designer, etc.), do as much research and pre-planning as you can.
Make a wish list. Inclusive. Type it out in a document. Everything that you’d like to do to the home. Even if you don’t want to or can’t tackle everything at once. It will help your professionals map out a Master Plan if necessary.
Make a priority list. Take your wishlist and create sections A, B, C and so on. A items are highest priority, B items are second level, etc. Thinking through your priorities ahead of time will help you later on in the event that your budget is not big enough to cover everything.
Ask friends, family, neighbors and co-workers about their remodeling projects and how much they cost. Talking about money can be prickly, but I haven’t found anyone yet that won’t gush about their latest home improvement project including how much they spent.
Use remodeling’s Cost vs. Value site to look up average construction costs for a range of projects and how much value you can expect to get if you have to sell your house. This can sometimes help you decide what projects you truly want to tackle because if budget and resale are a concern, you want to make sure you are using your dollars wisely.
Do your homework. Give yourself plenty of time. The pre-planning, team assembly, design, and construction almost always takes longer than most of my clients and prospective clients anticipate. If you’re calling your architect in late March, don’t expect to break ground for an addition on May 1st. Eh hem. A much smaller remodel, like an in-place bathroom ‘gut’ renovation, maybe, if you find the right contractor.