Smart Investments in Kitchen Cabinetry — a Realtor’s Advice

Smart Investments in Kitchen Cabinetry — a Realtor’s Advice

Read the article at the above link for excellent advice on specifics related to kitchen remodeling!

Thinking About Resale Value

Do you have the future resale value of your home in the back of your mind?  Most real estate agents will have good input when it comes to discussing improvements that will or will not help make your home more attractive to buyers.  After all, they work with buyers and sellers every day of the week.  But, I have a few cents to put in, too.

Not too long ago I worked with a couple who wanted to renovate their bathroom.  We designed option after option after option only to come to the conclusion that we would keep everything in its place and simply replace the fixtures.  The hang up was that the owners were overly concerned about what the next buyers would want.  They had no plans to sell soon, but they just couldn’t get beyond that hump of wondering what the next people who lived there would want.

Another couple was convinced that they would not be able to sell their house unless they renovated the kitchen.  They spent loads of time in planning and about $50,000 to do the construction.  Then, the next owners came in and tore the whole thing apart again to make it their own.

So, here’s the deal.  You cannot interpret the tastes of the people who are going to buy your house.  If you are certain you are going to sell in a relatively short amount of time then you should be as conservative as possible with the money you spend and styles you choose when renovating and decorating.  (Check out this brief article on Home Renovations That Could Hurt Resale.)

However, if you do not have definite plans to move soon, I whole-heartedly recommend making your home a place in which you love to live.  After all, why not?  It’s yours!

Beware of the “Ball Park” Estimate

Almost every client is interested to know a ball-park estimate of what their project will cost.  Even though I might have a gut feeling of what a project might cost, I am reluctant to share it with the client because it is just that – a feeling, not a detailed estimate based on a clearly defined scope of work.

Ball-park figures almost always lead to disappointment since inaccuracy is practically guaranteed.  What does it include?  What’s not included?  The variables are too vast.  It is crucial to impress upon clients that each project is unique.  It cannot be quickly added up based on an a’ la carte menu.

In addition, it is so easy for a client to get a ball-park figure stuck in their head.  When the real costs are figured and delivered, the client then experiences an initial shock followed by disbelief and either crushed hopes or even anger.

Instead of giving a ball-park estimate when asked, I provide examples of recent projects and their costs.  I can point to a bathroom or kitchen renovation and tell a client the cost of that particular project based on its scale and quality.  That helps give a client an idea of cost without backing myself into a corner by trying to guess the cost of their project on the spot without any specific details.

Trying to guess does no one any favors and in fact ends up causing more confusion than being of any help.  It’s only fair to everyone involved to provide an actual estimate for a specific project scope, leaving much less room for error and uncertainty.

Renovating on a Budget?

I’m about to risk raising some eyebrows with this suggestion, but I’m going to make it anyway.

There is a simple way for homeowners to save significant sums on renovation projects. And that is, if you cannot act as your own general contractor, hire an Owner’s Project Manager (O.P.M.) to manage the project on your behalf.

Why should that raise eyebrows? Because it relieves the general contractor of that duty, and therefore also relieves him of a hefty mark-up on the subcontractors. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the function of a general contractor, especially on large and complex projects (in which case having both an O.P.M. and G.C. would be a good idea). But, on smaller projects where the G.C. may be only funneling work to the subs and there is not a lot of work for his own crew, an O.P.M. seems to make sense.

A G.C. doesn’t really want to be bothered with a bathroom renovation, for example, where there is little carpentry involved. However, some homeowners have neither the time or the inclination to be their own G.C. This is where an O.P.M. can help. An O.P.M. can organize the project, coordinate the subs, communicate between the client and subs, make decisions on behalf of the client when necessary, manage the schedule, manage the budget, and see that everything is done according to the project specifications. For this service, an O.P.M. could save a client literally thousands compared to a G.C.’s mark-up.

If you plan to give it a try, look for an experienced Construction Project Manager, preferably with a Construction Supervisor’s License and general liability insurance.   Here is one resource for locating a Construction Project Manager in your area:

Cost Estimating Strategy

I am a firm advocate of getting a preliminary construction cost estimate as early on in the design process as possible. As an estimator, too many times have I been in the position of having to deliver the bad news that the clients have paid their architect thousands of dollars for a design that is way over their budget to construct. Yes, there have even been tears shed over such news. Imagine having to offer condolences for a dead project, share longer-than-comfortable hugs and then drive your suit jacket straight to the dry-cleaners to remove the tears and nasal drool from your shoulder.

But, that all can be avoided so easily! In the ideal situation, which unfortunately does not happen often enough, a client will select their contractor in the project planning stages to work as a team with the designer. Even if that doesn’t happen, it is still possible to solicit preliminary bids from contractors when schematic drawings are available. The preliminary estimate will help guide the design in line with the project budget, and will hopefully guide the clients in selecting a contractor to join the team early on.

This strategy has proven very successful for me in helping clients be more at ease through the entire project. Remodeling is considered one of the most stressful events people can endure. If something as simple as a preliminary cost estimate can help ease that stress, I am all for it, and you should be, too!

Before You Hire A Contractor…

Don’t jump to sign a contract with the lowest bidder. Do your research. Because what you really should want is someone you can share your home with for the duration of your renovation project. Find out the following…

Does the company have a good reputation in their service area?

Do they have a wealth of happy and repeat clients?

What is their track record on completing projects on time, within budget and issuing change orders?

Is the crew respectful not only of clients and their property, but also of their neighbors?

Does the contractor have a solid team of sub-contractors with whom they work cohesively on a regular basis?

What is their average rate of call-backs for repairs, (i.e. long-term quality of craftsmanship)?

Positive answers to the above are professional virtues that should not be overlooked in favor of a lower price. If you weren’t already aware, you should know that there are contractors out there who will low ball their bid to be awarded the project with every intention of making up their financial loss with multiple change orders. (Another very good reason to have a solid project plan and specifications!)

Consider hiring the contractor with whom you feel you will gladly develop a long-term professional relationship, even if he is not the cheapest. Peace of mind and smiling faces at the end of a project are worth every penny. After all, the lowest bidder may not turn out to be a good financial investment at all.

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