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November 2, 2011

Improve the "Remodeling Estimate" Experience - part 3

This is the third in a series of blog notes on how to improve the experience of the "remodeling estimate" for remodelers and homeowners alike.

As a far home improvements are concerned, there is no official "how to buy" or "how to sell" books for homeowners and remodelers respectively. Add to that, unlike many other life decisions and past purchases a homeowner has little or no personal history to refer to or learn from. A person will purchase many cars over their lifetime and typically get wiser from each experience in preparation for the next. Also consider, homeowners are more likely to buy and sell a home than purchase a major remodeling project such as an addition or a new kitchen. Well over 90% of the homeowners we consult with have never personally experienced a substantial home renovation.

The remodeling contractor is not much better off. There is no official "remodeling school." Yes, there are national associations, professional groups, and consultants that offer courses and training, but not mandatory and/or standardized.

Painting the picture with a broad brush, there are three general groups of remodeling companies with regard to estimating and ultimately selling projects.

  • One group believes in presenting a robust scope of work and service for a 100% completed project based on history and experience. They will try to earn the order through thorough explanation of the process before, during, and after the project. They illustrate the potential pitfalls through cautionary tales. While this approach typically has the best interest of the consumer, homeowners usually have initial sticker shock and continue to get other estimates as a result. As time goes on, homeowners often forget some of the finer points of the scope and/or service and only remember the price in which to compare to other estimates. Homeowners that purchase from this group are generally pleased.
  • The next group presents a project scope that is not as encompassing as the first group. The initial investment amount will appear more palatable to the consumer. If the order is obtained, at some point there will be extras added to the project and price that were not initially included. Often the homeowner will end up with a project and experience not at the value level they had hoped for; or ultimately get the good project, but after some rough patches.
  • The final group is the fledgling, unscrupulous, or new company that seeks to obtain projects by virtue of being the lowest priced estimate. Lack of experience or training often leads to incorrect pricing and necessary tasks being overlooked up front. The low budget sets the stage for corner-cutting or a very bad experience. We have yet to meet a homeowner that has not personally known someone that has had an awful remodeling experience at some point, and often associated with this group.

Within those neat and tidy groups the solutions might seem simple. For example, a homeowner may say they plan on getting three estimates from companies only in the first group to make an "apples to apples" comparison. It's not that easy. There are three distinct components that make up a remodeling project - material, labor, and the company that will deliver the experience. If you planned to buy a Ford SUV, you could go to three Ford dealerships and compare the prices. The only variable will be the people at the dealership - the company delivering a small part of the experience. Ford is the main company, the SUV is the product, and Ford provides the labor or assembly. Now how about the apples to apples comparison when it comes to remodeling projects? There are 7,500 different varieties of apples with 2,500 varieties grown in the United States.

Let us look at it this way: the products are Legos, so therefore the consumer can make a true material comparison if all were specified. Now the assembly of those Legos, the labor, even if following a plan or blueprint with not be performed in the same fashion from one crew to the next. Then the clean up, pack up, communication, duration, and overall experience of the Legos, I mean project, is the biggest variable when it comes to residential remodeling.

If there was a standardized platform available that accurately depicted and detailed  the project and process for review, discussion, planning, and comparison then the playing field could be truly leveled. Great news! The staff at Design Build Pros provides a detailed project design and development service and package for either a homeowner or a remodeler anywhere in the United States. It is illustrated in a Youtube slide-show video. Copy and paste (or click) this link into your web browser to view:

Or contact the staff for more information at 

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