So you’ve decided to remodel a room (or several rooms) in your home, and you’re researching and interviewing firms to help make your vision a reality. Congratulations! But if you’re like most homeowners, you may feel somewhat confused as the estimates start to arrive. Because every remodeling company has its own process for developing estimates, one estimate looks radically different from the next, making it difficult to compare estimates effectively.
As a homeowner, how do you ensure you receive the best pricing for your renovation project? And how can you avoid unwanted surprises, unexpected costs, and unscrupulous pricing practices? Here are a few tips:
Know The Limitations of an Initial Estimate
Any initial estimate you receive is just that — an estimate. It is impossible to determine your final cost of construction until you’ve completed the materials selection process and your firm has finalized drawings and obtained permits.
Beware of Intentionally Low-Ball Estimates
Knowing that price is an essential factor in a homeowner’s decision-making process leads some firms to do whatever they can to deliver a competitive estimate. And while that lower number may appear attractive at first, you’re often faced with hidden charges and surprise costs that make their seemingly “competitive” bid much less competitive.
The old saying, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” certainly applies to remodeling estimates! If you receive an estimate that is significantly lower than other estimates, proceed with extreme caution.
Insist on Details
When it comes to remodeling estimates and contracts, the devil truly is in the details. Estimates or contracts with vague language should be a huge red flag for homeowners. Generic language in a contract like “Replace bedroom floor” is completely open to misinterpretation and can lead to big problems.
Choosing a remodeling firm you can trust and communicate with is of the utmost importance. After all, you’re going to be working with them for six months (or more) so it’s essential that you like and trust that they have your interests in mind. As you receive estimates and review sample contracts, keep the following things in mind:
- The remodeling company’s project photos and reviews—Does the firm have ample, high-quality examples of its previous work? Do they have reviews, testimonials, and client references? Firms should be delighted to show off their past work and put you in touch with satisfied clients. If their idea of a “portfolio” is showing you photos on their phone, find another firm.
- How construction costs are totaled—Some firms provide an estimate for the total cost of construction, while others itemize costs by trade. The latter is preferable because it allows for greater transparency into costs.
- Architectural design fees—Are their architectural design fees rolled into the project fee or itemized separately? Once again, separate is better because of the enhanced cost transparency.
- Material allowances—Are there allowances noted for materials, and are they reasonable? And for specifications that don’t include dollar amounts, is the make/model of the material provided? For example, if an estimate says the company will “provide and install cabinets,” are they IKEA or custom-crafted cabinets?
- General conditions—Your estimate should specify all of the “general conditions” the project includes — this means things like using flooring protection, insurance, and cleaning up the space at the end of each work day. If they aren’t mentioned in your estimate, it’s worth asking and getting the answer in writing.
- Payment terms—What are the firm’s payment terms? Avoid firms that request full payment upfront or insist on funds upfront to purchase materials.
- Timeline—Does the estimate include a project timeline, and does it account for the reality of today’s lead times? For example, prior to the pandemic, cabinet lead times were eight weeks; now, the average lead time is 41 weeks! Also, ask about the firm’s previous on-time track record; this will give you a clearer idea of how good they are at estimating project timelines.
- Exclusions—Take a close look at any specific exclusions in the estimate, such as painting, construction materials like tile, plumbing fixtures, appliances, etc. If no exclusions are included in the estimate, ask for clarification and get the answer in writing. This could save you from an unwelcome surprise — like walking into your newly-remodeled kitchen and wondering why there’s no refrigerator!
- Contingencies—Is there a contingency line item in the estimate? Responsible remodeling firms understand that even on the most carefully-planned project, things can happen — and they include that cost in their estimate.
- In-the-field changes—Sometimes, homeowners want to make changes after the remodeling project has started. Ask the firm how your costs may shift as selections are changed in the field. And what steps does the firm take to mitigate any unforeseen changes once the project has started?
- Competitive bid pricing—Competitive bid pricing is important for any remodeling firm to ensure they get the best possible cost for each project. Does the firm use one group in each trade? Or do they competitively check the pricing for the project by bidding with multiple trusted groups within each trade?
- Subcontractors—Smart remodeling firms know that they’re judged by the company they keep. What is their subcontractor vetting process?
- Project team—Who are the people that will be part of your remodeling project team? Is the remodeling firm a sole proprietor with little or no office staff or support? Are they a general contractor with a few supporting team members? Or are they a full-fledged design and build remodeling firm with robust staffing, including architects, cabinet designers, selection coordinators, project coordinators, and more? Typically, larger firms are able to offer a smoother, more hassle-free remodeling experience.
The Orren Pickell “All-In” Pricing Process
At Orren Pickell, we aim to provide what we call “all-in” pricing so there are NO surprises after our initial estimate and design agreement have been signed. Prior to developing our estimate, we’ll meet with you to discuss your wants, needs, and goals, then we’ll visually inspect your property.
Why do we take this approach? To give you a fair, unbiased estimate of your project’s baseline costs. It’s not a contractual document — it’s something we provide before commissioning architectural drawings or fixed selections, with no fee or obligation.
Our initial estimate aims to give you a realistic expectation as to the cost of your project. The estimated cost can and will fluctuate based on your design and selections, so we’ll update your estimate as we go through the process, adjusting it after our architect’s site visit, our field measurement assessment, your final architectural drawings, and your finishes and selections.
The Orren Pickell Difference
Over the past nearly 50 years, Orren Pickell has built a reputation for quality and attention to detail. And our biggest difference is our people. Not only do we have a deep bench of administrative support specialists — in customer service, project management, and accounting — dedicated to ensuring your project goes smoothly, but our award-winning architectural team, in-house cabinetry design division, and experienced construction professionals will ensure your remodeling project meets our exacting quality standards. Our in-house maintenance team is ready to handle punch list items, and our network of subcontractors represents the best technicians and craftsmen in their respective trades.
Ready to experience the Orren Pickell difference on your remodeling project? Get in touch with us today to set up a complimentary consultation.