Santa Claus or Grinch?
History Before 2008: Homeowners called design and remodeling professionals because they needed and wanted to renovate their home, or build a new home. They had high expectations and positive anticipation about finding someone to help them, not unlike waiting for Santa Claus.
2008: The Grinch (aka the economy) stole everything. Anticipation was replaced by anxiety and fear. Americans were just trying to keep their homes, trying to prevent the Grinch from stealing the roof over their heads. Building and remodeling ended. People who were thinking about trading up decided to hunker down and stay put. Recovery from such a devastating blow takes a long time.
2008 to Present: Many homeowners in today’s economy are willing to do part (or all) of their own labor, which can save a considerable amount of money. Years ago, an interior design instructor said something that has stuck with me, and I’ve used it with virtually every client, especially since 2008: “There are only two ways to pay for something. You can take it out of your pocketbook, or you can take it out of your hide.”
Homeowners want and need to save money on their remodeling or repair projects, because the economy has reduced their home value considerably, and home equity loans are almost impossible to obtain. Products are expensive, and contractors’ overhead is high, which adds to the dilemma. Following is a range of average investments* for “standard” projects without any structural changes or modifications to exterior walls (i.e., new windows and doors). The investments include professional design fee and products in the mid-price range:
Kitchen with new appliances, cabinets, countertops and backsplash, lighting and plumbing fixtures, flooring surface, freshly-painted ceiling and walls: $28,000-$65,000 “turnkey” (all work done by a contractor and crew); $20,000-$37,000 mostly D-I-Y.
Master Bathroom with new plumbing fixtures, cabinets, countertops and backsplash, lighting and ventilation fixtures, tile, flooring surface, freshly-painted ceiling and walls: $20,000-$55,000 “turnkey”; $12,000-$22,000 mostly D-I-Y.
Guest Bathroom with new plumbing fixtures, cabinets, countertops and backsplash, lighting and ventilation fixtures, tile, flooring surface, freshly-painted ceiling and walls: $13,000-$25,000 “turnkey”; $7,000-$15,000 mostly D-I-Y.
(*Please note: The stated investment ranges are based on my experience, and verified by the Remodeling vs. Value report. There is no guarantee that your project will be within the stated range, due to variables in product and labor prices for your specific area.)
It was very difficult to tell prospective clients that their remodeling goals were not achievable for the $7,500 budget they wanted to maintain. Their master bathroom project involved moving walls and plumbing to make the area larger so they could have a two-person shower and a whirlpool tub. During the initial meeting, we talked about their wish list, their budget, their D-I-Y skills, and alternative ideas:
- Change the size and scope of the project to fit the budget
- Leave walls and major plumbing fixtures where they are
- Eliminate the new whirlpool tub
- Carefully select products (maintain a spreadsheet for all products being considered)
- Limit the size and scope of the project, and add $10,000-$13,000 to the budget
- Examine each item on the “wish list” and eliminate lower-priority items
- How often, realistically, will the whirlpool tub be used?
- How often, realistically, will the homeowners shower together?
- Carefully select products and maintain a spreadsheet for all products being considered
- Freshen up the bathroom now, and delay the project until the economy improves
- A new color and a few new accessories can achieve wonderful results
- Purchase new plumbing and light fixtures for the existing bathroom that can be used in the remodeled bathroom
It’s experiences like this that make me feel more like the Grinch than Santa Claus. The homeowners’ anticipation of achieving a wonderful new master bathroom for under $10,000 was quickly deflated by the reality check. Of course, they were disappointed. But 28 years of experience has affirmed that it’s better to have a reality check before a project begins. If a reality check happens in the middle of a project, financial disaster usually follows. That’s when the homeowners discover that there really is a Grinch.
Are you concerned about your financial investment? Request my special free article “Five Easy Steps To Overcome Your Financial Remodeling Fears,” or call me (503-632-8801).
© 2012 Diane Plesset, D. P. Design — All Rights Reserved