Setting Reasonable Expectations, Budgets, and Timelines

Setting reasonable expectations is one of the most important things we can do for our clients. When educating them about the construction process, an early expectation should start with the project cost. We all want the best products and services we can afford. The “best” usually costs more than what we want to spend, so our clients need an honest appraisal of the expected cost as early in the process as possible. Too often a homeowner may be given a low-ball gure for construction and later, after committing to the project, receives extra upon extra for work that wasn’t de ned, exploding the cost skyward. The initial higher cost architect or contractor, who may have been able to set a more reasonable expectation of cost, doesn’t look so expensive at this point, but it’s too late. Another expectation that should be set early on is an achievable schedule for construction. Too often I hear of an unachievable schedule given for projects by contractors who know full well it won’t be completed in that time frame just because it may be what a homeowner wants to hear, which can make a homeowner frustrated toward the construction process.

It had been my experience that home improvement TV shows, such as those on HGTV, set up very unreasonable expectations for homeowners by ignoring many of the realities of the design and construction process. The shows include captivating personalities and some great transformations, so from that perspective, they inspire people with ideas for improving their own homes. They also create a sense of drama when they “discover” a plumbing waste stack in a plumbing wall. The most glaring and unrealistic expectations however are the time frames and budgets, both of them unrealistic. To start, the design process shown on TV is usually summarized with an instantaneous design solution. The nal design is usually shown as a slick 3-D image, with apparently no input from the clients. There is no comprehension of the time and thought process to get to the final solution. And the construction process itself proceeds at the speed of light.

I often wonder why I can’t find miracle workers like “those guys” to work on my projects. What is not usually shown are item such as staging, pre-ordering of materials and lining up building inspections. Then there is the discussion of cost. The home shows can include donated materials and labor costs that are not realistic in our region, making the prices quoted way below actuality. No wonder potential clients feel their construction cost should be a lot less than the reality of the local marketplace.

As we all understand, these shows gear toward entertainment, the real construction process is much slower and laborious, and expectations should be adjusted accordingly. I’m personally disappointed when I don’t meet the expectations I set for my clients or myself. It is not intentional, it is usually because “stuff happens” that’s beyond my control. This is when it is best to be honest, explain the situation, and come up with a plan of attack to rectify the problem. I always want to hear the truth, not some flimsy excuses. Our clients appreciate that as well.

In closing, if you want to see a classic fixer up movie, I recommend Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. It’s a classic 1948 movie featuring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. It’s the original “Money Pit” movie.

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