Monday, March 19, 2012

Good, Fast or Cheap?

Dear Readers,

I wanted to share the most important lesson of remodeling-- good, fast or cheap?

My friend Amy remodeled her entire home a couple years ago.  When she told me about the contractor she hired she said excitedly, "He's good, fast and cheap!"  I wrinkled my nose and said, "No way.  You only get two. No contractor has all three." 

Sure enough, the "good" slowly faded because he took short cuts to be "fast."  Then the "cheap" went out the window when she got her astronomical change order fees.  When tensions rose between the contractor and her husband the pace slowed down and there goes "fast."  She ended up losing all three magic bullets by trying to obtain all of them at once.  She now realizes you can't have them all.  Which ones do you choose?

In my work as a remodel consultant, I assess each client differently.  Do you want good and fast?  Then you're going to pay for it.  Do you want fast and cheap?  It's not going to be good.  Do you want good and cheap?  We're going to be working together for a while then.  All three just don't exist together and different people have different needs.

There are so many trade-offs you have to make while remodeling your home. One thing I have learned never to trade is hiring quality tradesmen.  I want to spend time working with people who love what they do and care deeply about their contribution to the project. One of my contractor's guys walked out on my job once because he didn't put the cabinet handles in the right place, and I told him so (in a polite manner, of course).  My contractor literally had to chase him down the street and convince him not to quit.  Obviously, this guy didn't like working with me, but I expect the best from the people I work with and I don't settle. If something isn't right, it has to be fixed. Period.  "Good" is not an attribute that's up for grabs for me. 

I deal with budget trade-offs around the clock.  I have a client who started off with a kitchen facelift that snowballed into a full gut and re-do.  When he saw what "cheap" got him, he realized exercising the true potential of his space was more important than trying to save money.  He chose "good" over "cheap" and I think he's going to be over the moon (and over the loss of the initial budget) when his kitchen is complete. 

I've worked non-stop to get him all the elements he wanted-- open layout, big island, farmhouse sink, floating reclaimed shelves, a pantry, and tons of character in keeping with his 100-year old house.  We've thought about every wall, every angle, all the possibilities and every move he will make in that kitchen.  We nailed it and I can't wait to see it come to life.

The one trade-off in maximizing his kitchen layout and finishes is the cost.  He's definitely spending more than he initially thought but I am convinced the value he's creating is worth the expense.  Often I feel like a "house fund manager" for my clients.  I help people manage one of their biggest investments-- their home-- and I take that responsibility very seriously. 

While my goal is to help my clients create beautiful, functional homes I also feel very strongly about my obligation to steer them in the right direction financially.  There is always a line to be drawn with how much you should spend on a given property.  There are many upgrades and choices you can make to a home that really aren't worth it. I help my clients make those choices but sometimes I have to give in.  Sometimes they just have to have something that speaks to them and not necessarily to the value of their property.  I call those "gifts."  I tell them this is a present to yourself for putting in so much time and energy into remodeling your home. Enjoy it.

I hope you give yourself the gift of understanding the trade-offs that are right for you and your home. Everybody has different values. I encourage my clients to spend a lot of time thinking about how they live in their homes and what's important to them. I say that all the time and effort we are spending together to design your space and deal with construction is tiny compared to the amount of time you will live in your new space.  Measure twice and cut once, right?  Take the time to get to know yourself and your home before making your selection. 

Which two do you favor-- good, fast or cheap?

Happy Remodeling,

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