Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Managing Expectations-Part II

This post is aimed at homeowners. When a homeowner starts a renovation project, he/she needs to be realistic about the scope and budget for the project. It is important to make two columns for a home improvement project: "wants" and "needs." The needs are the items that are not negotiable. Usually, they're the reason for the project in the first place. The rest of the plans should fall in the "wants" category. That means that the owner must be flexible and understand that there will be items that fall outside his price range.

Homeowners have a tendency to underestimate what things cost. They are also not always familiar with the process involved in adding a design feature. For example, a homeowner might choose to install recessed lighting in a room without realizing that the current electical wiring in the house is not up to code. The minute the contractor opens up the walls, he has a duty to bring the wiring up to code prior to installation.

In addition, ideally a contract should spell out every item that is included in the job. However, in reality, renovation projects are fluid. Some problem is discovered, or the homeowner comes up with a new idea. At that point, it is very important to have all change orders IN WRITING! Many of the claims I see occur because the homeowner thought something was included, when the contractor did not.

So, when managing expectations, homeowners should be aware of their own preconceived ideas. They should try to be as realistic as possible about their budget and what can be included at a given price point. Owners should be willing to make tradeoffs if they do want to add an extra and be prepared to give up on something else. Most importantly, all involved should know whether a change order is involved, and how that is going to affect the bottom line.

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