Bang for Their Buck

A recent discussion with design group involving kitchen design and remodeling revolved around how to handle clients with unrealistic expectations regarding the cost of the project.  The designer was wondering at what part of the project do you discuss budget (if ever) if there is a chance that ‘laying all the cards on the table’ will send them packing.  When you do give them an estimate and they divulge it’s beyond their budget, do you then proceed to ‘value engineer’ the design with less expensive products? 

It’s more important than ever to get everything on the table from the getgo. Clients need ‘tough luv’ and to be taught early on that ignorance is not bliss. They also need to know that prices are not static — especially when the project (that involves more than replacing cabinets such as removing load-bearing walls, replacing flooring, moving doors and plumbing, etc.) will take quite awhile to do… several months in fact.  Hopefully, if they choose you to do the project, that by the time the project is done (even though it took longer than first estimated) and the cost is a bit more than they originally thought (as much as double -‘cause of the changes THEY made along the way), you’ll still get referrals from them and perhaps even have made friends along the way.

If they choose to stay in the ‘ignorance is bliss’ category and go with somebody else who promises them the stars and the moon (that you KNOW they can’t possibly deliver) – you will likely have avoided the disaster that will naturally follow.   When it looks like they’re going to walk, do you try to ‘sell down’ to get them to stay with you by offering them less expensive options?  This hardly ever works because they have already decided on what they want and disappointment is a hard sell.  Purchase decisions of this magnitude are highly emotional and not likely based on practicality.  They will likely take the ‘path of least resistance’ straight to the stars and moon guy.  If you knew what the budget and parameters of the project were up front and had offered products and services accordingly, you would be in the much more enviable position of selling up.  It’s amazing how people will ‘find’ money to get what they really want.

I have written HGTV a number of times complaining about the damage some of their shows do to our industry by setting up false expectations about what it costs and how long it takes to remodel a kitchen. Of course, they never respond to me personally… However, they do come up with a show now and then that is great. Recently they started a new show called "Bang For Your Buck" that has a designer and a real estate expert evaluate three like remodel projects (say three kitchens) that had similar costs to see which one got the best deal. Finally a show that (in my opinion) hits the nail right on the head regarding costs. And in every show, it’s amazing to me that the clients get soooooo defensive regarding the criticisms. I’ve never once heard them blame the designer for bad design choices that were made on their projects. They always say that it’s because THEY wanted it that way and were willing to pay for it -even though it took longer and/or cost more than they planned.


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