With all the remodeling shows on TV showing unrealistic smooth remodels at lightening speed coupled with stories about unlicensed contractors and contractors who use day workers, it is no surprise that homeowners are apprehensive when they want to hire a contractor for a kitchen, bath or entire remodel. We look at a remodel from the customers perspective. What are their fears?
- Cost - Many homeowners don't have a realistic idea of how much it will cost to renovate a home or apartment - especially an older model. They are not experienced in understanding how difficult & expensive it can be. They fear hidden costs, rightfully so. Estimates are given without knowing if there are faulty pipes, bad electrical wires, termite damage, dry rot, new regulations, load bearing issues, building not to code, etc.... When a client is given an estimate, there is no way of knowing how much it will change due to these unforeseen problems and more. Explaining the possibility of issues will alert the client so they will not be shocked at an increase.
- Trust - We all know there must be trust in any relationship - on both sides. The homeowner must trust the company they hire and the workers who perform the job. If they hire a "floating" contractor, they can "low-ball" an estimate due to their lack of expenses in labor, expertise, brick & mortar, possibly insurance and licensing. The customer may get an attractive price but now they have to worry about quality of work, work to code, trustworthy workers who have access to their home and lack of warranty. If they hire a reputable company, they usually get charged a higher cost since the job will be done correctly and professionally and they get a warranty. They know where to find them if there is an issue. The contractor also has to trust a client. There are consumers who intend not pay for the complete job right from the beginning.
- Outcome - A homeowner often worries if they will get the kitchen or remodel that they envision. We have found a high percentage of consumers cannot envision what they want. If we present them with ideas, we know we must give them 3-D drawings so they can see if they will love it or not. Of course if they bring pictures of what they want, this makes it easier to ensure they will be happy when the project is complete.
- Time Line - A homeowner dreams about a remodel but dreads how the construction work will disrupt their lives. We intrude on their daily lives and they fear how long they will be put out. Better contractors keep their workers on a job until it is completed. Clients expect a time line and want to know what is completed each week. Most customers want to know what the entire process entails. It gives them comfort to understand certain details and processes. The cheaper contractors typically float workers from job to job to keep costs down. The timeline can expand greatly. We worked with an architect in Manhattan that told us a horror story which sums up the timeline issue. He had a client in Brooklyn who got three estimates for a complete brownstone renovation. The three estimates were: $350,000, $550,000 and $875,000. The architect interviewed the three contractors and immediately knew the $875,000 contractor was more accurate with his estimate and a professional. The client chose the $350,000 contractor. Well, 18 months later, the job was not near completion and they already paid them well over $500,000. The work done was mediocre at best. Needless to say, the homeowner finally fired the contractor after 18 months and hired another to complete the job.
We know a homeowner's home is a big investment. Remodeling is also a big investment and can increase or decrease the value of their home, especially if they are in a more affluent neighborhood. Managing their fears is the key to a successful project. It may not be easy, but it is crucial to keep them happy throughout the process.