If I am doing my job well, I walk alongside my clients and educate them about the process of design. Before any contract is signed, I spend time dialoging with the prospective clients, learning what their needs and wants are and help us both discover if we are the right fit. There are several things that are discussed, but here are 4 questions that clients want a lot of clarity on.
What should the budget for my project be?
This isn't a question I typically get asked immediately, but it ALWAYS needs to be talked about. After I press in and ask about what people are thinking they want to spend, frequently they confess they don't have any idea (Who can blame them? For most people this is the first and maybe only time they will take on such a large project.) There are many considerations for budgeting but there are a few tried and true general rules of thumb that are a terrific starting point.
My go to starting point for renovations whether it's for a kitchen or primary bath is figuring on spending around 10% of the home's value in each of those spaces. That number will allow for a more realistic picture of what you are likely to spend to keep the new space commensurate with the old one. Secondary bathrooms can be 5-8% then bedrooms more like 3-5%.
B) New Build:
In the case of a new build, the best bet is deciding on a price per square foot to come up with the budget. It is good to have both a builder and designer's input while determining this (unless the builder has a true design/build firm) because builders tend to know their numbers really well on the basic build part and designers the same but their numbers concentrate on the finishes/fixtures. A good team goes far in being able to determine the budget to meet your goals for the project.
If you have done your homework by vetting your builder & designer, then they should be helpful in providing a breakdown of cost that matches your budget and goals. Side note: new builds are often easier to project overall costs on. In a renovation, the costs can change when you start digging into walls and have to bring things up to code.
2. How long will my project take?
I will start with this: thank goodness Covid is more or less behind us. (can I get an Amen?) Lead times have changed so much due to Covid-related delays, but we are finally starting to see fairly normal lead times again. So in GENERAL here is what you can expect:
a) Full home build/remodel- 1.5-2 years
b) Partial remodel- 6-8 months; smaller scope (with appliances that have short lead times) at the 6 month mark, larger scope at the 8 month mark). Note: We have completed some smaller bathroom remodels recently (no appliances) in about 4 months.
c) Refresh/update of a home: this can encompass new paint, furnishings, carpeting, décor, window treatment and generally takes 4-9 months. If we are talking custom furniture, you are looking at the longer the lead time.
3) As a client, how involved do I need to be?
This is a great question to ask any designer you interview. The amount of involvement depends on both client and the designer's preferences. Some designers prefer to gather all necessary information, then use their talent and time to efficiently come up with the best plan. They will then present their plan to the client and make revisions as needed to complete the project. Others may do part of a design, have you approve or get more input then continue incrementally like that until the plan is complete. It's important to know how involved you want to be and make sure you are on the same page with how you want to work before signing a contract.
4) Do you pass on a designer discount?
Every designer approaches this differently. When I first started my business, like many designers do at first, I did pass on my discounts if and when I got them. I quickly learned that it was not a good idea for several reasons. Running a design business essentially is 2 businesses: the design/managing part (my time) and the furnishings part (selling product which involves ordering, tracking, managing receiving, managing damages etc). All profitable design firms run their businesses this way. I love what I do - but I also had to ask myself if this was a hobby or a real business and the answer is most definitely the latter. Part of the reason my clients hire me is for the connections and relationships and exposure I have as a designer. All of that takes years to build- and I am constantly building. Managing furnishings is a whole other beast in and of itself and being appropriately compensated for that part is just as important. Having said all that- I do - at all times- sell at fair market value. My goal is not to gouge anyone but provide a top level service for clients who appreciate that.
Every design firm runs a little differently: from how they manage budgets to client involvement to client experience. So if you are considering hiring a designer make sure you find one that resonates with you. Usually there is a good year or more spent together and you want to make sure it's the right fit. Hopefully this gives some insight into how we do things over here. Have any more questions or interested in finding out more about us? Fill out a form for a discovery call. We'd love to chat with you!
Want to read more regarding what this post is about? Check out this BHG article for remodel budgeting, this article from Forbes on cost of building a new home and this article for timeline of a build.