Budget First, Then Design
Why it’s best to start with a Budget before Designing your Renovation Project.
Having to undo hard work
For many years, before hiring our first designer, I worked with clients who had hired very talented designers who would create beautiful drawings with fantastic solutions and excellent fixtures and finishes.
The client would then come to me asking for a cost estimate to execute this design. I would diligently prepare all the numbers based on the work done by the designer and present them to the client. Nine times out of ten, the numbers presented would cause these clients to shake their heads and exclaim, “Oh my gosh, I could never afford that!”
This is when the “fun” would begin. We would need to start hacking through the design by deciding what would not get done and finding alternatives to selected materials.
In the end, I would be stressed by the extensive back and forth, the client would be heartbroken that the idea of what their home could be would not be possible for them, and the designer would be left frustrated that all of their talent and hard work in a project would not be fully realized, or used as a showcase in their portfolio. Everyone would come away from these projects exhausted and unhappy.
A point in time came when I said to myself – there’s got to be a better way to do this!
Together with my team, after much experimentation and mistakes, we developed a detailed, proven process to eliminate disappointment and frustration for all involved.
This is what we discovered.
First, before starting anything else, a realistic budget needs to be determined. And that’s what we do. Of course, this budget is not exact at this point. Typically it will fall within the 20-30% range, but it gives our client a good idea of the investment they will be making.
Next, with our experienced team, we design the project to fit within the agreed-upon budget range to the best of our ability.
The price may fluctuate based on client decisions, fixture selections, and discoveries made on the existing conditions during the design phase; however, our goal is always to stay within the budget as closely as possible.
You could spend anything you want on renovations. There are so many options available today!
Because we know our boundaries, we watch the numbers closely during the design and find solutions that fit the budget. This way, when the design is finished and we give a fixed price quotation to our clients, they are never surprised or disappointed.
Everyone is happy. The designer is happy, the client is happy, and I am happy!
Our clients are in control of their renovation
Of course, with a budget decided, we must be disciplined during the design, necessitating the designer acting as a budget policeman. Tough choices will need to be made at times.
During our inspections, we sometimes find “monsters” (structural or mechanical problems) that can blow the budget. A client is informed about this upfront and given different options for how to proceed.
These options will be presented at a time that is easier for the client to digest – before the house is torn apart and in the midst of renovations. This crucial financial decision is made by the client in a comfortable, controlled environment before they even commit to construction. It is a choice, a decision they get to make, not a forced financial hardship!
Sometimes, the designer or client may come up with great ideas during the design process. Ideas that were not part of the original discussion or scope of work. These ideas might be innovative but they may also affect the project cost. The designer’s job is to inform the clients of how these ideas may affect their budget.
Although this may not be a pleasant conversation for our clients, what alternative do we have?
Would it be better to design everything the client wants, incorporate every brilliant idea, and then have the project cost exceed what the client can afford?
By determining a budget before starting design, you start with a solid foundation for your renovation project.
Owner, Sosna Inc