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How to Find Your Renovation Team

If you’ve never renovated or built a new home, you may not be sure about how the seed of an idea turns into a completed project. Here are tips for two early steps: putting together your renovation team and nailing down your project’s cost.

Who Will Help You Build Your Vision? Before you meet with a professional, know what you want to accomplish. Is your goal to tear out your entire kitchen and start fresh? Are you looking for less costly upgrades, perhaps replacing cabinet fronts and a tired backsplash? Do you want to remodel your whole house? Some homeowners know only that their current home isn’t working for them but they aren’t sure how to fix it. If you are in this group, you will probably want to work with a design or building professional. This pro will help you develop a construction plan that fits your budget, meets local building safety codes and reflects your personal style.

How to Select Your First Team Member When hiring your first design team member, you can start with a builder, architect, designer, design-build firm or remodeler. Each profession has its special emphasis, but there can be some overlap in services too. In very general terms:

  • Architects and interior designers create concepts and draw plans. They also may offer construction management services, involving consulting and coordinating with the various agencies overseeing your project, and manage the bidding process when you search for the right contractor.

  • Design-build firms offer both design and building services, some with in-house architects, others by contracting out the design work.

  • General contractors build the plans.

  • Landscape architects create designs and plans for outdoor spaces.

Rules for which pros can draft plans vary by state (and in some states by county or municipality) and with the size and type of project. The professionals you contact can explain the rules in your area. In a survey, Houzzers who remodeled in 2015 said the most valuable contributions of general contractors and design-build firms were delivering a quality result, finding the right products and materials, staying on budget and managing the project. The survey also showed that architects and designers were valued for helping clients integrate their personal style into the design. Homeowners appreciated architects for understanding and complying with local building codes, and interior designers for finding the right products or materials. Use Houzz’s directory to find individual professionals, see their past projects and read client reviews. Ask friends, neighbors and other home pros you respect for referrals. The key is finding someone you feel comfortable with and who is qualified for the work you want done. The Interview Process Narrow down your list to your favorite pros and then interview a few people. Ask for references and go to see past projects, if possible. See how it might feel to work together. Make sure you have a rapport with the professional. You should find out whether they listen and are good communicators, says Jon Dick, an architect with Archaeo Architects in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who has been practicing 30 years and has worked on more than 100 homes. “Their design ability is very important,” Dick says. “But it’s also a long-term relationship. They’re going to ask pretty personal questions and know a fair amount about you.” The average kitchen remodel takes about five months once construction starts, but three times that long from initial design phase to completion. So the professionals you hire should be people you like and can communicate with.

A recent Houzz survey found that 2015 home buyers spent $66,600 on renovations, while would-be 2016 home sellers spent $36,300 on renovations. Be Upfront About Your Number It’s helpful to be honest about your budget with the professionals you contact. Pros typically work with clients whose budgets are within a certain range. (Sometimes a pro’s range can be found on his or her Houzz profile.) If you fall in love with a pro whose projects start at $50,000, but you have $5,000 to spend, you’re probably not a match. Some homeowners pay a high-end designer to create the initial plan, only to realize later that the products and materials suggested are out of range. Homeowners without constrained budgets may be afraid to be too forthcoming for fear that pros will push them to spend more than they would like. That’s where checking references and finding people you can communicate with comes in. In the process of vetting the pros you are considering, you will find reputable people who will not push you but will use your target number to help guide your plan. Some U.S. Cost Averages Remodeling costs vary widely by region and even city. To give you a very broad picture, a Houzz survey of nearly 2,500 owners showed that one-quarter of kitchen renovators had budgets of $25,001 to $50,000. Twenty percent had budgets of $15,001 to $25,000. Ten percent had budgets of $5,000 or less, and 6 percent had budgets of more than $100,000. Costs will likely be higher, often much higher, in busy metro areas. Kitchen remodels. Kitchen projects that involved replacing cabinets and appliances cost an average of $50,700 for spaces 200 square feet or larger, according to Houzz data. Bathroom renovations. Bathroom remodels that included replacing the vanity, cabinets, countertops and toilet cost an average $25,600 in rooms at least 100 square feet, according to Houzz research. Again, the cost was about half that for a smaller bathroom. Finishes matter. About one-third of Houzzers who renovated last year stayed on budget, while just 3 percent came in below budget. Another third exceeded their budgets, while the remaining third had no initial budget at all. Among those who exceeded their budgets, the top reason was selecting nicer finishes or materials. How Much Does a Remodel Cost and How Long Does It Take?

Ask About Options Many pros offer a range of services, from initial design to project management, which may be priced as menu options or charged at per-hour rates. For just one example, architects can provide evaluation and planning services, which can involve site analysis and selection, economic feasibility studies and helping you determine what you want, need and are willing to pay for. Even if you are not yet ready to hire a professional to design or manage your renovation, you may want to hire a pro on a per-hour basis to help you refine your ideas. “A small percentage of upfront money with a professional can really help clarify the scope of the project and the budget before you get too involved,” says John Firmin, general contractor at Build-A-Home, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, who founded the firm 16 years ago.

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