NARI: Planning Projects During a Pandemic
authors Neil Bubel | June 3, 2020
Many businesses are currently living in very uncertain and concerning times, including remodelers. As the days pass, it seems as if so much is out of our control. However, what you can
control is how you approach each project. Now is the best time to start all projects off strong. “How?” you may ask. It begins with great planning.
Everyone can understand, in theory, why planning helps, although many don’t want to spend the time or money going through that process. Yes, it can be time-consuming, tedious andexpensive, but it is the key factor in showing your value from the start. Furthermore, it creates a smooth project for both the homeowners and your crew.
Use this unexpected downtime to set yourself apart from competitors and set yourself up for success. By working with homeowners, whether face-to-face or remotely, you can develop a thorough set of plans and specifications. This will allow the project to start off quickly. That way, when they are ready to go, you will have a well-run project prepped. For example, a typical master suite set of plans should include:
- “before” floor plan
- demo plan
- dimensioned “after” floor plan
- dimensioned elevations of all walls where work will be occurring
- exterior elevations (if something is changing on the exterior)
- electrical plan, door and window schedule, and
- finished schedule, including all of the selections.
All planning really comes down to thinking through each step and putting it on paper so others can execute it. Every project is great when the designer builds the project themselves; however, this isn’t always scalable or even sustainable. You can’t be at every job all day. How much time do you spend telling people what to do multiple times? Or having to go back and fix something that was done wrong or the homeowner didn’t like? When you have detailed plans, you cut down on those issues drastically because everyone, homeowner and crew alike, knows what to expect from the beginning.
Many homeowners struggle to visualize what the final project will look like in their space. A major benefit of having great drawings is the homeowner understands what they are going to get at the end. There are many great 3D programs to help them see what the “after” space may feel like, as well as many excellent drafters who are willing to work with you for very reasonable fees. If this seems daunting, you don’t have to go that route. Even hand-drawn plans and elevations, with all of the correct details, really tell the story of what their space will feel like and help the homeowners see what sets you apart from the competition.
What do you do when a customer has a tile allowance of $20 per square foot, and they come back with a tile that is $45 per square foot? It’s a very difficult conversation to explain why the differential amount is actually two times as much. It could be because the tile price doesn’t include the mark up, or it is more difficult to install and, therefore, takes more labor. Those conversations are never fun to have with them. This is especially true when the allowances that are included in the proposal don’t cover what they want. However, if they had picked the tile and material out before the project started, then you could have avoided this conversation. This is an opportunity to make sure everyone is aligned on expectations and reality.
We have recently spoken with several homeowners who already had plans from another contractor or designer. One homeowner wanted a full remodel of the first floor of their home. The other contractor had put together one page of plans, which he also used to quote the project. We explained to the homeowners that what they had was the start of a set of plans, but there was so much more info that they needed to make the project function smoothly and give an accurate price proposal upfront. This is why we needed to charge a design fee.
The homeowner chose the other contractor for phase one of the project but ended up calling us about two-thirds of the way through because they were not pleased with the experience. They were having issues with features being out of scope and, therefore, more expensive, and they had to make decisions in a very tight timeline. After numerous conversations, we went through the full planning process with them and are currently working on phase two of their home. They have said even though the initial process was much more involved, it has helped manage their expectations going into phase two.
When it comes to providing the best remodeling experience possible, having a great set of plans is invaluable. During these uncertain times, this is one thing that you can control, and you’ll have a homeowner who is ready and excited for their next project. QR
Neil Bubel, CR, CRPM, UDCP, is the president of Traver Construction Inc., a design-build remodeling firm in Dallas. Neil is currently the president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Dallas chapter and serves on the NARI board as chair of the marketing and communications committee.