Over the past few years, the remodeling climate has evolved away from "make a statement" projects. Instead, we have been helping our clients focus on putting together projects that have a high return on investment in terms of real-world functionality, energy efficiency and personal satisfaction. We enjoy helping them determine their priorities and optimizing their projects to make the biggest difference in their lives and give them the best long term payoffs.
In a perfect world, we would be able to have everything we want, and do all the projects that appeal to us. But life is not perfect, so we need to make tradeoffs. We are sharing our tools to empower clients like you to maneuver through the process and determine which projects are really right for you and your family.
It's not bad to have to make tradeoffs. Being in charge of this decision allows you to ensure that you get the best out of it. There are two dimensions on which project decisions are made: which features to include, and where to be on the cost-value continuum. If you are like most people, you want best quality, best price and best value. However, the reality is that you can never get all three, and it's important to think it through, so that you can make choices that make the most sense for you.
Figuring Out What Features to Include: The Three Buckets Method
Generate a list of everything that you can think of that you want. Then, you can use the three bucket framework to help prioritize the features you are looking for.
Place all the features most important to you for your remodeling project into Virtual "Bucket #1". These are the things that if you can't do, you don't even want to do the project. Bucket #2 is for the features that would be really nice to have if you can fit them in your budget.You might even be willing to consider adding a bit to the budget for these items.
Bucket #3 is for features that would be nice to have but if they put you over budget, you can easily live without.
Now consider the things that cause you the most grief and put them in Bucket #1. We call these "pain points". Of course, what causes you the most grief might not be the thing you would most like to do, but it is that, which, from a practical standpoint, would provide you the most benefit.
For example, if you have temperature disparities in your home that make sections of it uncomfortably cold and require three blankets in the winter, then re-zoning the heat makes sense. A beautiful tile backsplash may seem "most important", but having a cold house in winter that makes rooms virtually unusable is more deserving of your attention. It may not be a particularly glamorous way to spend your remodeling dollars, but the improvement in comfort is essential. Similarly, projects which will mitigate costly damage to your home, such as replacing a leaky roof or repair work to preclude future ice dams, are not sexy, but will save you money and headaches down the road.
Prioritizing for Best Quality, Best Price or Best Value
After you have compiled your bucket lists, it is time to give some thought to where you want to be on the cost-value continuum. There are tradeoffs to be made between best quality and best price, with best value being a happy medium between the two.
Best Quality means that regardless of price, you want to get the highest quality possible. This might include best quality of design, service, materials and/or craftsmanship. No amount of money will buy anything better. Your priority is buying the highest quality available with a virtually unconstrained budget.
Best Price - Keep in mind that like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Going with the lowest cost estimate generally means accepting less quality, less service, longer schedules, lower value and a possibility that the job may not be completed on time, if at all. This can be especially true if you get one price that is much lower than other estimates, and that is something to watch out for. Bear in mind the old adage - that which seems too good to be true, often is.
Best Value - Going for the best value is another option. That sweet spot between best quality and best price is generally where our clients want to be. There is an art to finding that spot, and having years of job cost experience helps.
When you are going for "best quality", a personal determination must be made based on the relationship between cost, quality and your priorities. If your family uses the kitchen on a daily basis for cooking and quality time, a remodel with upgraded appliances and a better layout will provide more value than updating a little used powder room. If your growing family is straining your two bedroom home, then adding a bedroom and bathroom will provide more value than upgrading an already adequate master suite.
Factor in quality/quantity as you evaluate the features that you want to include in your project. For example, if you have a bigger wish list than budget, you might want to trade getting fewer things done to get the highest quality possible.
For example, to stay within your kitchen budget, you might include upper-end custom cabinets, unique granite counters, and professional appliances yet forgo adding cabinetry in an adjacent family room . Alternately, you may decide to get the built-ins done by opting for semi-custom cabinets, mid-range granite counters, and more modest appliance selections.
When considering what projects to do, the first step is to understanding your priorities, both for features, and your comfort level along the cost-value continuum. Then a personalized scope of work can be put together that balances value, costs and benefits to reach personalized optimized solutions.
The output of this exercise serves as a road map that guides design solutions and will ensure that your remodeling investment provides the best lifestyle improvements and long term payoffs for your family.