Realistic expectations

A survey of Qualified Remodeler’s readers indicates schedule and budget, with many comments about design, require the most time when it comes to client management. Where one lives is a major part of life and, as such, it makes any big decisions relating to a home emotional ones.

J. Bradley Simons, vice president and chief financial officer of Lindon, Utah-based Magleby Construction, indicates design is one of the simpler aspects to manage. The builder, architect and interior designer must work collaboratively from the get go. “There will always be surprises,” he cautions, “but if everyone is involved from the beginning there will be fewer surprises.” For example, if only an architect is involved in the initial design but no builder, the customer could decide on a design that can’t be built as is. Involving the builder from the beginning will prevent that miscommunication. 

Magleby Construction is a time and material builder, and Simons indicates the budgeting process can take up to 12 months. “It’s a complicated process,” he says. “It depends how fast the customer makes decisions and if they change their minds a lot. We prepare a budget based on what we have from the customer.” Simons relies on pre-construction agreements to figure out a lot of budget elements, but notes “industry-wide, that is the biggest area we don’t hit expectations on.”

Customers have a larger role to play in scheduling than they may realize. If they are waffling between cabinet decisions, for example, and cabinet ordering is therefore delayed by weeks, it’ll push portions of the remodel back and have a domino effect. “The house sits waiting while other things can’t go in,” Simons says. “Their inability to make a decision caused the delay.”

Also clearly communicate to customers that “schedules are projections. It'll move all over the place; it'll speed up and slow down,” Simons says. “It's all about managing customer expectations. If you know there will be a delay and you don’t tell them the project will be a month behind schedule when you get to the estimated completion date and it’s not ready, you had time to bring them up to speed and you didn’t do it.” 

Once a contractor establishes clear communication, equally important is to ensure everyone on the team is on the same page; otherwise you have what Simons refers to as influences from external sources. “You can’t have subs or employees sending different messages to clients,” he says. “You have to control external forces. Those can destroy expectations as powerfully as anything else.”

Simons looks at a contract as “the rules of the game. If you know all the rules before you play the game, you understand it and it’s fine. In home building, every builder has different procedures and processes. Every builder plays the game differently.”