A successfully managed budget is a partnership between the builder and the homeowners.
Custom builders work hard to make sure their clients get the home they want at a price they can afford. Cost-control strategies include value-engineering the structure, writing clear product specifications, and managing the construction in the most efficient manner possible. Controlling costs is a responsibility that professional builders take very seriously.
But the builder is just half the equation: a new home is a partnership between the builder and homeowner, and there are things a homeowner needs to do to keep the project from going over budget. Most of these have to do with decision-making.
Most homeowners understand the importance of making timely decisions and minimizing changes once the project starts, but many lack a framework for making those decisions. The following five concepts will help a new home to come in on time and on budget.
1. Complete the creative process before breaking ground.
Some people have difficulty imagining how a finished space will look, so they postpone some design decisions until after the house has been framed, which can mean reframing certain spaces. Building something twice obviously costs more than building it once. People who have trouble envisioning spaces should be clear with the architect and builder on this difficulty early in the design process. Good tools are available—from 3D design software to physical models—to help homeowners get a better grasp on how their rooms will look and feel.
2. Choose as many products as possible before work starts.
Even people who don’t have trouble envisioning spaces often want to change their minds about products and finishes after construction begins. But changes always add cost, even if the substitute products are comparably priced. Take the example of choosing a different tub for the master bath. There will be administrative charges for ordering the new tub, canceling the original order, and maybe even returning the original tub. Depending on the stage of construction, the change could also delay the drywall while the builder waits for the new tub to arrive. That, in turn, could throw off the rest of the construction schedule.
3. Understand that every item has a cost.
Some people approach the process of designing their new home as they would an all-you-can-eat buffet. They sign the contract and then act as if they can add anything they want to the plate without financial consequences. Even if the extra costs are small—a more expensive faucet in the kitchen, a better grade of carpet in the bedroom—in the end it all adds up.
4. Learn to love multiple choices.
Rather than settling on one particular product, pick good, better, and best options for each product category. If the budget numbers start swelling, it may help to substitute that top-of-the-line lighting package for something less expensive that still works with the rest of the decor. Defining these options ahead of time makes the process a lot more efficient.
5. Leave plenty of lead time.
The more days or weeks between the homeowners product selections and when those products have to be installed, the better. That way, an unexpected delay from the product manufacturer or distributor won’t hold up the job.
The above guidelines are a proven framework for controlling project costs. Following them will reduce stress and help ensure a more satisfying project.
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