Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Discipline, the Key to Realistic Pricing

Our recent posts exposed some unfair marketing traps homeowners can fall into. None of us know what we do not know. Working with a trustworthy remodeling contractor is the key to value and satisfaction. Some of our customers come to us after being scammed unfortunately. They confided their frustration trusting it was still possible to find a trustworthy contractor.

Homeowners have paid hefty down payments, signed contracts, and trusted the word of whoever they awarded their project to. Unfortunately, some lost their deposits after demolition or half way through the process when the trusted "professional" never shows up again! Yes, this happens. How can you prevent this? Check out referrals and ask any contractor you are considering for references and insurance. The best way to escape being scammed and prevent paying double for the work you want completed is to shop for value instead of the cheapest price.

I hope I taught you in the past two weeks blog posts to beware of the following bait and switch marketing ad. Any retail business telling you your project can be priced by the foot, as displayed in a vignette is being deceptive. Another fallacy in our industry is the ploy of "discount" volume Kitchen Bath showroom companies who advertise on TV or in print a flat total price for cabinets and granite in a package deal. Generally the marketing features two or three choices available in the same price point around $5999.00 to $9999.00 complete. Those ads are generated to get you to call and come into the showroom to see for yourself what you can have at the cut rate price. If, and it is a big IF, your wall space and square footage of your kitchen allows you to use exactly what is included in the deal, you may be able to keep the cost as advertised.

The reality is the retailer advertising this way know it is unlikely anyone can fit the shown arrangement into their available space. The catch is most customers need to change a cabinet size
or location of cabinets to fit their space. This change creates a need to vary placement, cabinet count, and counter top measurements. All bets are off. At this point the "discount" is not available any longer. You find the same cabinet and counter top selection costs much more when it is ordered to fit your measurements.

Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath sells value!  Respect, integrity, and follow through is how Apple Wood Construction and Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath has built their sterling reputation. So let's talk about value.

All of us have dreams for projects. Then we have the reality of what our budget is to build the dream.
It is the same circumstance faced when planning a wedding, party, buying your home, furnishing that home, and taking on projects to improve the home. Math becomes a deciding factor. There are some considerations you may want to ponder.

1. Discipline to stay on budget is critical you must realize selections drive cost. We suggest staying
    aware during the selection process.

2. Beautiful designs and products are available to accomplish your budget goals,whatever they are.

3. When selecting fixtures, flooring, wood, tile, cabinets ask to see and select from the pricing
    category appropriate for the budget you are working with.

The "D" word, discipline! Ugh! If only life did not require it!

You have to prioritize what you want versus what is non negotiable. Make your "dream list" then decide what you must have and what you can live without. Start there. Keep in mind, your new kitchen or bath is going to be light years better than what exists now.

Keep in mind the resale value of your home and your neighborhood. It is not necessary or wise to put a $150,000 kitchen into a home valued in the $300,000 range. It is also unwise to put a $30,000 kitchen into a million dollar home. Stay in the budget range appropriate for the location of your home.

We can design and build your project to fit lean budgets, typical budgets, higher budgets, and exceptionally liberal budgets. Each of these categories depend on being an informed shopper.
Selections of the components to complete your project determine the final cost. This fact can be challenging, especially for women.

When it is time to go to specialty suppliers of tile, lighting, flooring, appliances, and fixtures your understanding of the cost allowance is critical. You will be walking into a sea of choices that can derail your budget quickly. We suggest contacting the sales person where you will be making the selection. Tell them the scope of your project, including the cost you hope to keep this product within. Ask them to prepare selections in that price range for you to see. By doing this you protect yourself from falling in love with something that will increase costs considerably. You will also protect your excitement and satisfaction by avoiding feeling limited.  I am sure you understand what I am talking about. We all struggle when our "wanter" is in control.

There are more differences to consider that create the price categories  We will offer some comparisons in the next few posts.

Dream away and come share your vision with us. We specialize in making your remodeling dream a reality!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Common Question!! How much per foot would this Kitchen display cost in my home Cost?

Making the decision to actually begin a project is a BIG event in a home owner's life. We get that!
Generally you have been dreaming about improving your home for months, maybe years. Now it is finally time! Congratulations!

There is one important question every employee of any Kitchen Bath Department of a home improvement warehouse or the most exclusive custom cabinet showroom is asked often. It is,
" How much does a kitchen / bath as shown in this vignette cost? " We understand it is a legitimate question. We know it is more complicated to answer than you might expect. Why? The answer is choices, choices, choices!

A remodeling project is an investment in your home that impacts functionality and resale value.
Performing your due diligence is key. You are wise to determine how to acquire as many of the preferences on your wish list as possible. Yes, comparing pricing is important. Let me give you a tip. The most important consideration is not price. It is value! You can always find a cheaper price.

Please consider an important fact! You are going to be in this space everyday for years to come. Value and quality win out over saving a few dollars in the long run. The old saying " You get what you pay for," is completely true in the remodeling business. If your purchase involves product installation, referrals are critical. The wrong product will not last.  An inexperienced contractor and installer can ruin the product, damage your home, and leave you stranded mid project! It happens! Unfortunately, unscrupulous contractors have been known to tell people what they want to hear, take a hefty deposit, begin the job in the demolition phase to never return again. We are hired by homeowner's experiencing such an emergency. Value and peace of mind would have been their experience if they had come to us first. Often saving a few dollars costs you thousands to repair.

Kitchen and Bath projects are a combination of math, art, creative talent, and craftsman skills.
Unless you have an unlimited budget and vision to custom build a new home or add an addition to an existing one, you are faced with limits created by the square footage of the room. You are also impacted with the placement of doors, windows, fixtures, plumbing, and appliances. No one can have everything they dream of and must prioritize based on space and their budget.

Let's get down to the gritty answer to the "cost per foot" question. Here comes THE question: " How much would this display run in my house? Or , " How much does this kitchen/bath cost per foot as displayed?"

The reality is two families could live in the same development, in the same model home with exactly the same square feet. The placement of their original cabinets, fixtures, plumbing, and appliances could all be the same when they purchase the home new. Yet, when it is time to remodel, there will be vast differences in cost and pricing. Why? The choices they make  Their personal tastes and
goals create the vision they have in their mind and determines cost. Rarely would any display you see in a showroom work perfectly in your home. To quote an accurate price for that same display sets the homeowner up for expectations that lead to disappointment.
Linear pricing is very misleading!  The policy to actually market remodeling this way is deceptive. It is linear pricing. Linear pricing is a marketing strategy that is very misleading. It is displayed this way: "This Kitchen Display is $---.-- a foot as seen."  These small vignettes rarely if ever actually imitate a real kitchen or bath layout.

When a homeowner, especially the woman of the home, gets serious about pulling the trigger on the project she wants "everything" possible for as reasonable as possible. She typically wants it all done, "yesterday". After all, you have waited for your dream kitchen or bath for a very long time.

Your space is going to need a unique design fitted to your measurements. Square footage of your room and selections are the deciding factor on what your project will ultimately cost. The linear pricing approach is a bait and switch approach. Usually, the per foot pricing does not include installation. Warehouse store management teams want every item in the store priced to attract shoppers. Store Managers and Assistant Managers are not remodeling professionals.They do not realize how projects are priced accurately. Neither do their supervisors from the corporate offices.
When Corporate declares to price everything, the only way to do that is add up the retail pricing of the cabinets and counter top in the display. Then the total price of all components in the display is divided by the linear feet of the counter top. As you can imagine, this will not be a true representation of your available space and personal selections.

"Free Design" marketing plans play into the inaccuracy as well.  Often a "designer" will compose an CAD design based on the customers measurements and hand drawing. The general public is uninformed. Management understands the lure of "free design". They need their employees to learn the CAD design software. Thus repetition is the tutor and since they are on the clock, why not offer free designs?

Just to remind you of last weeks Post's facts:

There is a huge difference in design and sales approaches. Any reputable Design Build Firm will not proceed with any design service until the build team members measure on site. Those measurements are accurate and passed on to the Design team Designer assigned to the clients project.

The reason for the difference has to do with expertise and a Designer having built a portfolio of projects completed satisfactorily. The path to being a one of these more experienced designers might have begun in a big box warehouse store. That is my story as well as many other very talented professionals. They have earned their stripes, so to speak. Yes, high pressure repetitious practice teaches people the software. The more free designs done, the more the new designer learns. It is really that simple.

I hope I have helped you know important info. I hope it educates and guides you to the best possible partnership to realize your dream project. We would love to help you avoid all the pitfalls and find complete satisfaction and value working with us.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Do you offer Free Designs ?

Have you wondered about "Free Computer Generated Designs" for a project you are considering?
It is a common question customers ask every designer in all of the contracting venues available to remodel your home. Since there are many answers to that question, let's discuss some. Marketing Strategies, PR,  and Training Models determine how all components of a remodeling project will cost. The Design Phase is very critical. The options are handled differently by various Home Improvement Contracting professionals you may consider awarding your project to.

There are various levels of talented professionals in the remodeling business. Experience has a great impact on whether "Free Designs" are offered.  There are also various business models available. The old comparing " Apples to Apples" saying really applies to home improvement and remodeling.

What are your choices when considering a remodeling project?
Here are your primary options listed in order, most satisfying to least:

1. Design Build Contractors are companies that handle everything start to finish , soup to nuts in
    house. You do not need to call, schedule, track. or deal with anyone besides your sales coordinator
    who literally handles it all for you.
2. Custom Cabinet Craftsman
3. Neighborhood Kitchen and Bath Showrooms partnering you to find outside carpenters,
   electritions and plumbers
4. Home Depot, Lowe's, and other Hardware Retailers
5. Discount Neighborhood or Online Cabinet Retailers - Sell Cabinets w/o Installation. These tend to
    be the do it yourself approach.

Number one represents the top quality of design, installation, and services. Number four is typically the option offering free design. Why? This is true primarily, because their designers are trained with a hands on learn, as you go approach. New designers may never have a class or senior designer that mentors them. If that is the case, they are typically told to get familiar with the software by repetition and practice.  Number five is the choice that can result in very unsatisfactory results.

Since we are focusing today on "Free Designs," Again, the unique " hands on training" model of number 4 above is why, free kitchen or bath designs have historically been available at these big box home improvement stores for decades.  They have been the driving force behind the public expecting free design and a print out of said design.

In some locations in recent years, this may have changed. Free designs may not be as readily available due to a shift in protocol and specialization of departments and personnel. Home Depot and Lowe's may have changed their design services model in some locales nationally.  If a particular location has greater sales volume in the Kitchen Bath department, the design phase may happen outside the actual store. You may meet a Sales Specialist who helps you select the cabinet line, wood species, and door style. After your space is measured by one of their staff, the measurements and selection details may be handed over to the off site Design Team. There may or may not be a charge for these services depending again on location and volume. It is important you know the following if you find yourself in this situation:
Your contact in the store is a middleman. Opportunity for error and misinformation is multiplied in this scenario.

Remodeling showrooms are found across the United States. You will find clusters of specialty privately owned Kitchen and Bath Showrooms out West. They tend to be most available in wealthy communities. Affluent cities and suburbs across the country have a similar business model.  In the middle class towns, big box home improvement stores may be the only option a homeowner has when they want to remodel. This is particularly true out West where "Planned Communities" filled with newer track homes reign. Yes, of course, there is also the option of hiring a contractor or custom cabinet maker too.  You quickly discover a considerable range of pricing between the custom specialty showroom and the warehouse approach.

Here in New England remodeling is BIG business. Many of our communities were founded in the 1700 to 1900's. Historical and mid century homes are plentiful! They are part of the charm of living in our beautiful towns. The charm loses it's luster however, if the kitchen or bath in a home one buys are not functional. Updating kitchens or baths becomes a necessity. This fact created more competition than elsewhere in America. One town may have three to six privately owned Kitchen Bath retailer, each with their own style of the five types I listed above.

The facts above are the answer to our "free or not free" question. I learned Kitchen Design  like most newbies. I was working in one of the two top home improvement retailer's stores in America. When I began working there I was in the Home Decor Department. As often happens in these big retailers, trained people frequently quit or transfer to another location. This leaves vacancies in various departments. These stores are not typically known for great employee retention. Thus the management team often recruits a replacement employee internally. They do so by moving someone from a department they are experienced and trained into the vacancy in the department that recently lost an experienced trained employee.

This unique approach to training provided in Big Box Retailers created "free designs". It is "Training by Fire". It is basically a sink or swim concept. The person new to the Kitchen and Bath Department are forced to learn on their own primarily. Repetition due to demand becomes the training model. Offering free designs allows the newbie to practice and learn hands on through trial and error. Management know that many people that want a free design are not always serious about remodeling. They tend to be just beginning in the planning stages. This is perfect for a new employee in the department. There is no pressure really and they will learn the software and product details playing designer while working.

Beware! The design phase is critical to your satisfaction and outcome. Kitchen and Bath Design  requires a special skill set. The person needs to have a rare combination of right and left brain interaction. A very small percentage of the population possess this combo. I think the statistics are less than 10% are creatively right brained combined with the math skills needed to create a design
that fits perfectly into the available space. Being an art form, Kitchen Bath Design requires a marriage of accuracy and creativity. It generally takes at least months if not years to develop the expertise to balance the two. When a "Designer" has reached this level of experience and expertise they usually are employed by a level of retailer that charges for design services. I hope I helped you understand better why most Kitchen Bath professional charge a design fee.

Here at Apple Wood we set up a complimentary appointment with you in our showroom to talk about your vision and goals. If you choose to proceed, we meet you the second time in your home to measure and see the room. At that point, if you wish to proceed a Design Fee is taken. Our Designers are first class, spend hours working on your kitchen or bath design. It is not refundable, if you decide against contracting with us. However, when you decide to move forward, it is utilized as a deposit amount deducted towards the final cost of your project. Our Design fee is very competitive and reasonable, It is very low, a few hundred dollars. Some Design Build companies charge thousands. .

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Selections Create Realistic Time Frames for Projects

Why do most homeowner considering remodeling  typically get serious in September?
Well, summer vacations are over, school has started and the holidays are around the corner. After over twenty years in the Kitchen and Bath industry, it is clear. Every August into September begins the busy season.

As summer wanes bringing cooler days of Indian Summer and Fall, we begin to be reminded that Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here in two to three months. Then we think about who we will be entertaining. This is the primary reason the remodeling business picks up in late August to October. These are the months people come in wanting the project they've been dreaming about for years to "be done" before their holiday guests arrive for Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

From the customer's perspective, I understand this completely! We certainly want to help you realize your dream project. After all, from your perspective, two or three months must certainly be enough time  to get a new kitchen or bath. Right? The answer unfortunately is,
"No, Not really. It is just not realistic. " Why? 

First contracts for other ongoing projects are in effect. Second, quality requires planning. Planning, selection of cabinetry, door style, finishes, accessories have to be completed even before you begin the design. Quotes are based on selections. Each design and the cost is determined based on the cabinet manufacturer, the cabinets, door styles, finishes, and accessories selected. Being a creative endeavor, the process itself generates more ideas and questions.The first design process tends to invite our imagination to pursue more possibilities we become curious about.    

Here at Apple Wood our jobs stay on time on and on budget. With excellent design services in place and selections confirmed, the actual build phase does transpire more efficiently than many of our competitors. The key word in this paragraph is "selections". Having the Design Wish Folder discussed last week saves time , frustration, and helps expedite your remodeling project. 

This will be a long anticipated, exciting time. There are wonderful steps you will find fun and interesting. There are other steps in the process with more negative aspects. Living in your home while your kitchen or bath is being remodeled creates challenges. 

Most homeowners experience the final results  worth every inconvenience.  However, the process generally takes longer than anyone expects. There are many positives and negatives to consider. There are also steps a homeowner can take to limit the negatives they experience. It is about planning and making selections in a timely step by step process. 

 Remodeling and new construction represent events that can be the most creative and exciting adventure of home ownership!  It is important for your peace of mind and ultimate satisfaction with the project to avoid confusion that can make this event a disappointing experience. Here at Apple Wood, our commitment is for you and your family to fondly remember your design/ build process as one of your best times filled with memories you will share for decades. Our expertise and years of satisfied clients tells us we have succeeded.

In the excitement surrounding updating our homes, few realize the process is filled with hundreds of options. Each of these options presents a final choice that must be made. Even more important is that these choices must be completed in a timely fashion to keep the project on target for its completion date. There is a definite deadline for every selection.

This truth is difficult, especially for us gals. Why? Well, we women get so excited about our new kitchen, bath or addition! We can become truly overwhelmed with all the possibilities. Soon the need to practice some self control to stay on target presents itself. Balancing this fact determines whether the process is going to be enjoyable or filled with stress. Here is the scenario! 

FINALLY, the time has come for us to actually get our kitchen or bath remodeled! Yay!!!! We have the rare opportunity to create our dream space and we want it to be perfect and check every box on our wish list.The problem? Our thought process goes something like this:

"Wow, I can have whatever I want now! Hmmmm, well what do I want exactly? I want so many things. Is it possible to have all of them with our budget and the space available? Should I go with a white /neutral classic kitchen? I LOVE that look! Oh, wait, I also LOVE the traditional cherry wood look! I have to pick the right one because we will not be remodeling the kitchen again! The choices, they are endless! How can I be certain I am going to like what I select. My friends tell me what they like and what they think is best. How do I know which is better? I need their ideas and opinions! I'm going to call my BFF and see what she thinks!  I'm sure my Designer and the the Build team won't mind if I change my mind before we begin the demo of our space. I think I will be happier with ......."

I bet you have had the conversation in your head, right?.

Each appointment in the design and ordering process exposes clients to more decisions than they expected. It can make people anxious, wondering if they are making the right choice. After all, I am going to be living with these choices for years. I need to be sure! 
All of this is true and worthy of consideration. However, it is important to realize changes are not as simple as we may think. Designing and quoting a job is based on selections. Your designer has worked hard to meet as many of your "must haves and "really wants" as possible. After the design phase is complete, signing the contract , making your deposit and getting on the schedule for the installation phase is very important. 

We tend to seek others opinions because we doubt our own preferences. The people living in the home need to be the final decision makers. Often, asking a friend or relative can cause us to second guess something we felt confident about the day before.The temptation to change our minds is hard to resist. However, constantly rethinking can complicate, confuse, and slow the entire project. That becomes frustrating for everyone involved.

Having choices is fun in so many ways.What woman does not enjoy shopping and discovering possibilities? It also has the potential to bring great confusion into the remodeling process. This is true for the homeowner as well as the Designer/ Contractor they are entrusting their dream project to. An experienced remodeling design professional has helped hundreds of client navigate through the sea of possibilities. Be sure to work with someone who asks and listens to your ideas and dreams. Discovering your hearts desire for your project along with finding who you can confidently work with is the key!. It is critical to trust your designer, sales, and contractor. They will help keep you true to what you discovered is most important to you.

Please ponder what I have suggested. Does it make sense to you? In the next few weeks we are going to inform you of the nuances of our industry and answer some questions. 

We will be magnifying this interesting topic. We all know the expression "comparing apple to apples or oranges to oranges."

Here is a reminder of what helps! We at Apple Wood recommend creating a Wish or Dream Folder. It is your centralized collection of pictures , ideas, and references to ideas you like for your project. Many times, people are not sure what style , colors, types of wood they prefer. There are so many! We are all swayed and influenced by what we see as well as other's opinions. However, deep inside we typically find the styles, colors and selections most pleasing to us as we collect data for our folder. Most people are surprised to find they gravitate towards certain styles, textures, colors, and design preferences. Why?
It is really our subconscious choices. When we honor them, our level of satisfaction is higher.

We look forward to designing and building your new kitchen or bath. Do not delay. To be honest I do not think Thanksgiving or Christmas of 2016 will be the year you entertain in your new kitchen. However, it is the perfect time to begin the process of making selections so that it is completed in mid 2017! Let's start!