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Negotiating on (relatively) big housing renovation projects


lnofeisone
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Hey all,

 

anyone has any tips on saving (on materials) and negotiating on big housing renovation projects. Looking to update: kitchen, 3 bathrooms, 1,600 sq. ft of flooring, and painting of a lot of rooms. I can get flooring and paint and I'm not handy enough to do any of this work and get an acceptance sign off from the better half. Welcome any tips/suggestions/etc. The best piece of info I got so far is that when I called two different contractors they both said they can start ASAP which is very different from what I was getting in Feb.

 

Thanks in advance!

 

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Just had a lot of exterior work done (siding, gutters, etc.) and was surprised at bid variance for same exact brand materials. Definitely shoot for at least three quotes if you can. That being said, getting the work done well matters, so factor in your assessment of the firm. The low-cost bid can prove to be a very expensive project or at least a real hassle if you are dealing with a contractor or subcontractor you don't trust.

 

Someone in my social network had a kitchen redone and installed granite. They visited the granite retailer directly and looked at discounted pieces and got a screaming deal.

 

Good luck!

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1/3 up front, 1/3 upon milestone completions, 1/3 upon finish. Never ever ever ever release full payment unless the job is done, it is your only leverage.

 

GC’ing yourself CAN work if u are flexible or can do work to fill in the blanks. But if you are on a tight timeline, don’t want unfinished work in the house for a week or two, then it may not be worth it. The job of a GC is to make everyone’s life as easy as possible. So u need to know all the tasks, skills, materials, space constraints, involved in all the subcontracting.

 

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On materials it depends. Some guys just know how to work with certain materials. Take thinset: traditional thinset cures slower and is easier to tile with. Quick drying thinset u only have like 30 min. This could royally screw ur tile guy if he’s not used to it. Talk to your GC or subcontractors.

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+1 on tile guys needing to stick with the materials and processes they know.  You don't want a tile job where your material buying forced the old timer to use epoxy grout for the first time, quick drying anything for the first time - and you definitely don't want to spend a fortune on Schluter materials if your installer doesn't regularly use Schluter.  Plumbers will grumble about certain fixtures you may choose, but plumbers grumble about everything so what can you do.

 

Besides getting deals on reclaimed lumber and things like that (I do high end renovations of 100-200 year old houses for the most part) - the way I usually save on materials is to buy big ticket items like appliances online with low prices, free shipping, and most importantly in my 10% sales tax area - no tax.  I end up using ajmadison and a few others that come up in price searches.  Don't use plessers for appliances - they suck.

 

I gave up on buying expensive plumbing fixtures on eBay for what seem like great prices - there is always some scratch or reason it is on eBay.  Buid.com professional usually has good prices on plumbing fixtures, locksets, etc.  Always check amazon as well for things like doorknobs.

 

If you are pulling permits you may need to hire a GC - but it really might be worth it if you don't have the experience coordinating the trades on an efficient schedule.

 

On materials it depends. Some guys just know how to work with certain materials. Take thinset: traditional thinset cures slower and is easier to tile with. Quick drying thinset u only have like 30 min. This could royally screw ur tile guy if he’s not used to it. Talk to your GC or subcontractors.

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Thank you all. Super helpful. I'm aware that I'm not handy or aware enough to coordinate all the contractors.  Definitely leaning on getting a GC and working with one that gave us a comparable quote (these vary A LOT) and is willing to work with us if we buy materials that he specs out (e.g., I can get stuff without paying sales tax).

 

As for milestones I'm proposed a milestone payment of 10/40/50% with us paying for all the materials as they are being procured (this way GC doesn't have to float us anything). Response I got that it shouldn't be an issue but he was going to check before confirming.

 

Again, thank you all. Appreciate the insights.

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All good advice above. I just wanted to add, having done a lot of kitchen remodels over the years in a number of houses.  Consider quartz counters.  I've had multiple types of granites, marble, tile, and my wife and I will never install anything but quartz in any home from now on.  It is by far the most durable and easy to clean and live with of any countertop we've ever had.  You can spill tomato sauce, leave it overnight, and clean it up with just soapy water and a paper towel in the morning.  No staining, no etching, nothing.  We keep a spray bottle of water with a few drops of dishsoap in it under the sink and that is all that is ever needed to clean the counters of any mess.  Just slightly more money than most granites, but worth every penny.  In our current house we put quartz in the kitchen and in every bathroom.  Because of its durability we just put it in our airbnb vacation home as well.  You can get it to look like just about any type of granite or marble.  This is Cambria Brittanica in our vacation home:  https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/36937304

 

Just something to consider.  Marble etches really easily and doesn't look nice for long if you use your kitchen to actually cook in (I realize some people don't).  Granite shows fingerprints like crazy, needs to be sealed yearly, and can still etch as well. 

 

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I have some apartments and have done all kinds of renovations over the last ten years. Since you don’t know how to do the work or aren’t interested in it, I would recommend hiring a midrange-expensive GC who you trust. More expensive is ok if they can actually deliver the results you really want.

 

It is extremely easy for a GC to take money, do nothing, and disappear. It’s also very easy for them to complete 80% of the job, collect final payment, and never come back. Do not make the final payment until it’s 100% done.

 

All that being said, GC’s are more than happy to charge you at a minimum 3x what it’d cost for you to do it. Probably 3-5x in bigger cities. The biggest reason I think they charge so much, is that most people don’t know jack about what it actually costs or what is a good quality workmanship. You gotta know enough to avoid getting BS’d. Hopefully you know enough or have hired a trustworthy GC.

 

All that being said again, if you make more than maybe $40/hr, it’s almost definitely better to hire a quality GC you trust and have it done correctly the first time. It’s gonna cost a lot more to do it twice.

 

I hope you can find a someone who can deliver for you and make your home comfortable for you and your family.

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I have some apartments and have done all kinds of renovations over the last ten years. Since you don’t know how to do the work or aren’t interested in it, I would recommend hiring a midrange-expensive GC who you trust. More expensive is ok if they can actually deliver the results you really want.

 

It is extremely easy for a GC to take money, do nothing, and disappear. It’s also very easy for them to complete 80% of the job, collect final payment, and never come back. Do not make the final payment until it’s 100% done.

 

All that being said, GC’s are more than happy to charge you at a minimum 3x what it’d cost for you to do it. Probably 3-5x in bigger cities. The biggest reason I think they charge so much, is that most people don’t know jack about what it actually costs or what is a good quality workmanship. You gotta know enough to avoid getting BS’d. Hopefully you know enough or have hired a trustworthy GC.

 

All that being said again, if you make more than maybe $40/hr, it’s almost definitely better to hire a quality GC you trust and have it done correctly the first time. It’s gonna cost a lot more to do it twice.

 

I hope you can find a someone who can deliver for you and make your home comfortable for you and your family.

 

Thanks Morgan. The GC is middle of the three quotes we got. All prices that we were quoted are within range we got from other GCs and homeadvisor.com. Also happy to take any recs in DC area.

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I work for a subcon, so we'd typically offer discounts based on invoice discounting. Cash is king for us so we'd typically be ok to shave off a certain % of our monthly claim if payments can be brought forward. If you have the cash on hand to undertake the work, this should be relatively easy to execute.

 

Look to see if they have something similar to what we call 'preliminaries'. This covers site specific costs like a PM's salary on a month to month basis. Tying bonus payments to early completion that are less than this figure can allow you to potentially shave off a month or so worth by bringing forward the completion of the job.

 

But most importantly, do your due dilligence on the GC. Experience suggests that the size of the discount is inversely correlated to  the likelihood that you'll hand it all back because of latent defects etc. If you have the budget for it look at hiring a QS/Superintendent to certify works. Alternatively, engage the QS and Super yourself and deal directly with the subs as this will save you the GC's margin less the costs to do so.

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