Negotiating a home improvement budget
November 20, 2021 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I need help communicating my budget for some home design+build work. I said the number I had in mind, and was told that it was feasible but they'd have to really pay attention to my budget in the design (implication being it is too low). I want a nice design! How do I communicate that I have some flexibility without letting them take me for a ride?

This is for landscaping work, which has highly variable pricing. I received a reasonable (kind of high end) quote for design work, then I wanted to communicate my overall budget so they wouldn't design me something wildly out of my price range. I came up with my "budget" after getting full design/build quotes from some other people. After hearing the response, I want to communicate that I could pay more (maybe 150% of my original number?) but it feels strange to just throw that number out there without understanding what it would get me. How do I have this conversation?
posted by acidic to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: One way to do this is to ask for a plan that meets your original budget, and then suggestions for additional work you can do in later years with cost estimates (a phased design). With that in hand, you can easily say "we have a little extra budget - let's do this year and next year now."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:09 AM on November 20, 2021 [16 favorites]

Best answer: For me the question would be if you have anything you have your heart set on that the budget you gave them won’t allow for? If that is the case, get them to provide an alternative quote that includes the thing.

If there is no such thing let them come up with a plan and walk you through the plan for the stated budget. If you want to swap or add things at that point do that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:16 AM on November 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you plan to spend the whole 150%, do you still have a fund to buffer cost overruns? Extra important when prices and availability of a lot of things (including labor) are volatile.

I like the idea of asking for plans for the future
posted by momus_window at 10:37 AM on November 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I wouldn't throw the 150% number out there, but I would ask what kinds of compromises they anticipate as they "really pay attention to [your] budget in the design," and the impact of those compromises. Then if you get the sense that they're not the kinds of compromises you're happy to accept, you could ask what the added cost would be for the higher-end options you care about most.
posted by daisyace at 2:35 PM on November 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a landscape architect and I wouldn't communicate that you can pay more until you see what they come up with, and if there are compromises you don't care for you can then pay more for those exact things that matter to you. For any construction job you should be budgeting 15-30% more for cost overruns anyway.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:31 PM on November 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Meant to add: The overall design plan should be the most important thing anyway- i.e. patio for barbecue here, sunny reading area here, planting area here, &c. Decide on the arrangement, then you can increase the cost of the materials and finishes. Smaller plants are usually preferable to larger because they grow into conditions more quickly and are less likely to have been stuck in their pots for too long. Don't compromise on proper lawn prep if you're having one put in- even sod lawns need to be graded, amended, and rolled before the sod is installed. You might want lighting cable run even if you can't afford nice lights (ie not plastic) immediately. Highly recommend a good irrigation system even if it means you have to spend less on something else.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:37 PM on November 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

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