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Homeowner's Guide to Surviving a Remodel

So you're a homeowner with a house in need of repair or improvement. You have the money, but you're reluctant to even consider a home improvement project due to the horror stories. We’ve all heard them: The Remodel from Hell, I’m A Remodel Refugee, or the ever popular … Get These People Out of My House! Sadly, these types of harrowing tales are common, and unfortunately, it is all but certain that there will be many more “sequels” to come.

So what do you do?

The best way to minimize or even eliminate the pitfalls commonly associated with home improvement and remodeling projects is simple: Be Prepared! The smart homeowner is the prepared homeowner. Before you consider picking up a phone or running to your local home improvement center, please prepare by reviewing my Homeowner’s Remodel/Home Improvement Survival Tips.

Know Thyself

Before you even think about starting a new home improvement project, ask yourself some very pointed questions: what are my desires? what are my limits? and what are my expectations? Without a clear answer to each of these questions, you will have no idea where you are going or what to tell a design or construction professional trying to assist you. Essentially you need to look within before you go looking for help. Try to establish a starting point or base level for your project. This type of early consideration by the homeowner is essential to getting your project off to a great start.

If you have no idea where to begin, what’s possible, or what makes sense for you, it’s OK to say, “… I don’t know." If you find yourself completely clueless, turn to a design professional for assistance. To ask an architect for assistance with these initial stages, simply request an hourly Pre-Design Services agreement. You can simply buy a block of hours from an architect for a set price. The architect would then use his experience and expertise to help you chart a course toward achieving your desires, working within your limits, and setting appropriate expectations.

Hire the Right People

Once you’ve asked and answered the questions of desires, limits, and expectations, it is time to find help. Needless to say, hiring the right professionals makes all the difference in the world. Not only do you need to find architects, engineers, and contractors with extensive expertise and excellent professional reputations, but you must also find people with personalities you can get along with. It has been said that selecting professionals to assist with remodeling is like selecting a spouse: choose once and choose well. Just like in marriage, this person will be with you for better and for worse. The relationship between client and architect, for example, must be one of trust and respect. The client must trust that the architect is going to give expert advice and counsel appropriate for their specific project and circumstance. The architect, on the other hand, must respect the limits and direction agreed to at the beginning of the project.

Get Involved

Now just because you’ve asked yourself the right questions and hired the right professionals, it doesn’t mean your involvement in the project is over. The only way to ensure a successful outcome is to be active and involved. No, I’m not suggesting you enroll in architecture school or begin learning a trade, but you should be actively curious during design and construction. Happy clients are the involved clients. No matter how skilled a professional may be, none of us are “mind readers.” You simply will not get what you want unless you can effectively communicate with the architect, contractor, and interior designer.

Never Assume: Ask!

How long will that take? How much will this cost? Are you familiar with this building material? Remember, design, construction, and home improvement should be a journey of discovery. Just because you’ve hired qualified and trusted professionals, this luxury shouldn’t be used as an excuse for you to lose touch with your project. Most quality professionals understand that communication is essential and should be more than willing to explain the process and answer any questions you may have. In many cases, this type of interest and attention to detail by the client (you) will help to inspire those designing and building your home to reach further and try harder to create your perfect home environment.

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