One of the most commonly asked questions of a contractor, even if it is EMBLASONED on the side of their F-150, has to be the question……”do you give free estimates?” Yes, next to, “hey where did you get that cool shirt,” the old standard inquisition of the “milk without the cow” question pops up like a pimple on your forehead right before that first big date!
In fact, dating and relationship dynamics are a great analogy for working with a renovator, a comparison to wit I will try and do some justice at this juncture. Lets face it, like in grade 9, some of us are just clueless as to how to go about the whole PROCESS of finding, getting to know and ending up with the right mate! Think about it, the major challenges and fears of having reno’s of any kind done are about the same as that early on dating game! You KNOW what you want, you just don’t want to look silly in the process of obtaining it, don’t want to end up with less than you deserve and don’t want to get burned in the process!
Alas, the steps of good process for dating, the ones you have mastered as a result of your adultedness (that was close eh…) can be easily dusted off and used for your search for the best Reno-mate!! I won’t start with telling you what, “Free Estimates” is analogous for in this analogy but will rather leave that to you, the reader… here we go…
Step One: Nobody likes a pushy first date! Keep your hands to yourself and mind your manners. You want something from a renovator, you have obviously chosen her or him because they have “attractive” ideas or marketing. Remember, if they look good to YOU they likely look good to other prospective “reno-mates” as well. That means….eeeks…that, rather than be desperate for …..work, THEY may be choosing YOU as well! There’s a twist, here’s a tip! Play nice. If you really want them to be involved in your project, return to that dating process, call them and talk to them on the phone. Tell them about who you are and what you are looking to do. Arrange to meet and “chat” about your project. Before you start asking what they will give you for “free,” invest a little in this “blind date” and see if you even want them in your home.
Step Two: Trust, trust, and more trust. Relationships by their very definition are reciprocal in nature. At this point we will not delve too deeply into the compromising situations “giving away” things based on promises of “future commitment” can put one. However, I can warn you, reno-relations are no different. If you are going to want to see other quotes and renovators as well as the one you are dealing with, tell them that up front. At this point, the second date, you should be able to have a candid conversation with your “reno-date” and they should be able to avail you of the budgetary intentions, or a quote if you will. In my mind this should always be “FREE.” If, however, you are going to take the relationship to the next level and have design work done for you, that is another matter. If you intend to take the work that a designer has completed for you to form other potential relationships, you really should tell them, and your really should PAY for their work. Your designer or contractor may choose to see their hard work shared with others as an investment in your relationship or they may choose to see it as being taken advantage of. At least you will have put the choice where it belongs, with them. To behave any other way is simply building a relationship on a flawed foundation of misplaced trust, and we all know how those end up!
Step Three: The Proposal. The chat was free. You feel good about paying for the design work and have “shopped around” and now you have found your true “reno-mate!” Now you likely have a design, a budget and a quote with all of the information that you need in order to make an informed, rational decision about in which direction you want to take your potential project. The only questions at this point should be “why not?”
As with your relationships in the past or maybe the future, there are all sorts of potentially great people out there to align yourself with and develop relationships with. Likely none of those valued relationships came without getting to know one another first, without some act on both parts that built trust and without some clear thought, at some point about where the relationship was taking you in the future.
I guess the bottom line is, in life…we ALL go through a lot of “Free Quotes” before we end up with the one that is just right for us. Looking at the process from BOTH sides and seeing any fees involved as investments in the process may just save you the trouble of more than a few “duds” along the way….
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