Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How much is it going to cost?

Ever thought about having some work done on your home and looked around online trying to find out how much it will cost you, only to come up with drastically different or vague answers? So you suck it up and schedule some estimates to get an exact price. Then, when you get the estimates your eyes pop out of your head because the numbers on the paper weren't what you were expecting.

Yep! Us too! Well, the reality is that pricing can vary for a number of different reasons. We get phone calls all the time asking for an approximate price over the phone, but it is really difficult to do this type of pricing for most projects because of how different factors affect the cost. Also, sometimes a small detail to you (the property owner) may be a big detail to us (the contractor).

It's good to go into an estimate knowing an approximate price for the work you are considering and having a budget set aside for that approximate amount, but don't be married to that amount, because, like I said, prices vary!

I want to demystify our pricing to you, so you can have a better idea of why our prices are the way they are. Here are some factors that will contribute to the cost of the job.

1. Location, location, location: Just like the cost of your home (i.e. a large mansion in NoWhere, Nebraska (no offense Nebraskans and much love to you) will be substantially less expensive than the same house in New York City), construction and landscaping prices will vary based on the area as well. Cost of living, cost of gas, property values all factor into pricing either directly or indirectly. For example, a company that has to pay higher prices for gas, materials, utilities and office space will have to offset those costs in their pricing. Thus, construction costs in some locations will be inherently cheaper than others.

2. Quality of materials: It might be helpful to ask your contractor to break down the costs of materials vs. labor. Obviously sometimes quality costs more. Make sure your contractor specifies the type of materials that will be used and that they are of high standard. This could also be a way to save money if you are willing to sacrifice slightly on material quality, again depending on the project.

3. Access: A tree that can be accessed from the road will be easier to trim than a tree that you have to hike a mile to get to. The time and energy it takes to transport material and labor to a site are factored into the price, so that a site with difficult access can be significantly more costly.

4. Liability: Liability insurance is expensive for tree service and construction professionals. If there are power lines or another structure that may be easily damaged nearby our risk for damage or injury increases and thus this is factored into the price.

5. Labor: How much would someone have to pay you to haul heavy bricks in the freezing cold for 10 hours a day. We pay our guys a fair wage, which means well over the minimum wage. While some companies may try to cut costs by hiring unskilled laborers at a low wage, we know the value of a quality worker who knows his trade.

6. Overhead: It costs a lot to run a business the right way: with appropriate licenses and insurance. And for good reason-- it protects you, the property owner. Hiring a company without licenses and insurance may be cheaper in the short term, but it may end up costing you in the long run because you will end up being responsible for any damage done to your property or anyone who is injured on your property.

Of course some prices are based on square footage or linear footage, but I hope that this posts helps you understand why prices vary between contractors. Understanding our pricing will help you get the best value for your project.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What New Home Buyers miss that could cost big.

I have been watching a lot of HGTV lately. If you are not familiar with the network it is sort of like the home improvement channel. A lot of the shows focus on home buyers finding the perfect homes or home owners renovating their property. Watching the shows I started picking up on things first time home buyers look for (things I could totally relate to when we were looking to buy our first home) and things they miss (things that I wish I had thought about when we were looking to buy our first home.)

Most first time home buyers go in looking at aesthetics. Are there granite counter tops? Stainless Steel appliances? Walk-in closets? However, the more important details that can have a big impact on living in the house, are often over looked. Here is my list of big items that you should consider when purchasing a home.

1. HVAC- I once rented in a small house where the heating bill for one month was $1000. I have also lived in a small house that used diesel heating, which cost about $600/month for heating. That's a lot of money to burn during winter months that many home buyers overlook. Check out a home's HVAC system before you buy. Is it new? Is it central air, diesel or gas?  It can make a big difference in the comfort of your home and the price you pay through the lifetime of the house.

2. Roofing- Roofs are another big ticket item. Replacing a roof usually takes at least $5000 and that is for a small home. Check to see if the roof is in good condition, or have the inspector check. Its never fun to shell out a few thousand big ones for home improvement a few years after you purchase the house.

3. Landscaping- Curb appeal is a big factor in real estate and while many want a nice big back yard, few first timers think about the work it will take to maintain the yard. Regular, mowing, trimming, and weeding is the bare minimum for a landscaped backyard. In general hardscaping, gravel and artificial turf are easier to take care of. Make sure you budget to hire a landscaper or budget time to do it yourself. Also check for drainage issues which can be very costly over time, especially if it results in flooding.

4. Environmental factor- Ever looked at a home with solar panels? How about a home with a charging station for electric cars. As our world changes, I think choosing a more environmentally friendly home will make a big difference. A lot of "green" home factors also tend to save you money which can be a huge plus. Even something as small as environmentally friendly windows and insulation can make a big difference in the overall cost of your home.

5. LOCATION, location, location- Any realtor will tell you that you can change just about anything about your house except for the location. That is why location is such a big deal. Do you want a home close to work, close to the city, in a good school district? Are homes in the area selling for more or less money than the house you are buying? Make sure you know what area you are getting into before you buy.

These are some key points to look into when considering buying a home. Can you think of anything I missed? Anything that you thought of AFTER you bought your home that ended up costing big?