Apples and Oranges

by Tim Schrock 0 comments

Communication Design/Build

We all know the analogy of comparing apples and oranges, and throughout our lives, we strive to decipher the differences that we see between products, companies, services, and experiences so that we know best which one to choose. In the end, the goal is to compare apples to apples, or oranges to oranges. We do this in the produce isle all the time, right? If apples are 99 cents each, we compare one apple to another and choose the largest because it’s the best price for the amount of apple we get to eat.

We want and need to compare services, but the question is how to do so

When comparing services, it is hard to know when we have truly compared apples to apples. For instance, we tend to assume that two computers will operate the same when they have the same specs. But we now know that there are some brands that don’t hold up in the long run, and too often, we choose the less expensive option and end up paying the price in the end either by frustration or purchase of a replacement, or both.

The same correlation can be made of design and construction services. Remodeling inherently has troubles. It isn’t like new construction where dust isn’t really a problem because obviously, no one is living there yet. New construction doesn’t have to meet up with existing conditions, and electrical and plumbing lines can be installed in completely visible paths.

What’s the difference between designers?

For design companies, it is true, poorly planned projects – both new construction and remodeling plans – are built and completed all the time. However, knowing what excellent planning can produce, I often wonder why designers cut corners. More than once, I’ve heard a response that design services can be found cheaper elsewhere. That is true. And I’ve had to charge more than a handful of clients my fees to clean up the mistakes of cheaper design services. Price, while definitely a consideration, is a poor metric of comparison for service providers.

From homeowners and clients, we consistently hear reports of projects that no only turn out to be beautiful and functional, but the addition, remodeling project, or newly constructed home is working well for the homeowner, and most importantly, the construction project was completed smoothly and with little to no headaches. Our process of planning which includes homeowner and contractor, our persistent demand for accuracy, and a confidence and knowledge that planning can be productive and fun, gives our clients the gold level experience that we believe everyone deserves. After design presentations, our clients often ask us, “why doesn’t everyone do it this way?” They’ve recognized that their experience over the last two hours is both unique and fun.

So, If not price, how do I compare service providers?

I do understand, comparisons can be nuanced, confusing, and we’re not sure if we’ve just been sold a bill of goods or not. We default to price because comparisons are confusing. But, let me offer a few alternatives for comparison.

A service provider must have an amiable personality. He or she will be working closely with you on your behalf, you will want to know that this person will mesh well with you during the whole process. Is this person able to work well with you and others?

Does this person listen to your needs and goals? Is this person respectful of your decisions? Our firm belief is that these projects are yours to live in, so, you must be satisfied with it, not us. We do our best to ask the right questions to know how to serve you the best. We will give our professional opinion and let you know what can and cannot be done based upon functionality, code requirements, and consideration for resale value, but ultimately it is your choice (besides the items that building codes require).

How does the provider communicate with you? Do they respond quickly? Do they respect your time? Is the communication clear and organized? We work hard to make our clients’ time a priority. We do so by arriving on time; being prepared with meeting agendas; eliminating distractions; and presenting project ideas in three-dimensional models that can be moved, changed, scrapped or approved. Our focus is completely on the client.

Will the experience with this person or team be an enjoyable one? What would you call an “enjoyable” experience? If you spent two hours virtually walking thru your new project with a team of people who are dedicated to your needs and goals, watched everything on the big screen with laser pointers in your hand, and were allowed to make changes and achieve exactly what you wanted, would that be enjoyable?

I highly recommend that, if you still have questions, talk with past clients and ask them the above questions about the potential designer or contractor. Some of our clients have shared their thoughts on our Houzz profile. Don’t be afraid to be specific with your questions. It is your project and your investment. You must be comfortable with this decision.


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