Five ways to keep your budget intact when building or renovating a home

Fred Wilson, AIA

Fred Wilson, AIA
Founding Partner at Award Winning Chicago Architects, Morgante Wilson

Nov 4, 2014 - 5 min read


Five ways to keep your budget intact when building or renovating a home

We all know setting a budget for building or renovating a home is one thing; keeping to it is another. From impulse buys at the grocery store to that late-afternoon latte, even small unplanned purchases can add up to unwelcome surprises for your wallet. Imagine, then, the opportunities for your budget to take a hit when it comes to building a new house. Or remodeling a kitchen.

Sticking to your home renovation or new home budget is crucial if you want to be able to enjoy the process of building or remodeling a home without frustration or worry. At Morgante Wilson Architects, we’re all about making this once-in-a-lifetime experience a fun one that you’ll look back on fondly. The best way we know how to do that is to help you stick to your budget. Learn from our clients, and you, too, can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you didn’t spend more money than you planned. Here’s how:

Budgeting: Start small, and price incrementally.

We typically advise our clients to go with the cheapest, smallest, most streamlined version of their dream house upfront – and then price wish list items as alternates to that plan. We do this no matter how large and luxurious their home is going to be. For example, let’s say you’d really like a three-car garage. Ask your general contractor to price it as an alternate, and he may give you a cost of $25,000. But if you ask him to price it into your initial plans from the outset, realize you need to make cuts because you’re over budget, and later ask him to re-price the plans without a three-car garage, he’ll probably only give you half that $25,000 amount back as a credit. It’s just the way these things work.

On the other hand, if you price your three-car garage as an alternate and get bids accordingly, you’ll get a much better price. It’s kind of like buying a car – it costs you less to buy the base model and add the features you want to it, than to buy the loaded model and ask the dealer to take out the navigational system. See what I mean?

Dig deep for sources.

Morgante Wilson Architects is unusual in that we buy straight from the source whenever possible. We skip the vendors – the retail stores and online sources – and find out who actually makes the goods we want to buy, whether light fixtures or beautiful tiles. Acting as a wholesaler, that’s who we purchase from. It takes time and effort to dig this deep, but it means our clients’ budgets stretch further.

Focus on the big picture – not expensive details.

Don’t get me wrong – our team of talented architects and designers is fiercely dedicated to imbuing every inch of your new home with beauty. But to us, that means space, volume, gorgeous windows, and plenty of natural light are primary.

Embellishments like heavy moldings and built-ins are secondary. It doesn’t mean they’re not important – only that they’re not as important as making sure the primary elements are in place first. That way, if the budget needs to be cut, it can happen in a manner no one will really notice. Lower the ceiling height by two feet and you’re going to have a huge impact on a house. Remove a molding or two, and no one will be any the wiser.

Work with a good residential architect.

This may sound like a shameless plug, but really, it’s one of the best ways to protect your budget. A talented, creative residential architect will be able to hide the fact that there are budget savings somewhere. A successful design means visitors can’t identify where you scaled back. It’s just that simple.

Play on a good team.

This is another of those intangibles that makes a real difference as to whether or not a project is delivered on time, and on budget. Your team consists of your architect, your builder, and you. Make sure you remain in alignment throughout the process. Refrain from pitting one team member against another. Communicate. Set realistic expectations. And always remember your team’s common goal is to treat each other fairly to achieve a successful outcome.

Of course, our goal is always our clients’ complete satisfaction. If we get that, we know we’ve done our jobs well. If we get a dinner invitation, too, well, that just means we’ve turned yet another client into a friend – which is also a good goal to have, in our view!

Want to learn more? Let’s talk! We’ll put the coffee on.

Fred Wilson, AIA

Fred Wilson, AIA

Founding Partner at Award Winning Chicago Architects, Morgante Wilson