Pricing Your Outdoor Living Project: What Size Headache Do You Want To Buy?
Updated: Jan 27
When we meet with new clients, a familiar process begins to take shape. We listen as they tell us about their dream yard, including a new pool, pergola, fire feature, etc.. We learn more about their lives, gain insight into how they intend to use their new space, and assure them that we can create the backyard of their dreams. But once these initial steps are over, most clients want to know the same thing:
How much is this all going to cost me?
It is true that pricing for each project is calculated on an individual basis. However, when most clients think of cost sensitive items they imagine aspects such as project materials, application of those materials, hours of labor, and so on. They tend to take these items into account and attempt to use them to piece together a price estimate for their project before the final numbers are ever delivered.
What most don’t realize is that, while items like materials and labor are important, the biggest contributing factor to the price of any project is the caliber of the contractor executing the design. It’s at this point that we pose the question to our clients:
What size headache do you want to buy?
The Cost Of Convenience
In the Bay Area, there are a lot of construction companies to choose from. With so many contractors out there, choosing the right one for your project means deciding where your priorities lie.
A backyard renovation is always going to be a headache. Digging up your outdoor space means more than just dealing with a temporary eyesore. You’re also temporarily removing space for your kids to play, for guests to hang out, and for pets to run. As a result, many of our clients consider a speedy, on time completion of their space, with as few hurdles as possible to be their first priority.
However, this convenience doesn’t come cheap. When we talk to clients about contractors, we generally refer to pricing on a scale ranging from “big headache” to “small headache”.
The Big Headache
After learning about the cost of convenience, many of our clients tell us that they’re more than willing to sacrifice a quick and easy renovation for a final cost estimate that is lighter on their wallet. In that case, a few key things can generally be expected.
Cheaper construction companies may be easier on the bank account, but they tend to be poorly managed and unreliable. Internal communication and project management are often lacking, and clients can expect to see a number of hurdles before their backyard space nears completion. These issues tend to happen for a handful of reasons.
Most cheap construction companies are set up in a similar way. At the top of the operation is the business owner. Below them, the company tends to retain only a few real employees, and instead relies heavily on bringing in teams of subcontractors to complete projects. This allows the business owner to make money from the project by managing and overseeing the teams of subcontractors.
While this lack of internal employees and heavy third party reliance may make the overall price of the project lower, it can cause major problems, interruptions, and unnecessary hassles for homeowners. Working with so many outside teams means handling many lines of communications at once. This is a task most of these companies don’t excel at. When communication between business owners and subcontractor breaks down, aspects of your yard that may have taken a week to complete can consume much larger slots of time.
When we tell clients about this issue, many underestimate the level of frustration working with this business model may entail. In the Bay area, many homeowners are project managers by trade. They hear about poor internal management and think to themselves, “That’s nothing I can’t handle.”
Still, when all is said and done, many of these same clients express regrets on having gone with the “Big Headache” option to reduce costs. Project management experience aside, attempting to oversee and guide a process in an industry you are unfamiliar with is more difficult than one may think.
Playing project manager for your backyard renovation is simply not the experience we recommend at Water and Earth. We believe it’s important for clients to realize that a cheaper contractor still comes at an expense. What clients save in dollars, they pay for in time and personal effort to make sure that their space is progressing as planned.
The Small Headache
In contrast to hiring a lower quality contractor, paying more for a higher caliber company will pay off in leaps and bounds when it comes to aspects such as project management, communication, and quality of work. Unlike the cheaper options on the market, companies who charge more often do so because they are employing a large team of people who all work directly for the company.
Instead of hiring out to multiple teams of subcontractors and cutting a check off of poorly managing those third parties, these companies charge higher rates to directly pay a team of professionals. This means communication between all parties is seamless, and you’ll take on none of the burden of ensuring your space is progressing according to schedule.
Additionally, paying for a higher caliber contractor means a tighter turn around time, as work is done right the first time and any issues are resolved quickly by an internal team. Essentially, all clients in this scenario have to do is relax until it is time to pay the bill.
At the end of the day, those who don’t wish to deal with the nuisance of playing supervisor to their own backyard renovation should consider the true cost of opting for a lower caliber contracting company. Sure, the job may get done at a lower price, but the journey to the finished product can be fraught with complications.
Paying more money for a high caliber contracting team buys you more than a backyard--it buys you time, reliability, quality product, and an overall positive construction experience.
And for many of our clients, avoiding the “Big Headache” in exchange for peace of mind is worth every penny.