Escalating design and materials costs.

So I am currently in the process of pricing up a quote for a design for a potential client and the costs seem to be skyrocketing even with me finding good deals and cheaper alternatives, also the design has gone through several revisions, with many of the ideas and requests put forward by the client having to be advised against and rejected for both, structural and aesthetic reasons.

Now the main reason for this is I think that because the potential client didn't have a real idea of what they wanted other than having a more level, low maintenance garden or costs involved.

Now I had a discussion with the client and drew them up a few quick designs, some more elaborate than others, with aspects they quickly jumped on as something they would like.

The problem with this is that in the initial discussion figures of 5 to 7k cropped up as the budget which would have been a very basic design and budget material.

With all the revisions, choices of paving, artificial lawns and walling etc the basic raw material cost has far exceeded this initial amount without even considering the time and labour elements which are relatively substantial due to the sheer amount of aggregate needing shifting, extensive patio work and very awkward access issues.

I felt that I had to contact this potential client and tell them that the upper figure of their budget was pretty much hit before I had even priced all of it including labour to which they replied they were 'OK with that. ' which I took as being they can stretch to more.

However I don't know how they will react to double figures and more than double the initial upper budget (and I haven't even priced in rendering all the garden walls as per their extra request!) and fear the job could essentially outprice itself.

Has anybody else been in this position or have any ideas on how to approach it as I'd rather secure it than lose it and don't want to sell myself short by doing it for a low profit?


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  • I find customers have no concept of the labour costs involved in remodelling a garden even a wee one, I normally do a quote based on what the customer has requested but have it all broken down into areas where a cost can be attributed (labour and materials) but also have a back up plan because I very rarely find they go for the better high cost option. Its best to be open about prices and what that price will get them from the outset  and then find a middle ground that works for you and the customer if this too high.

    Get the price written down and show them so there is no ambiguity and do staged payments at certain points of the job.

  • PRO

    I don't see how you can soften the blow of the double figures Neal, The price is the price , The only way to find out is to approach your customer with your revised calculation , sounds though as if they will be okay with it going by their reaction to your comments about the budget already exceeding their expectation .  

    Also sounds as if you can easily secure this job and nail it by doing the work for a low profit but is this really viable ? 

  • At this stage, it's time to cut the chase, fix a realistic, overall budget with the customer (say £15K) then work the design to that. I don't know how a figure can be worked to without including labour costs. Our materials/labour tended to be in the region of 50/50

  • The problem with doing it for a low profit is that this job is likely to take a little while, especially as they want it done ASAP (no doubt the winter weather will stall progress at some point I'd at least want to mark out the plan, dig footings and whack up the retaining wall for the raised patio and shift an level all the sub base in) so I don't want to slog for sod all where I can do more smaller, easier jobs for the same. There's a 110 square meters of patio and winding path work to be done for a start lol! I'll certainly mention that if each individual part was done separately that the cost would be significantly higher.
  • I agree with the others here especially Dave's reply. The price needs to broken down so that they can see how you've got to the figures. Suggestions on how to cut costs in different areas would be good. Overall you have to lay your cards on the table from the start and leave it to the customer to choose the way they want to proceed with this, i.e. closing the sale by asking open questions such as "shall we use that style of paving slabs or use the cheaper ones that will keep the final costs to"...

    • I've been on the phone to the client today explaining that for me to do a professional job and not cut corners the costs are significantly higher than original discussion, I mentioned that I was waiting on a conveyer quote to cut down on labour costs and the reason for this being lack of access, also I discussed how weather could essentially cut the job into two halves in regard to the patio work. They also revised the plan yet again in regards to a raised bed and steps instead of the inset ramp they wanted in the raised patio originally. So back to the drawing board a bit again.. Luckily that will reduce the price a bit.. What I will do is have another meet up and set forth why costs are where they are and reasons behind it. Also I am pretty sure that at retirement age they are unlikely to want another garden done anytime soon.
      • PRO

        I hope you're charging for all this design work?

        Instead of second guessing, why not give them options 2 or 3 at most.

        Clearly whatever option they take you would be doing a 'professional job'?

        Option one 10K Option two 15K Option three 20K or whatever

        I've wasted a whole lot of my life trying to reduce budgets for people,  for them to complain at the end about how much it has costed, arghhh!

        • Yes I charge for basic design and for additional revisions (5th revision now) Well basically they have a couple of options one high which includes optional wall rendering they asked about and the normal one. If anything I will waive the design fee and chuck in the timed drip irrigation system for free if they quibble about price.
  • PRO
    Some kitchen companies used to be notorious for not delivering what the customer wanted or were expecting.

    The kitchen would be finished and the customers would say "where is the cornice and pelmet, the glass doors, lights under the wall cupboards?" and so on.

    The designer sales person would design a high priced kitchen, then when the customer said it was too expensive start knocking things out of the design, the customer would not keep up with what was happening and end up with a cheaper kitchen that didn't match their expectations.

    The good salesperson designed an affordable kitchen and got an agreement that it was on an acceptable design and within budget , then they started up selling adding to the design and cost until they hit the customers limit. So they would start with a price including laminate work tops then tempt them with the granite, unless of course it was obvious that they were high end customers who wouldn't quibble about the price of the granite.

    The good sales people told me it is always easier to upsell than having to start compromising on a design to get the price down.

  • Thanks for your helpful advice gents, I secured the contract this afternoon and didn't have to change anything else about the design. After some initial worry about the price I discussed how they would impact the overall design aesthetic if cheaper alternatives were chosen and where and why the costs of labour and materials were where they were. They seemed confident and happy then to pay a higher amount for what they wanted rather than compromise.
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