Using a Home Renovation Consultant

Many homeowners are anxious and overwhelmed when it comes to home remodeling or renovation. Indeed, even those who have been through the process before can be wary of tackling another one. A home renovation can put a stable a marriage to the test and turn best friends against each other.

It is for these reasons that a new trend is developing: hiring a home renovation consultant also known as a remodeling coach. Once it was only multimillion dollar renovation projects that would hire a project manager or consultant to oversee the process but now with a plethora of finish and product choices, stiffer building and zoning codes, demanding work schedules, family and personal commitments, and the shear volume of decisions that must be made, it is often necessary to involve an expert as the homeowner’s advocate or agent.

As the homeowner’s agent the interest of the renovation consultant and homeowner are aligned. Home renovation consultants become the eyes and ears of the homeowner. While the homeowners are busy with their normal lives, the renovation consultant is monitoring the process, organizing and prioritizing decisions and filtering information so that the homeowner is able to concentrate on important issues and decisions.

From the designer to the plumber everyone involved in the project feels that their job is the most important and can overwhelm the homeowner by presenting too many options and asking too many questions that all seem important to answer immediately. A renovation consultant can cut this chatter down to a manageable stream and help the homeowner concentrate on the elements that will keep the project moving along as efficiently as possible.

A renovation consultant’s services can be tailored to meet the needs of the homeowner’s. Some homeowners may need a consultant in the early phase of the project just to set it up for success: budgeting, selecting the designer and contractor, and/or value engineering. Another may want the consultant to become part of the permanent team and manage the project through to completion. There are many variations and types of services a renovation consultant can offer and a good consultant will help the homeowner decide the scope of the consultant’s involvement and provide a detailed written scope of that work so that both the homeowner and the consultant know what is expected.

Establishing the correct relationship with your consultant is important. I prefer that the renovation consultant work as an agent of the homeowner. Meaning they have a fiduciary responsibility to the homeowner. In terms of compensation for the renovation consultant it is important that it not be directly tied to the cost of the project. The homeowner and the consultant must have their interests aligned that means the consultant should be trying to minimize, not maximize, costs whenever possible, and make decisions based on the genuine interests of the homeowner. The method I find works best in the preliminary stage (ie. when the project scope and budget are defined and the consultant’s scope of work is decided upon) is to establish an hourly rate for the consultant. Once the timeline, cost and scope of the project are determined, the renovation consultant should then present a proposal with a fixed price for their services. As a guideline, the rate for a good renovation consultant will range from $100 to $300/hour, while in my experience for total project management using the fixed price method the fee is usually equal to 5 to 9% of the cost of the project.

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