03 Nov Why are most clients not forthcoming about their Landscape Lighting budgets to Design and Build contractors?
By Mike Gambino
Speaking from the standpoint of a professional landscape lighting designer builder, As a potential buyer of landscape lighting Design and Build services, When you conceal your budget to a contractor you short change your project and the contractors efforts. We need to know this information to understand if “we are your guy (or gal)” and the project is going to be buildable to our standards. It is a necessary discussion. If you find that most contractors do not contact you after initial discussions on your plans you may be asking too much of them without giving enough information of your own. In fact they may not take you seriously.
I would never expect a consumer to know exactly what a particular project would cost – there is no way that they can know that since they don’t do this for a living. I would expect however that a consumer knows what they are willing to invest in their project based upon their own personal financial status and how badly they want the project completed. An absolute budgetary number must be established to move forward.
In a perfect world, If a consumer wants to invest no more than $15K or $50K for that matter for a custom built low voltage landscape lighting system, then share that information once you have provided your desired scope of work and before the first meeting. As a professional, I can’t tell you exactly what the cost will be before the first meeting on site but I can tell you whether your scope and price expectations are in line and realistic. If we can’t help you for the budget you have set aside, we will tell you that nicely up front before even meeting. Everyone can then part as friends and no one’s time has been wasted. The consumer’s time has been respected and you may learn some valuable information from suggestions made during the conversation and the contractors time has been valued and respected by the consumer providing enough information up front to see if the project is even viable for them within the budget. That’s what I would label as a win-win.
Perhaps some homeowners hide their budgets because they can perpetuate their dream project longer before having to accept reality. And then there are some folks who want to milk the free design and consulting services of those willing to work for free and invest hours on the speculation that they will land the job for as long as possible.
Sometimes we will be asked to provide services before an agreement is made and deposit tendered. We do not work for free. In fact, those doing any other home improvement project and wanting something drawn up they’d need to seek a graphic designer or architect who get paid. We cannot provide this for free when the services of other specialists cost thousands. Thankfully these instances are not commonplace.
It’s rare but refreshing to find a client who says my budget is “X” What can you do for me with that amount of money?”
From the point of view of the consumer, in their minds it is very tricky and there are many things that can go catastrophically wrong from their point of view. State the budget and they may be suspicious if the bid comes in exactly what they have budgeted that perhaps they could have gotten more for their money. However this is never true when working with an honest trustworthy professional. They want your project to look its best and for you to get the most out of your budget because only then will this project bring them future work with not only that client but from their referrals. Say too little and then the contractor doesn’t know enough to help him or her get the job, and everyone feels like their time has been wasted.
When I interview prospects I like to get their budget before the first meeting. For some, their budget is too low for their project and I say so up front. They can either agree to increase their budget if that works for them or call another service provider that may be better suited for their project. That helps to narrow down the options. Since competent landscape lighting design builders generally know what various things cost within a range in the community they work in, there should be few surprises from anyone. But you have to have done your own budgetary homework or you will not feel confident.
As stated before (the client) doesn’t always know what things cost. For example, I would like custom millwork done in my basement, but I have no idea what that kind of thing costs in the real world. $10k sounds like a pile of money, maybe it will be $15k and I have to rethink what I want vs. what is affordable. Without having an open conversation with a landscape lighting design build contractor, a firm budget for the project can’t be set. For some it feels like an awkward conversation when you’re talking about thousands of dollars, and more so when you’re talking tens of thousands but it’s a necessary one..
There is always a bit of fear going into a project when the numbers are large. Will this turn out the way I envision? Can I trust my contractor? Lots of doubts and worries when we’re parting with that kind of money. This is fully understandable, but you cannot be cured by the doctor if you don’t tell her the symptoms you’re experiencing.
The consumer may feel they are coming from a position of weakness and feels they will be taken advantage of. The contractor on the other hand needs to know the budget so they don’t waste time putting a bid together that doesn’t meet the needs of the buyer. This is of benefit to no one. Without a mutual level of trust nothing gets done.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 27 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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