Post Image

Building is not a Game of Poker

Should you tell us your real budget? If you want a successful project, the answer is yes. Here’s why.

We occasionally meet homeowners who don’t want to reveal their true budget numbers. This lack of disclosure is not in their best interests and almost always sets the stage for disappointment.

Such reluctance is understandable. Much of the online advice about hiring a contractor treats the process as a poker game, with the contractor as the opponent. This mentality leads people to hold their cards close and creates a non-collaborative environment.

In reality, the adversarial approach is the least effective one when planning a custom home or remodel. You’re not engaging in a one-time transaction; instead, you are partnering with a professional who will transform your design vision into reality. Success demands that you choose a builder in whom you have enough trust to discuss how much you are prepared to invest. You can give a range rather than a hard number, but it needs to be realistic.

A reality-based budget is a crucial tool in the construction planning process. Most people have preconceived notions of what a home should cost, based on square-footage prices they have seen here and there. But these assumptions seldom support the designs and products they’re envisioning, and the result tends to be frustration. Putting your budget cards on the table is the only way the builder can paint an accurate picture of what is possible.

The best approach is to bring your design ideas—whether it’s a full set of plans or just a rough concept—along with your product wishes (web images, product literature, magazine clippings, etc.) and your budget to a trusted professional builder during the planning and preconstruction phase of your project. The builder can help evaluate these against your budget. If there’s a gap, having complete information opens the door to finding creative solutions.

These solutions usually involve a bit of value engineering, which is a systematic approach to making intelligent tradeoffs that satisfy the homeowners’ priorities using the funds they already have or are willing to borrow.

Value engineering may include altering the layout, such as reducing square footage in a way that doesn’t take space from the rooms you consider most important. The process can also include specifying less-costly products that, while not ideal, could be easily upgraded later. Floor covering, appliances, plumbing and light fixtures are products that can be changed out at a later date. For example, you could opt for inexpensive carpet today and install hardwood floors in a few years. The builder will also help ensure that you make the best choices today on items that aren’t easily upgraded, like cabinets, countertops and tile.

This tradeoff process can go on until you have a complete set of plans and detailed specifications that give you as much as possible of what you want without creating financial hardship.

The builder can’t do this creative work without an honest and accurate budget. In other words, a frank and open discussion about money is a prerequisite to getting a result that will satisfy. But it all comes down to choosing a professional builder that you trust to be your partner.


Warm Regards,


John Brink
Brink Custom Homes
P.O. Box 1902
Tahoe City, CA 96145

(530) 583-2005 – phone
(530) 583-4405 – fax