Planning for and designing a remodel can be the loads of fun. Endless hours spent looking at inspiration boards and shopping for the perfect drawer pull (how long is too long? How long will brass stay fashionable?) is exciting - but once a renovation begins it has to be paid for. This part can get tricky.
If you have a larger project you will probably be using a loan to make payments. In this case the back will be involved and you, the bank, and the contractor will work out a payment draw schedule which will be paid by the bank to the builder or contractor. This actually builds more accountability into the process and helps protect the homeowner.
If you have a smaller project or want to pay cash, you and the builder or contractor will negotiate a draw schedule. This is a very important part of the construction process - make it work for you, not against you.
HOW TO MAKE MILESTONES WORK FOR YOU
The one essential thing you must do to make milestone payments work is tie them to measurable achievements. You do this by breaking each milestone down into its component parts, assigning a value to them, and noting when they are completed.
Some people feel milestone payments are bad for the homeowner - but this is only when they are not being used properly. If you don't know why a milestone is important, you will have no way of judging if the work has been executed and yes, you might pay for more than you should. If you know what has been completed and what it is worth, milestones are a great tool.
At the end of this post you can sign up to download our complete Milestone Kit which includes:
- The Milestone Planner (identify milestones, tasks, and percentages)
- The Milestone Calendar (track milestones as they happen, with notes)
- The Payment Tracker ( track ALL payments including milestones)
- The Expense Tracker (handy for keeping track of expenses by category)
HOW TO IDENTIFY MILESTONES
The first thing you need to do is get a good list of every task and it's value. Next you can use that list to identify your milestones. Finally, add up all the tasks in each milestone to get the payment for that milestone.
- Develop a scope of services listing each task
- Develop a schedule of values for each of those tasks
- Identify major milestones
- Break each milestone down into it's component parts
- Add the value of each task within one milestone
- Save 10% for the start and 10% for the end
The larger the project, the more milestones there will be. A common method is to use inspections, but you can also use large element of the process such as finishing the foundation pour, rough framing, dry in, rough in, trim out, and substantial completion.
HOW TO PRICE MILESTONES
The amount of each payment should be roughly based on the value of the work completed. Of course to do this you need to know the value of each step in the process - ask your contractor to provide a schedule of values, which will assign a percent of the total to each line item.
The first payment is to establish trust and provide capital for materials. In some places (I'm looking at you, California) the amount is established by law (10%). It is also wise to retain about 10% for the final payment to have some leverage for that punch list.
The larger your project is the more important it will be to have everything clearly itemized and valued. Smaller projects can often be handled with a 50% / 50% or 333% / 33% / 34% arrangement.
ADDITIONAL PAYMENTS - WHAT TO EXPECT
In addition to the contract there may be other line item payments. Any deviation from the original plan will require a change order, which will have to be negotiated separately.
It often makes sense to pay for finish materials separately. Usually (but not always) construction materials will be included in a bid quote - things like framing lumber, sheet rock, electrical wiring and plumbing fittings, for example. These are standard items whose price doesn't usually fluctuate wildly (the price of some items, like rebar or copper wire, do fluctuate based on market value and it can make difference).
However, finish materials do have wildly different values - basic ceramic subway tile can cost as little as a few dollars a square foot while designer tile can cost 15x as much. Guess what? If it's the same size it is the same amount of work to install. Of course some design choices do make tile more expensive - 45 degree angles require more cuts and have more waste, and mosaics are also more time intensive.