“Selecting A Budget For Our Aging In Place Clients”

A couple is reviewing what they want to include in their aging in place renovation and preparing a comfortable budget amount to discuss with their contractor

Everything begins with the budget, but how do we arrive at that number? It’s not always easy.

When we are called in to visit the client’s home to give them ideas on creating an aging in place solution for their needs, there are several ways the potential project can progress from that point. The client may or may not have a budget number in mind or even a scope of what needs to be done, but there’s more to it than a number. More on that as we go along.

Before we can even estimate what the project might cost, we have to know what it entails. What exactly are we being called in to do, and what else is involved besides just what the client tells us they want or meets the eye?

We start with an interview with the client. What are they looking to accomplish with a renovation? What are they trying to remedy that doesn’t work for them right now? What would they like to be able to do in their home that they can’t do presently? Are there physical or sensory issues, considerations, or limitations that need to be taken into account in coming up with a design –  use of a walker or wheelchair, poor balance, weak vision or hearing. limited reach or range of motion, stamina or coordination issues, or other mobility concerns such as walking, standing, sitting, squatting, bending, lifting, or retrieving?

What do we observe as key safety issues, such as inadequate or inefficient lighting, non-solid surface flooring, doorways or hallways that are too narrow, or open tread stairs? What about the age, size, and style of the windows, heating and air conditioning system, appliances, cabinetry, door and drawer hardware, and general bathroom safety?

Other than what we observe as potential issues for the safe navigation and use of their home, what do the clients identify as needing attention? Do they see or experience the same things as we, or our lists different in some respects?

Regardless, these items that have been noted form the basis of the work we need to address in our proposal. Now, we can talk budget.

Before we ever agreed to meet with our clients in their home, we may have asked them if they had a monetary figure in mind for the project (even though the actual scope is still to be determined). There are multiple ways they can answer this question.

First, the clients may have a number in mind that they have allocated for the project based upon their savings, family contributions, an insurance settlement, or what they think the project as they envision it might take. So they give us their number. It’s going to be a little higher than what may be required, close to what we think initially, or seriously below what we think such a project will run.

Second, they may have a number in mind, but they are reluctant to share it with us, thinking that we will spend every cent of it and then some – regardless of what number they give us. Part of this may a factor of TV makeover shows where the entire budget is spent and often more.

Third, they may have a number in mind but don’t want to share it with us, thinking that it could be much lower than we would think it should be so they don’t want to insult us possibly with such a low number, and they want to save themselves this embarrassment.

Fourth, they may have a number in mind, but it is quite out of date. They are quoting a number that might have applied years earlier, and they have not adjusted it for current times. They might be basing it on a previous remodel they did (on their own or with a contractor) or what they think their friends or family spent some months earlier – on what they regard as a similar project.

Fifth, they really may have no idea and will just say so. They want us to give them the number. On the chance that they are just being reluctant to divulge a number they have, we will give them a ballpark number that is typical of projects of this nature to gauge how they respond to it. They are going to be shocked that it’s higher than they expected but not blown away, admit that this is close to what they had figured it could be, or be totally overwhelmed by the number.

Then, we can decide how we want to proceed with this client. We can prepare our proposal and meet with them to go over it. We can help them set priorities to accomplish the most pressing issues with the money that they are comfortable spending – but not the entire project. We can reject the job as being too small (budget-wise) and possibly refer them to a colleague that we know can do a good job for them.

Before we commence, we have to be comfortable that the budget we established will cover the job (whatever the final scope turns out to be), and the client has to be comfortable that they can fund the project. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.

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