Smart Phone Apps for Builders: Cost vs Value
(iTunes description: Complete Cost vs Value data for 2010-11 from Remodeling magazine. Remodeling professionals and consumers can compare the average cost for 35 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale. Choose your region to display local market data for any one of 80 U.S. cities. See 3D renderings of typical remodeling projects and compare your local data to national trends.)
Cost vs Value is an interesting data application that allows the user to manipulate various controls to output specific pricing and value averages for local projects. By specific location (down to MSA level), you can search 7 different project types: Attic/Basement, Exterior, Addition, Bathroom, Doors and Windows, Home Office, and Kitchen. Each has sub categories, and variables for level of finish (major/minor work, mid-range, upscale, etc.) The data comes from Remodeling magazine’s trade surveys, some of the most robust in the marketplace, and linked to their Useful Recent Trends and Patterns data analysis on their website, such as the cost-to-value ratio over time (which has dropped as costs have continued to rise in negative correlation to housing values). It is useful to help business owners better know their marketplace and convey more accurate data to their clients.
I’ve always valued seeing how other builders budget their jobs – each seems markedly different – and this app is essentially a digital version of that process. I can see it being used in two ways:
First, a contractor bidding a job can use it as a check against market norms, similar to a comparative appraisal process. If your kitchen comes in at $45,000, you can compare and contrast that with regional & national averages, deducting and adding for differences from the baseline. For each project outlined in this app, the baseline is clearly outlined (this is noticeably absent from competing apps), including what looks like either Sketch Up for Chief Architect renderings, and a detailed paragraph-long written scope. The latter might even be a useful starting point for builders creating their own scopes.
Any app like this has obvious limitations. First, construction projects are too variable to compare apples to apples. Remodeling projects create environments where it is even harder to match comparable jobs. Custom projects may be too individualized to get much value out of this approach. It may be most useful for new construction (remember that the app is produced by Remodeling magazine).
Second, I tend to get more value out of looking at specific budget breakdowns (Remodeling Magazine tends to offer at least one detailed budget per issue). The app does not break down budgets by line item, such as plumbing, carpentry & cabinetry). Since this is how builders bid jobs, this specificity would be more valuable. Perhaps this detail could be provided in future versions.
Lastly, “value” is a highly subjective term. Generally in the building field, the term ‘value’ focuses on re-sale value, but few people remodel solely for that end. Most people remodel to improve their quality of life by making changes to their living environment through a design that fits their family’s immediate and future needs- all qualitative factors that are difficult to quantify. Using only home re-sale data takes the eye off the ball.
Still, that data might be useful to a builder selling a job (particularly if your bid comes in under the regional and national averages). Say, for example, you are in Atlanta and your upscale bathroom addition bid comes in at $37,000. Your prospective client would be pleased (and perhaps motivated?) to know that the bid is well below the regional and national averages, and even lower cost than the market resale value.
Cost vs. Value achieves the rare combination of being robust and simple, but leaves an experienced builder wanting more. Many will find it interesting, but it will no doubt take a builder with a specific relavant need to get much out of it.