surprising allowances?

gingerjennyMarch 5, 2012

Were you really surprised by allowances gave by your builder? Which ones surprised you the most?

I hear horror stories about things like $300 allowance for lighting that ends up being $2000.

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Siding - $2,800. Reality - $11,300. We upgraded both siding and trim. We were truly surprised by the cost of the upgrade. We had a verbal and anticipated it would be about $7,500. DH has already had a talk with the supplier - "well, I should have called you, but that is what you wanted." We are happy with the overall look/product, but still feeling the ouch of the price increase.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 9:26PM
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Millwork: something like $30K (including kitchen and bath cabinets) in a house that will list for over $1M. (a colleague's client's house).

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 9:28PM
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Our builder was right on with every allowance, even over on some. Sad to hear these bad stories because there are good, competent builders out there.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 9:51PM
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What is reasonable for a kitchen allowance? i've been trying to do some research online and it recommends a minimum of 5% to a max of 15%

We are planning about a 250,000 home

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 10:36PM
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GingerJenny - We are empty nesters so our wants outweigh the needs at this stage in our life.

Appliances - $17,000 (Wolf, Sub-Zero, Independent, Bosch, Sharp, KitchenAid)

Custom Cabinets - $15,800 installed (stained cherry, painted poplar, and walnut countertop)

Flooring - $4,250 (3 1/2" oak in random lengths, includes GR, DR, Hallway, Foyer)

Sinks - $800 (prep and Kohler apron front)

Faucets - $1,100 (2 Delta Trinsic, 1 Insinkerator H/C)

Perimeter Counters - ???? Undecided. We estimate the cost will be approximately $4,000 for honed granite.

Garbage disposals - $560 (2 3/4 HP Evolution with air switch)

Lighting - $220 (6 cans, 3 pendants)

I am sure there are other items I am missing. At this point I am certainly over the 5-15% range, but this is the house where they will carry me out feet first. :-)

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 11:29PM
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motherof3sons, I'm super impressed at your $220 for 3 pendants and 6 cans. My 3 pendants come in at a LOT more than that and it's killing me. But again, it's a MAIN space of the house and unless I find something less that knocks my socks off, they'll just have to be what they are.

Allowances...I agree with abdrury. Ours has been right on. He's reputable, on time and on the money with everyone he builds for. The only things we've gone over on have been because WE changed something after the fact and caused it to go over. And it's not been a surprise. For instance, the brick we chose was a pricier brick than he priced in. He already priced in very nice brick. But I picked a pricier brick AND put a herringbone pattern on the porches. So I added about $700 to the masonry budget. But he had allowed plenty to start with. I could have worked well within his allowance had I really needed to.

Several items have been well under budget. He sends a running spreadsheet with his invoices. I'm hoping it works out fairly evenly in the end. If it doesn't, it's because of a choice I made differently from what we started with (which I was perfectly happy with beforehand).

Our builder is good in that he also builds in a cushion for such things. So even if I do make a choice which causes me to go over a bit, we have a cushion.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 2:27AM
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We did a lot of estimating before hand, and I was clear with my builder that I didn't want to have an issue with this so our allowances are fairly close. In addition, all of his suppliers at one time or another have said he gives generous allowances so he doesn't have this issue either. Anywhere that we are going over, it's quite obvious that I did the 'ole "oh, it's only $X more, why not" :)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 7:26AM
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The $1,500 lighting allowance killed us. We spent about $5,000 after you add in bulbs and cans.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 8:11AM
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I'm very skeptical of our ~$4k tile allowance (Mudroom, 3.5 bathrooms and backsplash). However, he did budget ~$6,8k for light fixtures -- so we appear to be a step ahead there.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 9:24AM
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When I did a walk through in the framing stage of house project to do the electrical I had a real problem with the allowance because it was set at the bare minimum. We ended up taking all of the decorative fixture allowance out and putting that in the interior design budget. I think one decorative fixture equaled the whole allowance.

It was also weak for outlets, switches dimmers and the like.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 9:29AM
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There is usually a electrical budget for outlets and switches? ugh you would think that was a given.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 9:43AM
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For us it was the tile. Everything else I had done my homework on beforehand so I knew where I wanted to add extra (lighting)... But the tile ended up being double....and it wasn't for anything fancy or super expensive, just a medium grade porcelain v. the cheapest grade (apparently) ceramic. We are just now getting to carpet and I know we are going to be really low on that too.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 10:17AM
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Our allowances were originally specified by our architect in the bid documents, but our builder pointed out a few of those were low and adjusted them when he submitted his bid. One that didn't get adjusted was the $2K lighting allowance (not including cans), and we've blown by that. The rest have been good and have only turned out low if we changed/added things.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 10:54AM
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I guess I'm a bit confused. We've built several custom homes and I've never worked with allowances. "Allowance" items were not in the contract, and we just purchased what we wanted and could afford. I personally did pick out some things ahead of time (cabinets, wood flooring, carpet, tile), so we already knew what that cost would be Everything in the contract had been sent out for bids to contractors, so those always came in at bid price, unless we signed a change order. There were a few large items we puchased ourselves that we wanted included in our "down payment" so we presented those receipts to our bank. Just a different way to write a contract I guess.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 1:11PM
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I've built pre-sales, where the builder floats the loan and I bought the homes at the end. In those, everything had an allowance line item. If we wanted anything more than what was in the contract (like, more than two three-way switches,) we paid more:

Some Change Orders we expected to pay for. Our surprises were:
* electrical/lighting (probably a couple grand more... an extra switch here, an extra outlet/light there, etc... it adds up fast)
* cabinetry (probably a year of good college more... yikes.)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 6:07PM
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So far we've been pretty close. There were a few things I knew I'd go over on so we increased the allowance prior to signing (appliances, cabinets).

I wish I'd done more research on carpet. I can't find any carpet that I like in our allowance ($27/sq yd installed). So we'll probably go $1-2k over on that to get what I want (something nice and soft but stain resistant for our baby).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 7:08PM
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We are building custom but asked the builder for a general idea of budget based on the plan, sq. ft and finishes we expect. He has also been at every meeting with the architects to help us during design on areas where we could save. He prepared a budget estimate based on the 5 most recent homes he has built in the same size and style. His allowances in the budget estimate were very generous but....

I knew immediately that I would go over on appliances and cabinets (he scoffed at me) and via estimates (we have not started yet), I was right.

He however estimated our windows (very contemporary, almost all glass rear elevation) at $100K and the first two bids came in at $60K so there are my appliances and cabinets.

We have a $15K lighting allowance and I know we will use every bit of that and perhaps more.

We knew exactly what we wanted for flooring and I priced it prior and it was less than my estimate but more than the allowance he usually gives. So be it - we won't compromise there either.

We will be over his budget estimate on decks as well...he usually only has two decks and we will have five. Again, this is our forever home so he couldn't talk us out of that.

We shaved some off of his stone estimate (almost 30%) by selecting Coronado Pro-Ledge stone vs. real. We were super happy about that - neither one of us cared about real stone although he prefers only real stone.

We have a target final cost in mind and know there will be compromises in the guest suites and daylight basement but we are OK with that as long as the key areas have exactly what we want.

I guess it is all about what is most important and what you won't give on.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 9:37PM
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I told my builder what my allowances would be, once I had priced out the items.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 4:58PM
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