Anyone reface brand new cabinets? Builder priced too high

Skyangel23March 27, 2014

I am frustrated with our cabinet choices. Our builder uses a vender who deals in Merillat cabinets only. On top of that the vender charges full list price. I�ve read on these boards and elsewhere that these types of cabinets should be able to be purchased at 40-50% off list price.

Sure enough, I called a few other cabinet places and the exact same cabinets are 50% less than builder�s charge. I understand they will take some markup, but this seems ridiculous. The builder will not let us go elsewhere. The door style is Portrait, which is shaker-style, in a maple painted off-white.

We will basically be paying $5000 more at least for the same cabinets through the builder�s vender. It is actually over $5000, don't have the exact quote yet as there is some back and forth on layout. Initial quote was close to $11,000 MORE than their standard "essential" cabinets. This is a lot for us.

While it is a full overlay door, this doesn�t include any upgrades like dovetail drawers, soft close, plywood boxes, glass doors, ect.

I am considering upgrading with the builder only enough to get the 42" uppers and a couple of drawer bases in their basic, standard line, "Essentials", which is a simple partial overlay door. Then after move-in, order full overlay shaker-style doors from an online store like Barkers, solid wood doors and drawer fronts and already professionally painted. Then just paint the boxes ourselves (with full overlay doors and side panels, our un-professional paint on the boxes would be hardly seen, I would think).

Any opinions on this? Anything I am not taking into consideration? Thanks for any help you can provide!

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I have a question about this kind of situation. Is your house being built as part of a new sub-division or something similar? I don't understand why if this is a new build that you initiated and hired a GC for, that there would be this sort of restriction on choices. Just getting on a plane, so I'll check back at the other end for your answer :-)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 11:24AM
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My frameless IKEA cabinets use Blum hardware that is designed for full overlay. I am not sure if that kind of hardware can be retrofit onto partial overlay cabinetry - so that would be important to investigate.

I bought this apartment new and we had very few choices about kitchen cabinetry so I know how it is.

Can you negotiate not having a kitchen put in? Or have a mini-kitchen installed that just places your sink and appliances?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 11:59AM
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I agree I would negotiate to not have the kitchen put in and have him reduce the price. Maybe just have the sink base and if a cooktop the cabinet it goes in if the bank requires a functioning kitchen on closing.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 12:23PM
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Thanks for the responses.
It is a semi-custom builder, which means we picked one of seven floor plans and modified it a bit. We have way more choices than a typical production builder, but we still have to stick with the builder's venders, unlike full custom.

The problem with not having the kitchen put in is the bank. Even w/ a mini kitchen with just the sink and appliances like lyfia and feisty68 mentioned, how would that affect the bank appraisal?

If we were paying for it ourselves, that would be perfect. But we have to pass the appraisal as well as whatever the bank specifies, and the county. I know for the appraisal we couldn't even change out our bathroom tiles for vinyl (due to budget constraints), because tiles were specified in the contract that the appraisal relied on, and we can't do anything that lowers the initial appraised value.

Yes, I am worried about retrofitting partial overlay cabinets with full overlay doors. Initially I thought only the door sizes were different, but I guess it sounds like the cabinet face frames are different as well?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:00PM
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Get a different builder. Just the very fact that he's charging you list would be enough of a red flag to go elsewhere.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:01PM
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I am not an expert at all, but I'm ordering my kitchen right now and I believe the difference between full and partial if you have framed cabinets isn't different. I don't know the hardware answer, but I know I got the price difference between full and partial. My KD said it was just preference and the boxes were the same either way. I have Kraftmaid, which I believe, makes Merillat. So I think that would possibly be an option in the future. Someone correct if I'm totally off there.

FYI: I opted for partial overlay. My dream would be inset, but since that wasn't an option, I didn't really have a strong preference for partial or full overlay and opted to save the money and upgrade elsewhere.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:11PM
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Hi Live_wire_oak,
we are already several months into the building process. No turning back now. Most of their other upgrades they've priced for us and that I've researched independently have been pretty competitive and close to what we would get elsewhere.

When we first went under contract, the cabinets were one small element of a hundred and we did upgrade to a couple of door styles higher. That door was still partial overlay, and once I realized that, plus the value of drawer bases and such gleaned from my time here--that's when their pricing started sky-rocketing. Once I got my hands on a pricing specification sheet for Merillat, I realized how much they were charging. I also learned a lot from GW about cabinet pricing elsewhere, and how most companies charge a significant % under list, which we had no idea about when we went under contract.

And of course the builder's cabinet company will charge full list. They have no competition since clients can't go elsewhere, and no reason not to maximize their profits.

So that brings us to now. :-(
If we can retro-fit full overlay doors onto the builder's basic cabinet boxes, I would seriously consider this option as it will likely be several thousand less. It is difficult for me to stomach paying thousands more for the same thing I can get somewhere else for much less.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:17PM
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You could try a few things. I have no idea of any would work.

Call a meeting with the builder and the cabinet company. They must be in the same room. Tell them you are not paying retail. Show them the quotes from other stores. Sit and wait until they agree to give you a discount. Say very little. Let them argue it out.

Put in as little as possible and then get your own kitchen later.

Let the builder put in a kitchen that is not over budget and then sell it as is. Yes, people will buy it. Put in what you really want.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:37PM
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I understand your situation. We also built in a subdivision and needed to go with their cabinet dealer. Fortunately it wasnâÂÂt an obscene amount to upgrade. Since you need to have a working kitchen to get the COO and the builder will not let you out of the contract without loss of initial payment you can try what debrak2008 suggests about meeting with builder and dealer.

If that doesnâÂÂt work I would delete all uppers and omit the island (if applicable) while upgrading the base cabinets to what you desire. Then purchase and install after you assume ownership. You will most likely have to pay for the flooring where the island would go but you can install over the floor after the fact.

Good Luck!!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 2:14PM
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Acheavacci just said was I was thinking. Just get the lowers, upgraded the way you want them. That will be enough for the CO. To get the all the cabinets and then have to put on new doors would just cost more and you are already being overcharged. You can order the uppers and an island later from a more affordable cabinet seller.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 2:55PM
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OK if I was sure this would work this is what I would advise you but I know how hard it is when you are in the middle of facing people but honestly, if you can cancel your contract with the builder and buy elsewhere, someone easier to work with now is the time. It sounds like your builder may only work with vendors who will give him a line of credit and they are protecting themselves with a high markup just in case he bolts. I have no way of knowing that of course, lol, its just that my husband and I have been burned so many times and we have learned a thing or two but we would probably still make mistakes just because we are trusting, but what you are describing seems awfully unreasonable, in my opinion.

When we built our house I didn't want cheap cabinets like the builder used that people had ended up replacing in 5 years so I got my own cabinet vendor. The builder didn't like it but that was tough, we were doing a custom build and he represented himself as a custom home builder and that means I get to choose. As it turned out, he liked our cabinet choice so much he ended up adding them to his vendor choices. Could you skip the cabs altogether with him and get your vendor in there and take full responsibility for it? We added to the budget and paid the difference in cash from our savings, not my first choice but it was the best thing in the long run. A builder should have good enough reputation to be able to work with cabinet companies all over town unless they have their own in house suppliers which I guess is possible.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 3:19PM
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Build a box out of 2x4's, put plywood on it with a drop-in stainless sink from the recycle place and a used faucet. Get your Certificate of Occupancy and the full credit for the cabinets from the builder. That'll teach him.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 5:29PM
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I'd be inclined to figure out how much you can save by doing whatever the bare minimum is and then try to negotiate with the builder and his vendor.

So tell them, I can get exactly what I want for $10,000. You want to charge me $20,000. I can get my certificate of occupancy by spending $100. I'm willing to pay a little more for convenience so I will pay you $12,000. Otherwise I'm spending my $100 and closing on the house and taking the rest of my money elsewhere. Do you want a smaller profit than you had hoped for or none?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 5:54PM
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Thanks for the replies.
Trebuchet, I would love to do that! However with the bank loan and the appraisal that must come in at a certain amount, I would be terrified that such a ploy would backfire and hurt us in the end.

Famcook, it's funny, I don't care about inset at all but I really do not like partial overlay. So interesting how personal taste varies so much. :-)

Debra and acheavacci, going with only base is one option. Although with drawers being a big expense, I don't know how much of a savings it would end up being. Meeting with the builder and having other quotes to show them is a good idea I think. Maybe if the builder's vender realized we were fighting to go elsewhere, they would come down in price.

gr8tday, I am glad your builder relented and it worked out in the end for both of you. We are trying to get our own tile right now, since the builder's tile vender offers so few choices, and that is a huge headache just by itself. The builder and manager had a meeting yesterday to discuss whether they would let us, and we haven't even heard back yet. I shudder to think of their response if we demand to go somewhere else for cabinets. Their line is that they are still liable.

crl, you are right. I need to figure out exact money amounts and get more than one quote from another company, then present my findings to the builder.

I will update on our progress.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:51AM
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Read your contract carefully. Is there any clause specifying what happens when homeowner chooses alternative materials? Usually they mean the HO is responsible for the difference, but does that apply to less expensive options too? (eg can you be refunded if you do not use their cabinets at all?) Can you modify the contract so that the builder does not install cabinets at all and then buy then at Ikea? for the 'extra' 5k, you could install very nice ikea cabinets, and order separate doors later if you want.

how is your relationship with the builder in general?
when you signed the builders contract, did you have it reviewed by an attorney?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:07AM
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I've never built from scratch, so I don't understand why you have to hit a certain appraisal $. In my experience, if the house doesn't appraise for the offered amount, then the house price gets reduced. Since he didn't put in the cost of the cabinets, then it's only fair that the cost of the house gets reduced as such. I think that's your strongest point of leverage. "Do you want less than expected profit on the kitchen, or none at all?"

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:20AM
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we built our house 15 years ago. i don't remember an appraisal but i could be wrong. i do know that other people who built at that time, opted out of certain things that came with the home and got a credit for the allotted amount. a guy up the street had no flooring put in, got the credit and hired his own flooring people after they closed. i have seen people not put in asphalt driveways to shave some cost off. i don't think it is unusual for people to opt out of a piece of a builders package and get credited the cost. i would imagine you would have to hire your own installer though since they would say the install is built into the kitchen cost.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:36AM
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"I need to figure out exact money amounts and get more than one quote from another company, then present my findings to the builder."

Echoing a previous poster's advice -

A very easy option would be to price out IKEA cabinets - you could do that in an evening using their online planner software. There are gorgeous custom door companies for IKEA like Semihandmade.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:38AM
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The issue that most who build are now having is that it costs more to build than the home will appraise for when done. If you build a home for 500K, and it only appraises for 400K, the bank will only lend 80% of that 400K, i.e. 320K. The homeowner has to come up with an extra 80K than if the home appraised for the full 500K.

And to even get that 400K appraisal, the home has to have a certain agreed to level of amenities, i.e. wood floors, ceramic tile bathrooms, 10' ceilings, etc. If the home has less upgrades than the homes surrounding it, or originally agreed to, then that 400K appraisal might come in at 350K, and again, the homeowner has to come up with the difference between the agreed upon % down payment and the amount that the bank will actually finance.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:13PM
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Live_wire_Oak nailed it exactly.

We just don't have the $$$$ to come up with out of pocket if the appraisal comes in low and the bank refuses to financial the initial agreed to amount. There are two appraisals, one based on the location and engineered plans including upgrades added to the contract already, and the bank loans based on the amount of that appraisal. Ours came in just over purchase price. If the second appraisal after the house is finished comes in lower, we are in trouble.

We can't lower the "agreed to level of amenities" that are specified in the contract and that the bank's appraisal was based on.

I will leave a message with the builder. I think our options, depending on builder's response, are these:

1) use a different vender (if allowed) and indemnify builder of all responsibility. Hope to get a decent credit from builder but probably unlikely. This also will like cause a rupture in the relationship with the builder which thusfar has been decent if a bit frustrating at times. DH really does not want to cause trouble with the builder, as he thinks it may affect the quality of the work done on the house as well as how motivated the builder will be to work with us if there are other issues down the line.

2) do not upgrade builder's cabinets at all except to get the 42" upper boxes and whatever drawer stacks we want. After close order new full-overlay doors of our choosing already professionally painted and install them. Paint cabinet boxes ourselves, which will mostly be covered by panels, doors, and drawers. A quick estimate from Barkers online looked like it might cost around $2500 for the doors and drawer fronts, not including installation or hinges.

3) don't do uppers until after close but this might also negatively affect bank's appraisal so I am hesitant to do this as well.

4) Just pay the $11000ish upgrade costs from the builder even knowing with a competitive cabinet company prices should actually be half that. At most, with a builder cut included still 30-40% over many other companies.

5) Show builder quotes from other companies and ask that vender reduce their prices. Possibly a positive outcome but seems unlikely.

6) Do not upgrade anything and after close rip out cabinets and replace with a company of our choosing. Seems like for $11000 we could at least do Ikea and even maybe some other decent stock cabinet lines. I called one custom cabinet company, and while he is working up a quote, he did say complete install is only $850, and that includes crown molding. This option sounds like a mighty hassle after already dealing with months of a new house build.

We don't want anything terribly fancy in our 14 x 16 kitchen with a peninsula, no island. It is 19 boxes, both upper and lower. We like shaker style, full overlay, painted white, with a few glass doors and a few drawer stacks. Simple enough, right? :-)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 1:51PM
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If you do open shelves instead of uppers I don't think the appraisal will be different than if you have uppers. I think there is an expectation of something on the wall, but I don't think it has to be uppers and you don't have to fill in all. Could just be a design choice. I wouldn't worry about that one so much.

Adding some ready made shelves with brackets wouldn't be expensive.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 6:22PM
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Your builder doesn't know that you need the appraisal. Bluff.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 1:30AM
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How much money have you put up front?

In our state there are 2 things that could happen if the appraisal comes in lower then the contract price.

1. The soon to be owner can come up with the difference

2. THE SALES PRICE must be lowered to the appraisal price. This would mean the builder would have to "eat" the cost.

3. If the parties can't come up with a solution of a combination of the two, the contract is void.

What does your sales contract say?

Your builder likely has a high financial stake in the appraisal too.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 8:27AM
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Can you get someone in there now to give you a quote for the kitchen you want? if it would cost less than the builders kitchen can you manage to schedule the install before the appraisal? I don't imagine the bank cares where the kitchen come from (the builder or elsewhere) as long as it appraises well.

I might be off base, we did all our work ourselves, never dealt with contractors, but I have a very difficult time believing you can be forced into doing something you don't want to do here. In the end you are the one forking out the money, it's your home, your investment, I don't understand how a contractor can so thoroughly tie your hands.

It seems like a huge waste of time and resources to allow the builder to put in a kitchen you know you will plan on re doing immediately.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 10:10AM
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"And of course the builder's cabinet company will charge full list. They have no competition since clients can't go elsewhere, and no reason not to maximize their profits."

Are you sure this situation rests on the cab company alone? Sounds like your builders getting a good cut to me.

"It is 19 boxes, both upper and lower. We like shaker style, full overlay, painted white, with a few glass doors and a few drawer stacks. Simple enough, right? :-)"

I think we had 23 boxes (one huge pantry cabinet), shaker style, full overlay, white paint, four glass cabinets with interiors painted to match, and mostly drawer stacks. Just to offer you a comparison price for semi-custom, ours came in around $15.5K (which did not include crown moulding and specific cabinet add ons).

Please do be careful with the level of Merrilat you choose: this is not an Essential line home you're building. I do not have them but understand there is a "Masterpiece" level (highest level). Perhaps using this on all lowers will maintain the loan assessment value, and allow you to complete the uppers in mid grade, 42" etc after you move in.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 1:27PM
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I assume your contract with the builder has a mortgage contingency so that if your mortgage isn't approved you can walk away from the deal - that's certainly true when buying an existing house but may be different with new construction. It might be hard for you to walk away at this point but you've learned a lot about builders and contracts and ought to be able to negotiate better the next time.

chrissyb2411 - the OP won't own the house until after the closing - right now the builder owns it and has no obligation to let any other installers in unless he and the OP come to an agreement

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 2:12PM
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I don't understand how a contractor can so thoroughly tie your hands.

It is 100% dependent on the contract they signed.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 4:32PM
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thanks for the responses.
Lyfia, interesting idea about doing open shelves instead of uppers in order to get the bank appraisal. I will ponder this.

Trebuchet, the builder actually worked with us and the bank throughout the loan process. They get their draws directly from the bank. They know we need the appraisal, unfortunately.

Aloha2009, in our state (Florida), the buyer comes up with the difference. We just had friends who bought an existing home and the appraisal came in less than the sales price. The seller wouldn't lower it at all. Our friends really wanted it, so they had to come up with an extra $15,000 to cover the difference. The seller was under no obligation to lower the price.

According to our bank, if the appraisal comes in low, we must cover the difference to get to the purchase price. If we can't, then the loan would fall through and we would lose the house to the bank.

Crissyb, we couldn't get someone to install a different kitchen before the appraisal because as weissman said, we do not own the house yet and the builder is under no obligation to let any other trades in to their work site. I also do not like the thought of the waste of tearing out the builder's kitchen after move in, which is why I was considering still using the boxes and just replacing the doors and professionally painting them.

SparklingWater, thank you for your pricing comparison. Did you have upgrades like dovetail drawers, soft close hinges, plywood,ect? Our current quote includes none of those things.

The mortgage was already approved, but with new construction there is another step at the end where a second appraisal ensures that what was specified in the contract is what was actually built, which protects the bank. We cannot walk away from the deal at this point.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 8:32PM
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What about negotiating with the builder? Ask him how much money HE is making on the cabinets & install. It may be cheaper in the long run to pay him that money & use your own source for cabinets.
Just an idea.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 10:30PM
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I think your idea of switching out the doors and drawer fronts is a good one. If you make sure the boxes are the paint color or wood color you eventually want, you will not even have to paint the boxes. You can find companies, either online or even local, who will replace cabinet drawers and doors and the price can be very reasonable.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 11:06PM
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Honestly, I would walk away before being forced to install a kitchen I didn't want in a brand new house I would be paying for for the next 30 years of my life. You feel as though you have your hands tied. Maybe you need to come at it from the angle that the builder needs you as much as you need him. He doesn't want to have to try to sell this house all over again so far into the process. Stop being nice and start being assertive. Make him understand he doesn't want you to walk away any more than you want to walk away. And that in order for him to fulfill the contract, he needs to work with you to get the kitchen you signed up for. Maybe I'm not being realistic? But I certainly would not be strong armed by a builder when I was the one paying him.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 9:00AM
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I think you need to examine all out-clauses closely. To your point and what happened to your friend. If the appraisal comes in low, either the seller drops the price to match and if they refuse, then you can't buy the house because you can't meet your mortgage contingency and then you can walk. I'm not sure your hands are as tied as you think (and certainly your builder wants you to think) they are.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 10:38AM
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You can not walk from a contract to pay for products and services without consequences. The contract to pay the builder for the construction is completely separate from the contract with the bank for a final mortgage. The OP is responsible to see that the builder gets paid via the construction loan, even if the bank won't loan them enough money to convert the construction loan to a permanent mortgage once the project is done without requiring additional down.

New construction commonly costs more to create than it's worth at the end of the job .It's a very common scenario in new construction, and it's why those who build need a healthy contingency fee in addition to the 20% down. Just like driving a new car off of the lot, and it's not worth the sticker price anymore. That always equals more money down by the homeowner. :-/

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 11:06AM
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