Why We Don’t Give Free Designs

Over the course of introducing our company to potential new clients, I’ve met people who are shocked that we charge money for our designs and estimates.  The fact that we charge a potential customer to tell them what their new space will look like and how much it will cost is absurd to some. With many remodeling companies advertising “free estimates”, it makes design-build firms like us appear to be greedy or ungrateful for potential business by declining clients who refuse to go through our process. 


On a small scale, I understand the feeling of expecting an estimate to be free.  Imagine going to a farmer’s market to buy fresh tomatoes and having the person selling them ask you to pay for a portion of the tomatoes prior to revealing their price.  If you buy the tomato, they will refund it and if you don’t buy the tomato, they will keep the portion you already paid for.  Sounds ridiculous, right?  Why would you pay someone before you know how much they are going to charge you?


Most of us carry this mentality into anything we purchase and expect sellers to cater to us in order to gain our business. We know we have options and can take our business to the seller that offers us the best mixture of price, quality and customer service.  When purchasing simple items, this is certainly true.  Our local farmer selling tomatoes puts almost no effort into pricing each tomato.  He sets a price and either charges per pound or per item.  His effort was spent growing the tomato and he decides how much money he should charge to compensate for his time.  Charging you to reveal this price is ridiculous as the farmer loses only seconds of time if you say no after he tells you the price.

Renovation quotes, however, are a completely different ballgame.  If you say no to us after we quote your project, we don’t just lose seconds of time. Our team spends approximately 40-50 hours designing a project.  Pricing out a custom designed bathroom or kitchen remodel isn’t as simple as picking “one price for all” that we quote to every client. We need a construction analysis of the project which normally requires a field team to make openings in bulkheads/walls.. We need to input your kitchen or bathroom into our design software and then design your new space.. We need to go through revisions with you until you approve the final layout. We need to help you select all the materials from the major items like cabinets, counters, and tile to minor items like hardware, lighting, and mirrors. We need to attend showroom appointments with you to advise you on major material selections that must be viewed in person. We need to order samples and bring them to your house so you can see them in your own lighting.  If you have any nonstandard construction requests, we need to arrange our subcontractors to visit and provide quotes. We need to get quotes from every material manufacturer you’ve selected and check lead times and availability. Lastly, we need to compile the information from the construction team, design team, and material selection team in order to itemize a quote down to the penny.


This work can take anywhere from a couple of weeks for small projects to several months for either complex projects or multiroom renovations.  Our team puts a considerable amount of effort into developing the kitchen or bathroom of your dreams and ensuring the estimate we give you is thorough and accurate.  With this understanding of what goes into quoting a renovation, my follow up question for clients who ask why we charge is “why do you expect any designer to give this service to you complimentary?”  You’re not paying us to build you a quote in our software system, you’re paying us for all the work involved before we can even get to that point.


I can guarantee companies offering “free estimates” for a custom kitchen or bathroom renovation do not go through all the steps I just described.  They ballpark something for you and might do a quick stock design just to land the sale.  Only once you commit to them will they begin the process I described if they even offer design services at all.  You’ll inevitably have change orders and misunderstandings in the scope of work as you go through construction. Planning a remodel requires a tremendous amount of work and our design fee is a way to ensure we’re working with a serious client who is going to compensate our staff for their effort should they choose to take our plans and work with another contractor.

If you didn’t realize what goes into quoting and designing a custom kitchen and/or bathroom renovation and you’d like to work with a company who has a well-developed planning process, reach out to a Mayflower design consultant.  Our staff puts their heart and soul into every project we plan, and you’ll find the small design cost well worth the service we provide. We can’t wait to help you transform your home!


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