Powell Custom Homes and Renovations' Blog

What Makes Remodeling in the Normandy Park Area Such a Good Idea?

Posted by Brooks Powell on Aug 26, 2016 3:37:00 PM

What-Makes-Remodeling-in-the-Normandy-Park-Area-Such-a-Good-Idea_.jpgThere’s a lot to love about living in Normandy Park. It’s a beautiful waterfront community. You’re close to Puget Sound. It’s convenient to get to downtown Seattle and the SeaTac International Airport.  This community of approximately 6,500 residents maintains a quiet, pedestrian-friendly, safe family environment. And you can even take advantage of local activities, such as Music in the Park and Shakespeare in the Park events in nearby Burien.

But what if the home you’re living in no longer meets your needs or is starting to feel a bit outdated?  Is moving out of the area your only option?

Remodeling your Normandy Park or Burien home can really make sense. You don’t have to give up the community you love and the relationships you’ve established to be more comfortable!

A good design/build firm or remodeler can do a lot more than simply give your home a “face-lift.” You can actually redesign your home to better fit your lifestyle and changes in your family situation: whether it’s adding a bedroom, opening up the inside of your home to create more useable space or remodeling your kitchen to make it more inviting and useable (for cooking and entertaining), like you see in the photo here.

Another reason that remodeling in the Normandy Park area may be a good idea is that finding new property in the Puget Sound region is becoming increasingly difficult. Not only is good, buildable property harder to locate, but the scarcity of property has driven land prices higher. In some cases, that takes building a new home out of the equation.

If you have your heart set on building a new home, however, we can help you find the best lot for your family in the area. We know about lots your real estate agent doesn't, and we’re constantly networking to find land that’s not yet on the market. We’re happy to help you get the inside track on unpublicized land opportunities.

But if you love living in the Normandy Park area and are over the moon about your existing neighborhood, a redesign of your existing house can help you create a home that you’ll love and one that will meet your family’s needs for years to come.

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Topics: Seattle Custom Home Remodeler, advantages to remodeling in Normandy Park, remodeling in Normandy Park

5 Lessons You’ll Only Learn By Attending A Seattle Open House

Posted by Brooks Powell on Aug 19, 2016 7:07:00 AM

5-Lessons-Youll-Only-Learn-By-Attending-A-Seattle-Open-House.jpgAnything you can do to make your decisions about building a new home easier and less stressful is a good idea. Looking at online examples of work that a potential builder has done is helpful. So is reviewing floor plans of designs you’re considering. But there are some lessons you can only learn by physically walking through an existing home. And that’s what makes visiting a builder’s open house so important. Let’s look at five things you can only learn from an open house.

  1. The Feel of a Home’s Layout: You can get a pretty good idea of the general design and flow of a home from looking at a floor plan. But that’s not the same thing as actually walking from the kitchen to the family room. Reading about a space doesn’t always tell you what the space will feel like. It may be subjective—but it’s important.
  1. Getting a Sense of Dimensions and Space: Once again, your mind may be able to comprehend the dimensions of a 12’ x 20’ Family Room. It’s only when you actually stand in that room (with furniture in it) that you get a real sense of the space you’ll have if you build this particular plan. In addition, when you’re walking through a home, you control the perspective. When you’re looking at photos (or even a virtual tour) you get a predetermined (and probably a somewhat dramatic) perspective.
  1. Having a First-hand Feel For a Home’s Light: Let’s face it, the pictures that smart homebuilders show you of the homes they build are generally taken with optimal natural light coming in the windows. They’re not really trying to trick you, it’s just that lots of light shows off the features and details of the home better. But if you’re buying a home in Seattle, not every day is going to be a sunny day. Walking through an actual home gives you a more realistic idea of what your natural light will be like.
  1. You Get to Collect Ideas: Most builders like to show off a bit when they have an open house. That means you get to see things that might be a bit out of the ordinary. You’re more likely to see special treatments (both structurally and decoratively), which can give you ideas about what you may want to try in the home you’re planning to build.
  1. You Get to Ask Questions: A lot of prospective homebuyers get great information from online articles and images. And yet, many of them walk away with more questions than they had before viewing the information. At an open house, you have the opportunity to take advantage of the staff’s knowledge. You can ask specific questions and get feedback from a real person in real time.

Any of these “lessons” that you learn at an open house can help you make the right decision about which home best fits your family’s needs and lifestyle. And anything that takes a little bit of stress out of that process is a good thing.

Click here for information about upcoming Powell open houses in the Seattle area.

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Topics: Seattle New Homes, Seattle open houses, Open house for Seattle new homes

Small Appliances That Can Make a Big Difference in Your Seattle Kitchen

Posted by Brooks Powell on Aug 18, 2016 1:35:00 PM

Small-Appliances-That-Can-Make-a-Big-Difference-in-Your-Seattle-Kitchen.jpgWhether you’re building a new custom home in the Seattle area or remodeling your Burien home, your kitchen is a big, big deal. It’s arguably the most used room in your home. It’s no surprise, then, that the kitchen is often referred to as the heart of the home.

As Seattle custom homebuilders and remodelers, we obviously pay attention to some of the big trends when it comes to design, cabinets and even countertops (and you can click here to take a look at some of the kitchens we’ve recently worked on in the area).

Sometimes, however, it’s really interesting to take a peek at what goes on top of those countertops. One common characteristic we noticed in the items listed here is that they all seem to have a smaller footprint.  That seems to be consistent with a general trend for uncluttered kitchens that we’ve observed over the past couple of years.

Here’s a look at some new small kitchen appliances that could have a big impact on your kitchen and lifestyle. Maybe you’ll see something that makes sense for your Seattle-area kitchen.

  • The Panasonic FlashXpress Toaster Oven relies on a double infrared heating system that cooks faster than most toaster ovens. The oven is on the small side, so it’s not a device for cooking a 10-inch pizza. But its midrange price makes it great for cooking small items, and it doesn’t dominate the counter.
  • The Vitamix S55 Personal Blender is small, handy and good-looking. But the small size belies its powerful slicing and dicing capacity. The company claims it can turn hard peanuts into peanut butter.
  • The Oxo Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender has six different speed settings and a very small footprint, so it doesn’t take up much space. You can use this handheld, six-speed device and store it easily. Another nice feature: it lights up so you can see exactly what’s going in the mixing container.
  • The Anova Precision Cooker combined with a conventional stockpot puts sous-vide style of cooking within your reach. The accurate temperature controls and Bluetooth connectivity help make gourmet cooking easy.
  • The Breville JE200XL Compact Juice Fountain is an example of good design that uses fewer parts and takes up less counter space than conventional juicers you may have seen. Use it to juice fruit or leafy vegetables. It's also easy to clean, and many of the components are dishwasher safe.

If you’re looking for additional ideas for creating the perfect kitchen for your Seattle-area home, you may want to download our free Creating the Ideal Kitchen guide.

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Topics: ideas for Seattle-area kitchens, new kitchen appliances for Seattle homes, Seattle Custom Homebuilder/Remodeler

Should You Relocate Your Seattle Laundry Room When You Remodel?

Posted by Brooks Powell on Aug 13, 2016 7:11:00 AM

Should-You-Relocate-Your-Laundry-Room-When-You-Remodel-YourSeattle-Homel_.jpgOne often overlooked room that seems to be getting a lot more attention during remodeling these days is the laundry room.  As we’ve worked on homes in Federal Way, Des Moines, Burien and other Seattle-area communities, we’ve observed a couple of reasons homeowners are opting to relocate their laundry rooms when they remodel: convenience and maximization of space.


Many homeowners in the Seattle area want a laundry room in a place that’s easy to get to. For some, that means putting the laundry room on the same level as the bedrooms. After all, the majority of laundry (clothes, towels, bed linens) comes from those rooms. Mature adults find it a nice option as well because they no longer have to negotiate stairs while carrying a laundry basket.

Others like the idea of a combination laundry room/mud room between the kitchen and the garage. This approach is popular with families who have kids bringing in dirty soccer or hockey clothes, because those items can stay there instead of being strewn throughout the house.

Maximizing Space

In homes where space is at a premium, it’s nice to have a room that does double duty. Some homeowners opt for including the laundry in a guest bathroom (like you see in the picture here). It takes advantage of space that otherwise is seldom used (and most guests really don’t mind). Another option is to have your laundry room double as a pantry for extra food and kitchen supplies, which can also help to keep your kitchen from getting cluttered.

The best place to locate your laundry room depends on your specific needs, lifestyle and desires. And while existing plumbing is definitely a big factor in where you can install a washer and dryer, a good design/build remodeler can often help you find extra space that you might not have considered.

So think about where it makes the most sense for you to have your laundry room—whether it’s for the sake of convenience or to conserve space. Then talk to your design/build remodeler about the best way to make that happen.



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Topics: take advantage of wasted space when remodeling, laundry room convenience for your Seattle home, Seattle Design-Build Remodeler, remodel laundry room in Seattle home

Confessions of a Seattle Custom Homebuilder: Why I Sometimes Don’t Bid on a Job

Posted by Brooks Powell on Aug 9, 2016 11:37:00 AM

Confessions-of-a-Seattle-custom-homebuilder-What-I-Wish-Clients-Told-Me.jpgI love building homes. It’s something our family has been doing in the Seattle area for four generations. Of course, in order to build a new home, I’ve got to bid on it. And yet, there are times when I don’t bid on a project even when I’ve been asked. Here’s a quick story that illustrates why.

I met with a prospective client at his lot a while back to discuss his potential new home. I noticed he was distracted when a car pulled up and I asked him if he was expecting someone. He confessed that he was on a tight schedule because he was requesting bids from six different builders that day.

Unfortunately, his plans were incomplete and a lot of things weren’t even defined (such as specifications, finishes, tile, cabinetry, countertops, etc.). It was going to be a nightmare to bid. I opted not to bid.

There were so many components and elements missing in this request that it was virtually impossible to bid it accurately. I’d have to make assumptions about what he wanted, and if those assumptions were wrong, my bid would have been meaningless. I realized I’d probably have to bid the job several times in order for my estimate to be accurate.

But I wouldn’t be the only one who struggled. The homeowner himself would end up confused. He’d be trying to compare bids from six different builders—all based on incomplete information and different assumptions. It would drive him crazy, too!

I actually followed up with this prospect in a letter and shared what I thought he should do. I told him it was fine to interview six builders to determine who he wanted to work with, but that requesting six bids would just be confusing.  I suggested he narrow his search down to two builders and then have them bid on identical (and complete) specifications.

I’d offer the same advice to anyone in the Seattle area thinking about building a custom home. Interview builders and select a couple you feel most comfortable with, then have them bid on the exact same specifications. It’s much easier on you and it’s also fairer for the builders. Plus, when you narrow things down like that, you’re more likely to get a builder who is focused on your particular project and will be able to give you the service and attention your custom home deserves.

And when you make your final choice, don’t automatically select the lowest bid. Choose the builder you trust and respect. Choose the one you think will give you a higher-quality home. Five or 10 years from now, you won’t remember spending a few hundred dollars more, but you’ll definitely notice the difference (every day) in a higher-quality home.

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Topics: Seattle Custom homebuilder, how to solicit bids on new home, preparing to build a new Seattle-area custom home

Making The Most of Your Seattle-Area Remodeling Opportunity

Posted by Brooks Powell on Aug 5, 2016 8:31:00 AM

Making-The-Most-of-Your-Seattle-area-Remodeling-Opportunity.jpgIf you’ve been involved with a home remodel before, you know how often “one thing leads to another” once you get started. You begin by planning a remodel of your Des Moines kitchen, but when your new flooring extends to the family room, all of a sudden that room looks like it needs some attention—and you wonder where (or if) it’s going to stop.

Is it a bad thing when your remodeling plans begin to morph and grow into a bigger project than you had planned? There are actually two ways to look at this situation. Let’s take a quick look at both.

Pulling in the Reins

It can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of a remodeling project. Small upgrades by themselves may not be a big deal, but they can start to add up. That’s why it’s important to have a realistic budget to begin with—before you sign a contract. You may want to build a buffer into your budget to allow for certain upgrades or surprises, but you’ll want to have a fairly accurate idea of what you can really afford in the end. It’s important to keep an eye on your budget and not let your eyes get bigger than your wallet. By the way, most people get into budget trouble when they add upgrades they really don’t need.

Pulling Out the Stops (a Bit)

There is another side to the remodeling saga: It will almost certainly never be cheaper to perform the improvements you want than it is now. For one thing, you can pretty much count on the fact that the prices of materials and labor will continue to go up in the future. You’ll pay more to do the same job three years from now. On top of that, if you wait three years, you’ll forgo the benefits and comfort you could have experienced.

Additionally, you may be able to take advantage of some economies of scale if you already have a program started. When workers are already on site (and have already removed some obstacles) you might be able to replace other components in your home at a lower cost than you would be if you started another remodeling project somewhere down the line.

One of the best ways to make the most out of your Seattle-area home remodel is to take advantage of a builder’s knowledge and expertise. That’s why we offer an opportunity to schedule a free, no-obligation call with a professional to talk through your remodeling ideas and needs. You can click here to Talk to Rob about design trends, discuss what others in your situation have done, set a preliminary budget range for a project and get answers to questions you have about the remodeling process.

Tapping into a professional’s knowledge and expertise is a great way to make sure you get the maximum benefit out of any remodeling project you have in mind—and potentially get even more than you bargained for!


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Topics: getting ideas for a great Seattle-area remodel, remodeling your Seattle-area home, Seattle Design-Build Remodeler

Finding the Perfect Kitchen Fit for Your Seattle-Area Home

Posted by Brooks Powell on Aug 2, 2016 6:49:00 AM

Finding-the-Perfect-Kitchen-Fit-for-Your-Seattle-area-Home.jpgYou’ve no doubt heard, “practice makes perfect.” I’m not sure that’s really true when it comes to homebuilding and remodeling, though. Our family has been building and remodeling homes in the Seattle area for more than 100 years. And while we are absolute sticklers when it comes to quality and details, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve never built the “perfect” home or remodeled the perfect kitchen.

There are some things, however, that we’ve learned in all those years about what makes people absolutely delighted with their kitchens. While there are a number of important elements that go into creating a kitchen you’ll love (such as cabinets, countertop materials, flooring, hardware, etc.), we’ve discovered that the materials being used aren’t (by themselves) the most important part of the kitchen.

What seems to matter most in the end is whether the kitchen fits your personality and lifestyle. Perfection may be an unattainable goal, but you can create a kitchen that matches your personal sense of style and your style of living. In short, your “kitchen persona” is probably the biggest factor in determining what kind of kitchen you’ll want to end up with.

  • Gourmet Gail is a serious cook. She may have fun in the kitchen, but she wants the best equipment and she wants her space set up to maximize efficiency and ease in preparation. Her kitchen isn’t necessarily designed to entertain. It’s a workspace and the delectible delights she creates are served in another room (even if it’s just off the kitchen). The surfaces, lighting and sink in Gail’s kitchen are selected to make preparing the meal eaiser and more fun.
  • Casual Carl is really more interested in convenience. He wants appliances that are easy to use and he wants all the various tools and cooking periphernalia to be readily accessible. Carl and his family often eat casual meals in the kitchen, so he wants some space for that. He might even want a built-in booth or an eating space at the counter for quick breakfasts.
  • Emily the Entertainer likes to have friends and guests in her kitchen—sometimes even when she’s cooking. That means she needs extra space to move around and space for friends to mingle without feeling like they’re in the way. Emily also has two kinds of lighting in her kitchen: task lighting for when she’s chopping, cutting, washing or stirring and ambient lighting to make people feel comfortable and want to linger after the cooking is done.
  • Sleek Steve and Sally have a penchent for sleek, modern styling. They like clean lines and a minimum of clutter. That naturally influences the materials they choose for cabinets and countertops—as well as the color schemes they use. They don’t like clutter, so ample storage is important to keep things off the counter.
  • Country Carol loves having people in the kitchen to sit and have a cup of coffee or tea. For Carol, a feeling of coziness is really important. Her cabinets, counters, sink, furniture and colors are warm and comfortable. She tends to go for natural surfaces and even distressed or reclaimed materials that have a comfortable, “lived-in” feel.

You may see yourself in one of these personas—or your particular kitchen personality may be something entirely different. The point is, your kitchen can (and probably should) be a reflection of how you plan to use your kitchen.

If you’d like some additional ideas for creating the ideal kitchen for your Seattle-area home, download our free Creating the Ideal Kitchen guide. It’s packed with information about designing a kitchen to fit your personal style and even includes a link to an online kitchen design tool! Or browse through photos of kitchens we’ve recently remodeled in the Seattle area and use those images as a springboard for creating your own perfect kitchen!

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Topics: Seattle Kitchen Remodel, Seattle Custom Home Remodeler, Seattle kitchen personalities, Seattle kitchens

Is There Such a Thing as a Standard Cost for a Seattle Home Remodel?

Posted by Brooks Powell on Jul 27, 2016 10:11:00 AM

Is-there-such-a-thing-as-a-standard-cost-for-a-Seattle-home-remodel_.jpgSmart Seattle-area homeowners generally want to know what something will cost before they agree to pay for it. It’s no different when that “something” is a remodeling project for their Burien, Des Moines or Normandy Park home.

However, custom home renovation doesn’t come with a standard price list. That’s because it isn’t a commodity; you don’t buy it by the pound or the gallon. And while you may be able to find a broad price range for new construction or even remodeling according to a price-per-square-foot, the final price will really depend on what you want to have done to your home.

That doesn’t mean you simply close your eyes and hope for the best. There are ways to get a good idea of what the remodeling project you have in mind will cost. It will require a little bit of effort on your part, but we know how to at least get a ballpark figure so you can plan accordingly.

If you’re thinking about a renovation project—whether it’s a kitchen remodel, a bathroom remodel, an addition to your home or even a whole home remodel, we’ve got a way you can collect ideas, information and costs before you jump in with both feet. We call it, “Talk to Rob,” and it allows you to pick the brain of Rob VanHouten, our Homeowner Advisor. It’s a simple, low-key, no-obligation, 10-minute phone consultation. Here’s how it works: When you agree on a time and date for a call, you’ll go over some design trend ideas. That allows you to hear about what others in similar situations to yours have done recently. Then Rob will work up a budget range so that you have a good idea of whether what you want will fit your budget. Then Rob will answer questions and address concerns you may have about the remodeling process. That’s it!

There’s no obligation on your part. You’ll not only glean some ideas about what you can do, but you’ll also have a pretty good idea of what your project will cost. And if you decide Powell isn’t the best fit, we’ll try to help you find the best solution for you.

There is no “standard” cost for custom home renovation. But you can still get ideas about what’s possible and get a general sense of what that will cost. And if you’re looking for additional ideas and information about remodeling in the Seattle area, download our free Renovation e-book here. It’s packed with helpful information.

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Topics: Burien Custom Remodeler, what influences the price of remodeling in Seattle, costs for remodeling Seattle-area homes

Who's Responsible for Going Over Budget—You or Your Seattle Builder?

Posted by Brooks Powell on Jul 23, 2016 3:17:00 PM

Whos-responsible-for-going-over-budget-You-or-your-Seattle-builder__.jpgBudgets can cause a lot of contention. On the federal level, opposing political parties blame each other for busting the budget. In business, different departments are always wrangling to get a bigger share of the budget (and tend to pin financial troubles on other departments’ wasteful spending). And research indicates that couples fight over money more than any other issue.

If you’re considering building a new home or remodeling your existing home in the Seattle area, you’ll face budget issues of your own. And if you ask around, you’ll hear plenty of stories about building or remodeling projects that went over budget. And I’m here to tell you that those stories are probably true.

How does this happen? Is the builder at fault when the budget explodes, or is it the homeowner? Playing “the blame game” really isn’t very helpful. But let’s take a look at why homebuilding or remodeling budgets often fall apart.

  • Under-Budgeting: Sometimes homeowners aren’t completely realistic when it comes to setting a budget for their homes. They set an artificially low budget. Sometimes they’re not aware of what the changes will actually cost. And sometimes they simply pick a budget figure that isn’t realistic for what they have in mind. Then, when they see what they’re getting, they spend more because they know they won’t be happy with the original plan.
  • Upgrade Fever: In other instances, homeowners get bitten by the “upgrade bug.” They establish a realistic budget for a home that meets their needs, but then they visit websites or design studios, eyeing all kinds of wonderful upgrades and being enticed by more expensive flooring, cabinets, countertops and other features. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but they weren’t in the original budget. If the client decides to pursue them—there goes the budget.
  • Changes to the Plan: Occasionally, a homeowner will monitor the progress of the house and decide that the kitchen (or master bedroom, or family room, or master bathroom) needs to be expanded or reconfigured. Maybe they decide that the staircase really should be on the south side of the living room instead of on the north side. There may be times when changes like that are the right thing to do. It’s better to end up with a home you love than it is to end up with a home that frustrates you. But those kinds of changes come with a cost. How much it affects the budget depends on the extent of the change—and on where you are in the building/remodeling process.
  • Over-Customization: Sometimes it’s important to rein in your personal tastes. Making changes that are too customized to your personal tastes can be expensive—and can even make it difficult to sell your home later.

To be honest, in my years of experience as a builder, I’d say it isn’t a question of whether you’ll go over your budget, but by how much. Sometimes people ask, “Why don’t you just raise the budget by 20 percent?”  But experience has taught me that even if I did that, clients would still spend more than their budget ceiling.

The fact is, most building or remodeling budget overruns are due to changes the homeowner wants to make. That’s not a bad thing—that’s just reality. And “budget creep” is a pretty common problem.

So how do you deal with the budget issue? First of all, make your budget realistic. Talk with your builder (and with friends who have built or remodeled in the Seattle area) and get a realistic sense of what things should cost. Then, when you create your budget, add in a buffer so that you can make changes that matter most to you.

Keep your primary goal in mind: to create a comfortable, secure and enjoyable home.


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Topics: Seattle Custom Homebuilder/Remodeler, budgets for building or remodeling in Seattle area

Reasons Your Seattle Home Remodel Might Take Longer Than You Planned

Posted by Brooks Powell on Jul 19, 2016 8:01:00 AM

Reasons-your-Seattle-home-remodel-might-take-longer-than-you-planned.jpgOver the years, we’ve done a wide variety of home remodeling projects in the Seattle area – from a Normandy Park galley kitchen remodel to a Seahurst whole home remodel to an interior and exterior renovation in a Magnolia condo. One of the questions we’re always asked is, “How long will this take?”

The answer, of course, depends on the scope and complexity of the renovation you’d like to have done. Some projects are simply more complicated than others (because they involve wiring, plumbing or moving existing walls).

There are some projects, however, that take longer than anyone could have anticipated. Here’s a heads up on some reasons your Seattle home remodel might take longer than expected. There are two main reasons that can happen:

  1. Unforeseen Issues: Though it happens infrequently, there have been times when we’ve gotten started on a project and found structural issues that weren’t obvious at the beginning. It could be that something built long ago isn’t to code or that there is a structural defect that was hidden behind a wall or beneath a floor. These problems need to be fixed before the remodeling can continue. The homeowner wasn’t planning on it and neither were we. But the issue must be addressed in order to ensure the homeowner’s safety and comfort.
  1. Changes in Plans: On occasion, homeowners will change their minds about what’s wanted. Sometimes the clients simply don’t like the way a particular element looks when they see it taking shape. They liked and agreed to the plan, but then it doesn’t turn out how they expected. Going back to the proverbial drawing board can cause significant delays, depending on how far along in the process the builder is. It can also add significantly to the price. That’s one reason we urge clients to take their time in the design stage of the process—to make sure they are comfortable with what they are going to get.

Does that mean you should never change your mind? No. If you know you’re not going to be happy with the outcome, it’s probably not worth it to save a few days (and a few dollars) by continuing on. If the change you’re making makes you happy for years to come, it’s worth waiting a few extra days to get it right. But it’s important to be aware of the implications (both in terms of cost and schedule) ahead of time. It’s also why reputable builders will insist on a written change order before proceeding with changes. It protects the homeowner and the homebuilder both because the exact impact is spelled out clearly for everyone.

Sometimes making a change—even one that delays your project—is the right thing to do. Just make sure you’re clear on how it will affect you.

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Topics: delays in Seattle home remodeling, Seattle Custom Homebuilder/Remodeler