Hudson Valley Preservation in Sherman, Conn., works on old houses. In the past, both the remodeler and his clients have been surprised by what they have found behind the walls. “So often with old structures, what you see is not what you get. Often the estimate is not correct, because when you tear in, you find other factors and considerations,” office manager Laura Lurcott says.

Hudson Valley Preservation offers clients the option of paying the company to investigate pre-existing conditions so they're better prepared for the full cost of their renovation.
Hudson Valley Preservation offers clients the option of paying the company to investigate pre-existing conditions so they're better prepared for the full cost of their renovation.

The client has to pay extra for any structural or water damage the company finds when it starts work. To alleviate the surprise from the additional cost, Hudson Valley Preservation has added a step where customers pay for owner Mason Lord and his team to investigate pre-existing conditions. Lurcott says the company refers to it as an “X-ray,” to help customers understand the concept. Customers pay a flat fee that ranges from $500 to $3,000, based on the intensity of the investigation. The company removes and looks under the siding, tears out sections of walls, and evaluates basements and attics.

Lurcott usually introduces the service to clients when she first speaks to them, and Lord further explains it during his meeting with them. If they like the idea, they sign an agreement authorizing Lord to do the pre-existing conditions investigation. Once it's completed, Lord explains his findings to clients using digital photos, diagrams, and in some cases, three-dimensional drawings of the framework of the house. “Some homeowners may want to phase the repairs so the most severe item is taken care of first. It helps them prioritize,” Lurcott says.

The agreement adds another layer to the trust the company strives to build with clients. Hudson Valley Preservation includes any repair costs associated with the investigation in its estimate. The number of problems the remodeler has found when investigating pre-existing conditions far outweighs the single case where major problems were found during construction. For that project, Lord negotiated with the client to split the cost of the repair.