Remodeler Chris Matey knows that every homeowner has a remodeling wish list. “I could wake you up at 3 a.m. and you’d be able to tell me what you want to change about your house,” says the president of Red Apple Renovations, in Andover, Mass. “When budget’s not an object, it’s easy.”

Of course, the nitty-gritty of financial realities changes everything. When clients’ wishes and budgets are in conflict, Matey and his staff go into “value-engineering” mode to come up with some happy compromises.

“Our clients have strict budgets they would like to stick to, big or small,” he says. “They’re much more concerned with staying on budget now than they were five years ago.”

When clients start adding luxury finishes or new features during the design process, the staff inform them that the price tag is rising. “It’s not uncommon for them to see a number at the end of the process that’s more than their initial budget,” Matey says. “Then it becomes our challenge to find pieces that make sense to change.”

With a careful analysis of each finish, Matey, the project designer, and the estimator identify a handful of selections that could be swapped for less-expensive options without sacrificing aesthetics or quality. “[It’s] usually a matter of changing three to five items, not 10 to 20,” Matey says, “but those few items are different for everybody. Some people wouldn’t dream of giving up granite, and others aren’t bothered by that. Some would never consider carpeting the bedroom, and some are fine with it.”

Matey adds that the few necessary changes generally come from interior finishes, not larger items such as shingles or siding. The process sometimes requires multiple back-and-forth sessions with the client, depending on their decisiveness. For each selection, the Red Apple team presents the client with a couple of alternatives. “I think most people are happy to go through the value-engineering process,” Matey says. “Some have remodeled before and are flexible, while others are doing it for the first time. Either way, it’s a lot of money and they want to make sure the project is done right. It’s our responsibility to make the process work for them.”

—Lauren Hunter, associate editor, REMODELING.