98 – A Valuable Contact for Melbourne Renovators

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In this episode, I have my old mate Ryan Goodwin as my special guest. Ryan has a company in Victoria named Mode Renovations which is very diverse. It’s basically a building but they have really good resource for our Victorian renovators. Ryan will share with us the 6th sense that a renovator should have in renovating. He will also share how to price the project by variation and he will give some tips on how to reduce the risks in renovating.

Listen to Episode 98: A Valuable Contact for Melbourne Renovators

Podcast: Download (Duration 22:43 — 45MB)

Episode Highlights

  • [00:02:37] Similar fields but different in renovating
  • [00:03:31] An analogy of ugly ducklings that turn into beautiful swans
  • [00:06:37] Advantage of builders over renovators
  • [00:08:15] 6th sense in renovating and building
  • [00:10:11] The duty of doing the right thing as a builder
  • [00:12:43] Dilemma between fixed price and daily price quotes
  • [00:15:02] Information is the king
  • [00:17:33] Builders perspective in renovating
  • [00:19:41] Pricing by way of variation
  • [00:21:15] Reducing the risks
  • [00:22:32] Maintaining that high level of wow factor while bringing the budget down
  • [00:23:20] The relationship of trust
  • [00:26:01] Coping up with Covid
  • [00:28:34] Victoria’s rule in renovating amidst Covid

Transcription

“I see myself in my duty doing the right thing by listening to enough information from my client.”

Intro

Well, hello, renovators, it’s Bernadette and we are up to our 98th episode of She Renovates. I can’t believe it, to be honest. I didn’t think I’d get past 10, so I’m pretty stoked about that. And I’m even more happy about the fact that we’re going to be recording our 100th episode at the She Renovates live event, which is happening this weekend. The pressure is really mounting and we’re on a roll now.

We have sold out of tickets to the event but if you do still want to be involved, you can get a streaming ticket. You get all the benefit of the live ticket except that it is streamed online.  You still get the goody bag and you can send your plans in for David to review. There are prizes and competitions, but it’s just online and that means you can enjoy from the comfort of your living room.

Okay, let’s get into that. Today I’ve got an old mate, Ryan Goodwin has a building company in Victoria. Given that Victoria has been through so much in the last couple of months, I thought we would send a bit of love your way. Ryan has a very diverse company and it’s basically building but he’s a really good resource for our Victorian renovators. So that’s the main reason I’ve brought him on. In my introduction to Ryan, I did mention that we’re going to be talking about what he’s seeing in terms of trends in design and renovating. However, we’ve got a bit carried away and we didn’t actually quite get to that so we’re going to do that in a second episode. So we’ll call this episode one. Okay. Let’s get into it.

Bernadette: Welcome, Ryan. This is Ryan Goodwin of Mode Developments and Mode Renovations. We’ve known one another for quite a few years, actually, haven’t we?

Ryan Goodwin: Yes, we have.

Bernadette: We are in similar fields. Similar but different. Ryan is a builder and a developer and he has got a long history of renovating, flipping as well. We’re going to be talking about a few things, one of them is really in terms of when someone’s looking and so you might be, doing a reno or on your own home and you might be looking for a builder sorts of things you need to look for, Ryan will tell us about how his business operates. He’s pretty much a jack of all trades, but I’ll get him to fill us in on how they operate. Then we’ll move to talking about what sort of trends he’s saying in design space, and they’re fixtures and finishes of renovations. We’ll see where the conversation takes us. Welcome, Ryan.

Ryan Goodwin: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Bernadette: No problem. Firstly, do you want to give me your version of what you do?

Ryan Goodwin: Sure. Great. Thank you for the opportunity. We’re a Melbourne based building or design and building firm burning in this space for some 20 years now. I’ve had this current company for over 12 years. We’ve seen some success in the last few years and a bit of growth. What we are really well-known for is serving our clients is a bit of a one stop shop so we’re a bit of an inclusive type builder where people can come to us for design build projects. Our business specialises in all renovations and extensions where they’d be small cosmetic projects. We’re really well known in our signature products of bathrooms and kitchens and some of that design a creative space all the way through to large extension, second storey large construction projects and some developments as well, including new homes.

We do cross over a fair way. My experience has seen me kind of city in those areas for many years. I guess our core business really, and that’ll serve some of your students and wished those would be our approach to being quite creative, having advice upfront, working through designs. We really love to be creative. Probably like many of your listeners might love to kind of study trends and like to get their hands dirty from as early as we can. And also right along with our clients for the journey.

We invest heavily in a business structure model in the front end so we have my office offer a certified kitchen and bathroom designer, as well as a registered builder in Victoria. We’ve got an interior designer and full time architect now, part time within the business, as well as draftees in building designers. We have a bit of a one stop shop when it comes to supporting people through that design and implementation phase of the project all the way through to construction. We specialise in the kitchen bathroom space. Everything is creative and detail with us, we’re not your average builder, a lot of builders you might seek advice or support from, and I build new homes and they tell you should knock it down because I want the easy you know, we’re a little bit different, we take on the ugly duck every day. I trust some of your listeners are probably on the search for those ugly ducklings that you can turn into beautiful swans, I guess, as an analogy. And so we have that already. It’s instilled in us and to be honest, it’s who I am and what I do.

We’ve been an extension renovation builder to projects that are not the same for us. We really don’t shy away from that complex or the creative or again that ugly duckling in the street. We know many others try to take the easy route as a builder and often provide that really mainstream advice to people when it comes to projects. Often they miss opportunity in projects or when it comes to building equity or wealth in those projects or simply by choosing their own builder. They might be really great people, but they may not actually have the expertise or discipline around how to really get in there with you and show you what can be done differently and make it better.

Bernadette: I always think with the builder, it’s definitely an advantage to be working with the builder that’s done by renovating before if not, if that’s what you’re doing. Typically with the builder, if something doesn’t go perfectly planned, you’re able to raise the variation and like that’s just how you dealt with it. But if you’re renovating, you sort of need to, I guess, anticipate as many of those issues as possible.

It’s not just a matter of, we’ll just pay more money because every dollar that you go up the budget, then that’s coming out of your pocket. There’s definitely a different mindset. It’s important when you are selecting a builder that you do go with someone that understands your parameters.

Ryan Goodwin: You hit the nail on the head. From my own personal experience and I say this on a daily basis as I make with my clients or prospects, you know, what we do and what you need to be involved with in the relationship you choose to go down this path with, should be with the builder, especially renovations. If it’s for profit, especially those builders whom you can ask for recent jobs, you can ask for photos, you can check  the website but really one of the most valuable messages might be ideal listeners to very direct questions, but also be comfortable in the knowledge that you gained from them in regards to their experience in this space. Builders are builders and trades are trades, and I’m not going to go and all of that. I’m sure you’ve got other podcasts to work through that.

What’s really important I find myself saying a lot is that often if I’m standing in a home with a client or potential client looking to quote or discuss a plan or some designs, you need to leverage off our ability, history and skillset around. What I said they see through walls. It’s a bit of a take on words there. But the reality is with 20 years of experience, of being in all kinds of different situations, and I could tell you we’re probably four or five thousands of projects deep now. Our ability to see and forecast those potential issues, the squeaky floor or the deep in a room, the ceiling that drops the damage in an area that, you know what they should not be watering that area is not backing onto a shower.

Also, you really need to tap into our sixth sense in regards to seeing that. Assuming some of your listeners are seasoned renovators, but I’m assuming too many may not be and you really trust me, you need to be at a trust in that advice and you really need to get a sand out first. Does that builder have that 6th sense and ability to notice what I don’t? And I’ll be honest, I’m confident in saying things most builders don’t.

That again, just because it’s what we do every day. We don’t just do this sometimes we dodged one or two a year. We just sit in this space every day. I’m happy to fly our flag. But more importantly, generally speaking, to your students and listeners around the country, you need to be quite direct in questioning your builders to make sure you’re comfortable with your interpretation of their experience. They will tell you what you need that they think you want to hear, but you need to make sure they’re bringing progressive answers or raising items that may be the last builder didn’t say or things that you hadn’t yet seen or thought of. I look quite funny sometimes walking through the house. I bounce around checking the floor and I will go into areas that others may not.

For me, I see myself in my duty doing the right thing by listening to enough information from my client, triggering enough questions or thoughts. We can both have two way conversations about maybe how something could be approached or done or finished. It might be reflected upon your budget or not? They might be those hidden nasties that we need to deal with upfront from a cost point of view so that they are affected into a scope of work.

At least I also feel part of duty is to be a license builder to be available to answer any questions, as crazy as I might be to you. We want to make sure we’re educating our clients and our people on site right from the get go. There’s kind of never a silly question and for me I asked more questions than my clients do because I also know that it’s my duty to help them kind of walk through the process as well.

It may be understanding, but that then extends into my method or our ethos in regards to kind of conscious decision making, too. And it might be your own choice of finishers, it could be a budgetary concern, it could be structural. It could be something that they’ve never thought of before but I guess what we’ve got it this way we can manage. We really like to be quite forward, I know I am. I probably spend more time with clients at that early stage because of that opportunity to present different options and ease, so that ultimately and I’m sure you also would be an advocate for it. By the time you’re coming to fix quotes and contracts, it’s very clear there’s no areas and ever had the opportunity to be informed and work through those choices if they’re available. Ultimately by that stage, the client knows exactly what they’re doing. And I presented some good options and the build is very clear on what needs to be done.

Bernadette: Actually, I’m just gonna go somewhere really random right now. It must’ve been the fact that we were gonna be talking today. I had this dream last night. We’ve been planning a renovation on our place. I had a dream that we actually did it and that we engaged a builder without getting any quote or anything. I was really concerned about the kitchen because I wanted to see what he had planned for the kitchen and he gave me the plan and it was a tapestry. Then I saw that he’d already done the kitchen and I’m having 40 fits because he’s done all this random stuff. He’s got a bottle on the floor that’s like fake parquetry. I woke up in a cold sweat.

With that passing thing, it’s always a dilemma at your level that you’re operating that it might not be such an issue for us it’s always a dilemma. Do you get them get fixed price quotes or are there times when that’s like, I always think if you’re going for a fixed price quote, they’re gonna build in danger money. Are there times when you know that’s not the best way to go forward? What’s your view on that?

Ryan Goodwin: To answer that thoroughly, I would say “what type of project” and I’ll explain the reason. Even as a builder, I have a full time team of five people both in the office and on site trades and we’re cabinetmakers. I’ve got plumbers, renderers, carpenters, plumbers on staff but we still operate at a large level too. And I have some 60 to 70 contractors working around us full time every week. They are a larger group. Often, though, when we’re outsourcing our trade, it could be electrical, it could be plumbing, it could be roofing, it could be painting.

For instance, I’m trying to be familiar with what your audience will be using. Something like painting is such a variable on job by job and painter by painter. I trust that you would also have a few painters to consult with. And on every different job, it can be different. Every painter will look at the job differently. The hots, the light, the volume of materials and the days. Does your paint to look at a square metre right, do you paint calculated by Labour Day, does he look at danger money? So much like yourself and your listeners, even as a builder, as crazy as it sounds, I’m a trained expert, we also need to consider the same question when seeking pricing from some of our subcontractors or our traders.

Those guys have been with me for years. Some of our traders have been with me for 15 years. And I’m still having them pricing court jobs and seeking locking pricing. What’s relevant would be to answer this difference two ways. One is to become educated, educating yourself and that’s your experience. It’s leveraging off the lessons that people like yourself and your great organisation shares and trains people in, which is priceless. Also, as people grow through their own successful renovations and projects themselves, they’re going to learn their own intuitiveness and build on their knowledge base.

I would say, information is king here so you would make sure that you would be engaging people to quote where possible and giving them the same script, the same playing field this way, you can compare apples for apples, but also maybe giving them a lot of or seeking how they review their pricing. Are you going to price by days? Or is this a labour plus materials plus margin? Not everyone will give you the same information but you’ll get a sense. I want to say, feeling that you’ll get a sense through that experience of how people might approach it. And then you’ll get a feel for how those people who have worked for you approach quoting it for the next job and you’ll find it.

In my experience again, I’ve got a range of people that I love and I would refer and work with in my own home and our clients. But I know what will suit one painter will use as an example, one painter better than it will suit another painter. From a cost perspective, I know which one I want to go to for that project. To go back to what I said earlier, it kind of depends on the project and then which contract it is. To answer your point,  a fixed price quote from any trade or builder is best as long as the level of detail and information inside that is very clear and you’re very confident of their ability to answer any points in raising the past.

You’re very clear on what’s in and what’s out. Well, I also think that sometimes the best way and only way as a builder can be that we’re going to have a fixed price contract for the project. But what I’ve realised, and I hope that these people would have raised it with your clients or I would while we’re going towards a fixed price contract, there might be two or three items in the scope that we’re unclear on that we’re a little bit uncertain or not uncommon. Not that we are not confident but we won’t know until we get onto the floor. We won’t know until we bring the world. And we may not know until we jump in the room if you need to move that wall. Parts of those things can be mitigated by, you know what? Before we get a fixed price contract, we need to send someone to the house to get onto the floor, getting the roof.

My message to your listeners would be assuming, you know some of these things or might have been raised, pursue a bit of clarity around these items so that the builder is available, get someone to run with a ladder, send the engineer and we’ll have the builder ask them. I might need to get on that roof and have a look at some point. Great, we’d like to select you, now is the time we would like you to come back and do any last due diligence, jump in the roof, look under the floor. Can we help by doing anything for you?  It’s a really important thing they bring forward about asking those questions.

Bernadette: Just gonna jump in there and say, I often think, particularly with things like because often we’ll have a wide end and we really don’t know the extent of it. Sometimes it’s worth doing the demolition before you bring people so that they can see exactly what they’re dealing with.

Ryan Goodwin: Sure thing. If that’s the model either you’re taking or are you suggesting to people and I’m sure if for some clients or some of your students that are, well, listeners, I should say, that are really keen on getting their hands dirty and stepping in and doing a bit themselves.

Bernadette: We try not to do it our own.

Ryan Goodwin: I’m coming from the builders perspective and I’m thinking really. Because I can say apprentices do it probably three times as quick and we know what we need. And you don’t have to have a visit to the E.R. room with a cut finger or a broken foot or something. In any sign that I respect, some people would want to do that and some won’t. Given the opportunity to summarise, allow the builder to come back and see for what it’s worth at that stage. If you’re having early discussions and any quotes, one thing, but if you are then working through the stages with might be quite revisions or the builder or the job, the site has changed at all, absolutely engage with them again. So would you like to come back? We’ve uncovered the floor, the wall that might damage whatever it might be.

Allow them to iron out any creases that might have been proposed earlier is a question mark in saying that moving forward. You know, there’s a couple even for our projects at the moment, large renovation projects that we identified some issues. One is on a floor that we just couldn’t get access to. Another has been in another area of mould damage that we just weren’t clear. We’re really upfront about that and obviously had included X amount of assistance or investigation, time and work. It’s now a great time for us to bring the client back and say, even though we’ve got a fixed price contract, we highlighted this in writing that we were unclear and we’ve had dialogue with you so we’re all signed page. Now is a time that we can actually see properly. There are different ways we can now project and we’ll provide some context around what we would do, what we suggest and some pricing as by way of variation.

My model traditionally isn’t always about tapping the corner on the shoulder for variations. While it is our rights, there are clauses in contracts and while that’s traditionally what the industry has been known for I, as a builder know that I can make clients sleep well at night by being fixed price all inclusive, and hence why our service to the very really being an all inclusive talk builder can support a lot of people by not having them lose sleep over those unknowns.

Bernadette: It’s really incredible. Obviously there comes a time when it’s you who has to but I always think I look at how reasonable they are with the variation. When extra work comes up, obviously it has to be paid for if it’s not allowed and it’s not. But sometimes that is very minor and can be done without a significant cost to the contractor but sometimes that costs as it’s really got to take responsibility. Also some of those variations come out of change of mind, which can be unsure if it’s really frustrating being on the other side of that.

Ryan Goodwin: I look at it as a business model, we have an in-house design as a way. For instance, we would entertain our clients in our showroom to do colour selections and fix your selections, sit and work with our interior designers as we actually produce internal joinery plans. Your dream last night of not knowing what was going to happen is a little different. For us if we’re supporting you still, which we typically are in a kitchen and other things. We’re actually the designers and cabinet makers in their own right.

We’re not your average builder, you would have already loved the experience with our interior designs in our showroom, we show 3D models and images and rendered documents. And so you’ve got a whole experience with us. We really hopefully, if you’ve had a bit of fun with it, but you’re very clear. We’ve got two day and 3D elevations, plans and a specification that goes over that contract. So you should be really clear on that. And effectively, by the end of that, we’re just building what we’ve put on paper now.

We know we’d spend a little bit more time up front doing that, it’s a little bit like a behaviour, I guess, from a builder’s perspective doing it. But we watch our clients have that experience. Some I’m sure a lot of your listeners and students are very clear, very confident and also maybe well experienced in doing this.  They might need a little bit less help, but hopefully love the journey just as much. I’m sure maybe some of those listeners that are new to starting out on their first project probably really need us in their life because we get to just just reduce the gap of the knowledge base or the risk you might call it. They’ve probably been on Pinterest for months and now they’re looking to become educated and now they’re looking to go into their own and do their first project. And it’s really exciting and that momentum should stay.

But like in any big business or I’m sure like you trying to in other areas, having that really great team around them can learn to trust and trust at least on us to bring improvements. We’re often bringing improvements in those design meetings to the design integrity, the resale value, the sexiness that the wow factor brings to the room. And it doesn’t mean, it needs to cost you more. And in fact, sometimes we’re actually working very hard with our clients, depending on the circumstances, to maintain that high level of wow factor but by bringing that budget down, it’s the perfect recipe, right? It’s what everyone wants. I’m sure your listeners want it. How do we get more for less? They sometimes use sensible ways of doing that. And I know that’s what you are an advocate of and teach, which is great. And we see it in, you know, one on one basis. We wouldn’t argue that concert showing and what that can look like.

All identities, selection of finishes and materials and things. I don’t think we your average builder, we invest heavy upfront in education and showing people we want our clients to have an experience. How that gets to your listeners, whether they be first timers or not. You simply that knowing sometimes knowing what you don’t know, right. You know what you know and you don’t know what you don’t know. Don’t be scared to ask. Don’t be scared to put yourself in those positions. But at first, you’ve got to be comfortable and confident with those relationships to know that to get right back to your first question, asking those questions of people that you know should have some answers for you to give you options.

It’s not the builder who happens to be building next door the new home, but he doesn’t work in the renovation space, so he doesn’t follow the markets and property to understand what the trends are right now or understand that we could spend X get a greater return for you because your model is to sell all your model is to keep as an investor and reno and you have have tenants in the property or something like that. So, testing or building to see where they come from.

Bernadette: Certainly we bake into our systems seeking feedback from the builder because, it never fails to amaze me, you can take three different people through a project and get three totally different ideas and that’s really valuable. The plan is never set on stone because the more information, as you said, with everything, the more information you’ve got around it can be executed. It forms the plan if you go until such a point as you do end up signing a contract.

The relationship between a builder and an owner or renovator is a relationship of trust. And you would know this when you are handing over a project to a builder that they take complete control of that project. And so you are at their mercy. Having someone that you trust is critical. That’s why I bring people on this show that our people that I would work with, because sometimes it’s really hard to figure out when you can trust someone or not. So thanks for that and for sharing your expertise.

Something I wanted to ask you is I know we’re going to talk about trends but we are running out of time. I might have another session.

Ryan Goodwin: We’ll have another session. I’ll be happy to do it.

Bernadette: One thing I do want to ask you is, how are you coping with Covid? I notice you’ve got about 20 people on staff? How’s that going?

Ryan Goodwin: It’s been we’ve had to pivot like most. The word of the moment where I probably decide a macro level. we’re quite lucky in a sense that we are nearly people. One focussing on small cosmetics of bathroom kitchens into reno reconfigurations. But I would finish a few jobs because it’s the only kitchen in a house but we’re not able to start. So that’s sort of the business while being a very busy side for us has actually meant they’ve got to put people in that team has actually meant that those guys haven’t been able to go and start more jobs for our clients. Our clients are very understanding.

On the other side of the business, we’re doing some new homes, very large extensions, second store freezes, and most of those projects are not occupied. Those jobs that have been underway have just meant that we’ve had to shift to beating, the limiting of numbers of people on jobs. We’ve restricted the amount of workers on site, etc. but we’ve been very lucky. I’ve kind of carried a little bit. But most of our team who have had to stop on some projects have been able to take them into bigger projects.

We’ve been very lucky that no one really, other than a couple of guys here and there, has gone without full time employment and work with us. It’s been a little bit. A fair bit of admin work, of course, for us. And now managing those sorts of things is quite tricky. If you need, you know, a plastering team or roofers and we’ve got to move guys again. But we’ve been quite proud that really it’s not a great negative effect on our team, my family and people that I protect here because of the volume.

It’s been a favourite of hard work and we’ve had to move things around and also restricted on starting new jobs. We can’t do that because of Covid. So, yeah, we’ll be really pleased when when we open up again in the weeks. But it looks like we’ll just work our way through to that and not really be so negatively affected from a working and labour point of view from my team, which I’m grateful for because I’m responsible for so many, all work our cash flows. You’re up in the air and things haven’t happened as we’d like but I feel if my role has been one that has been had to shift and be creative to me, that we’re still providing full time incomes and work for all of our teams, our families and their families on their mortgages. And if that’s what we get to do, then I’m quite grateful that we’ve been able to get through this okay.

Bernadette: That’s admirable, because I was wondering, when you have a big time, that can be very challenging. I know a lot of companies and I was talking to a student the other day and she said that trades are only allowed to work on one site a day. Is that correct?

Ryan Goodwin: Some of those have changed and I’m also doing it differently. I’m lucky enough to be invited to be a high housing awards judge. Here in Victoria, I sit on the judging panel and suggested yesterday we had a meeting and I got in a direct line with the executive director of Hydrides, Victoria, which is really lovely. It doesn’t mean that I get any special treatment, but it’s great to get clear information on those changes that I can work with. And so with their hard work, I and other master builders and other industry bodies have really campaigned well to governments.

That one site per day had changed a few weeks back. We went to specialist trades; it was three sites per week, it’s now up to three sites per day, depending on that trade. There are some categories. But in summary, the restrictions are lessening or loosening around some of that in these last few weeks. And so we’re really all hanging for it to be lifted. I don’t think it will lift totally. We’ll still have to have covered safeword, work, safety plans, hygiene practises and distance thing, for some time, perhaps masks as well. That’s just gonna be the way the world for this year I believe.

If  that means all of our teams and our contractors can go to work and earn an income or pay their mortgages and put food on the table, that’s a small price to pay. There has definitely been some limitation. And currently it’s assort to no more than five people on it at any one time plus a supervisor. We have to sign in and sign out. There has to be inductions done. There’s a whole management of although seems so and that I guess is just becoming good practise for our sites, all be a little bit tricky.

Bernadette: Beautiful. Well done. We will have to schedule the second session because our time is up today.

Ryan Goodwin: I’d love and happy to.

Bernadette: Excellent. Excellent. So we’ll get on. To what people want in their renovations but that’s always really valuable information for us. And so what I will do is include a link to your website in the show notes. And yeah, I will also put some examples of your work, which would be great. I just want to thank you for being on today.  Just reminding you that Ryan operates out of Melbourne, which is my second favourite place. I normally spend a lot of time in Melbourne there at least once a month. But of course, since Covid, that’s put an end to that. That will be up and running again soon. So thank you again. See you next time.

Ryan Goodwin: Thank you. Any lessons look, we’re just happy to offer any advice or help. So I hope that we could be on another podcast. Maybe give insights to not only trends, but maybe some award winning trends again I’m lucky enough to be actually giving out the awards or part of the body that are giving any awards for market and industry leaders. So being available to it to offer any insights or advice we can.  You just let me know what you need or you’re listeners and we’d be happy to help.

Bernadette: Well, I’ll love you and leave you. Thanks so much and I’ll be in touch.

Ryan Goodwin: Lovely to chat. Thanks for having me.

Outro

I hope you enjoyed that episode with Ryan. If you would like to be part of the recording of the 100th episode at the She Renovates Live Conference, all you need to do is go over to our website 13.211.184.120 and you’ll find a tile on the home page that takes you straight to the She Renovates Live event and you can grab a streaming ticket there.

Okay, on that note, I’m going to sign off because we’ve got lots to do between now and Sunday. Have a great week and I’ll see you next week.

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