Q.  I'm about to start gathering estimates for my kitchen renovation - a gut job that I am told could cost anywhere from $60,000-$150,000. How negotiable are contractors these days and what's the best way to go about it?

A. Your timing is impeccable. With swarms of clients canceling or slimming down projects this year, many New York City area contractors are finally ready to negotiate.   

“It’s taken awhile for contractors to adjust their thinking and pricing,” says Jeannine Williams, who as principal of an eponymous design firm in Union Square also oversees the construction of the projects she designs and helps her clients manage the bidding process.

While cost of materials isn’t usually flexible, the other 55 to 60 percent of the job—labor—usually is.

“Clients should negotiate set prices for materials and then talk about labor costs,” says Williams. “I always encourage my clients to shoot for 20 percent off.  At the end of the day you might get 12-15 percent, versus maybe five percent before January. And if nothing changes in six months, you could probably get 18 percent.”

That’s probably the bottom line though, she says:  “At 20 percent off, you have to start questioning the quality of the work as well.”

How successful have you been in negotiating with your contractor?

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