Completing a resort renovation requires precision planning and serious synergy between the management company, the resort’s HOA, General Manager and selected interior designers. We asked two highly respected timeshare management companies and interior design firms to share some tips for achieving a successful renovation on time and within budgetary parameters.
Recognizing that refurbishments can vary in scope, time and cost, we asked what steps their companies take in leading up to a renovation. Bill Young advised a property improvement plan is individually developed and presented to the board for each SPM resort considering a renovation. If a resort is on a five-year refurbishment cycle, the planning and project management process differs from properties that may have units in need of extensive work like concrete restoration, which requires immediate attention.
Nigel Lobo said Grand Pacific Resorts uses a formal Reserve Study to ensure a comprehensive review of all assets at the resort and their remaining useful life. Renovation projects are planned based on this study as well as feedback from owners and guests. A physical resort inspection becomes the groundwork leading to an actual renovation project. Nigel added, “The goal of every renovation project is to enhance the vibrancy of the resort and maintain its structural integrity and overall upkeep.”
Both management companies take an active role in making suggestions to the boards with the GM having considerable input with this process. At SPM, Regional Vice Presidents like Trish Docherty provide their research and recommendation with the board reviewing all options before making the final decision.
From an interior designer’s perspective, Tim Broersma, CEO of Elements Hospitality says he first implements a partnership agreement with management companies and HOAs that allows the resorts to utilize Element’s development team to assemble an open book budgets for development of design, FF&E, and renovation … long before a RFP is issued. This can be done several years in advance.
“Depending on whether the project is a full-scale or partial renovation,” says Dawn Sena of Sena Hospitality Design, “the planning, designing, contracting, creating of spec books, placing orders and dealing with lead times are only the first part of the process.”
While the board or HOA generally makes the final decisions on renovations, the management company is usually better equipped to guide them to make the right decisions. Sometimes, however, a strong board may decide to take the designer’s recommendations and select a residential designer or a board member’s relative who has little knowledge about hospitality design.
Big mistake, says Dawn Sena. The management company should choose the best design firm based on a number of criteria. First, is the company a licensed interior design firm that specializes in hospitality design? The residential market is totally different in the products, specifications, and costs. Dawn believes it is the designer’s responsibility to educate the HOAs and the end user on the difference in the specifications for hospitality vs. residential, as well as the significant advantage in pricing when a design firm is used on large volume jobs. She suggests that a resort hiring an interior designer should check on past performances and determine if the company has a track record of completed projects that are similar in volume and scope.
“Recommendations are important,” adds Sena. “It doesn’t have to be the largest design firm, but one capable of offering the complete commitment your resort needs. This is an important relationship. Both the designer and client will be working closely together for several years and the designer’s job is to make each renovation a smooth process. Conversely, the design firm needs to have trust and confidence in the management company and rely on them for guidance.”
Tim Broersma said that one of the most important components in selecting a designer should be their technical knowledge of installations and assemblies. The Elements Hospitality construction team collaborates with their designers to assemble project budgets, taking into account construction labor and materials, as well as FF&E and finishes. This ensures the designer’s selections can actually be built within the budget the customer has provided.
Both designers provide assistance in developing a budget for renovations. Sena Hospitality Design offers a complete design plan with costs. “If funds are not available for the entire job,” Dawn says,” at least they have a long-term plan so as not to ‘piece meal’ and can work toward a cohesive plan.”
Elements Hospitality utilizes their development team consisting of designer and construction estimator to build a fully comprehensive, open book budget from start to finish, allowing the customer to have visibility to all project components.
In the designer selection process Will Potter, SPM Regional Vice President added, “We have established procedures for hiring all vendors, which includes doing our due diligence in researching the companies before we present them to the board as an option. We always try to get at least three bids on any major project.”
Grand Pacific Resorts also believes that securing three bids is important to ensuring that pricing is optimal. Their Director of Construction reviews the bids and presents the best option to the Boards. Then their management team meets with accounting to ensure that adequate cash reserves are in place for each project. Once the scope and funding for the project are determined, Grand Pacific reaches to their preferred design partner to develop a design board as well as specs for purchasing.
At most resorts, refurbishment projects are generally covered in reserve budgets, which have been developed years in advance. Inaccuracies may be encountered when qualified renovation experts have not provided costs for items like furnishings and accessories. Elements Hospitality provides advance schedule development, ensuring that the reserve budgets are accurately projected and there is enough money set aside for renovations.
Naturally, designers prefer to know in advance how much they are allowed to spend per unit on renovations so they can provide a budget built around that number. While it seems unrealistic to an outsider, HOAs or management companies seldom actually tell a designer how much they can spend on a renovation even though it is far more efficient to do this.
Tim Broersma estimates that 40% of his customers provide a budget goal and explain their desired level of finish. Says Tim, “When the customer does not provide their budget, the design teams inevitably select finishes the customer cannot afford and spends a significant amount of time value engineering the projects.” Since his company handles design, procurement, and renovation in house, they can assemble budgets line-by-line ¬with all components included. This gives Elements Hospitality the ability to protect the customer from budget oversights and increases.
According to Dawn Sena, “Occasionally we receive a target budget which enables us to create a priority list with line items of our recommendations, then submitting an early proposal. Eventually we are given a “reality check” and either cut back or proceed with the final scope proposed.”
Grand Pacific Resorts provides their designer/contractor the budget for each renovation, believing this is important to ensure that the design and construction is in alignment with affordability.
Clearly, having everyone playing from the same songbook and communicating through each step of the process will result in a renovation that has been approached from every angle, achieving the approval of the most important group … the resort owners.