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AVS › AVS Forum › A/V Control & Automation › Home Automation › Quote for NYC 3BR apartment - $50K for Crestron system. Feels like a rip-off, but I'm new to this. Some insight would be appreciated.
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Quote for NYC 3BR apartment - $50K for Crestron system. Feels like a rip-off, but I'm new to... - Page 2

post #31 of 56
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Originally Posted by Yggdrasill View Post

All that said, the prices you've been quoted are outrageous: not because they are out of line with what installers generally charge, mind you, but because all installers charge outrageously.
Well at least you're aren't engaging in hyperbole or painting with broad strokes rolleyes.gif. I don't know where you are coming from here but it sounds like you're bringing some type of personal beef into this.
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I know for a fact that the dealer/installer markups for Crestron are high - several hundred percent - and I find it ludicrous.
Your "facts" are incorrect by an order of magnitude. I don't know how anyone that is really in the industry as you say you are could actually believe that any electronics line has a dealer markup of "several hundred percent".
post #32 of 56
@Sweetspot - Sorry, but I did not make this figure up. I talked to people in Crestron lighting controls who work directly for Crestron, and we were comparing the business models for lighting controls vs AV. Now, it's possible the people I talked to exaggerated, or were wrong: I'm just passing along what folks in the industry told me, but I have no reason to suspect that they were lying or misinformed. Moreover, I never said that Crestron's margins were not in line with their competitors. I think most home automation systems are excessively priced for what they deliver. It doesn't surprise me though, given the markup generally in retail, which is generally at least 70-100% for many products. How else do you think Magnolia Hi-Fi (for example) can afford to discount items by 50%? And I have further corroboration of this from the lighting controls quote - something I do have DIRECT experience with, given that I spec and sell Crestron lighting controls. That price is much higher than commercial lighting. NYC or not, the other prices for things I am very familiar with - thermostats for example - also reinforce my argument. $8,000 for seven thermostats! $4,000 to wire and mount two televisions (again, assuming that the TVs are not included)!

Also, I did not assume to know the labor rate. Try actually reading my post. I said, "IF you're paying $75/hour labor." But my logic stands, even if you're paying $150. First, that labor rate seems excessive - even in NYC - considering that, as I mentioned, this is low voltage wiring which doesn't require an electrician to install. Even just 30 hours of install time still seems too much for the stated scope of work. We're talking about running some wiring, mounting four pairs of speakers, and wiring some AV equipment in a rack. Crestron uses Cresnet cable for all this that is color coded and quick to install.

I love that you went straight to dissing my credibility rather than addressing my arguments. What is the basis of your credibility? If you have inside knowledge or better information, please share it. I am sharing what I know, what I have heard, and what I can deduce. Any way I see to slice it, that $50k figure is a rip off for what you get. See all the other posts suggesting ways to get similar functionality through stand alone systems for much less money. Not saying it isn't in line with rest of the home automation industry, but rather that the industry as a whole doesn't deliver value commensurate with its price.

@David Haddad - True, I may be guilty of perhaps too broad a brushstroke. And I am indeed somewhat frustrated by what I consider to be industry gouging, so perhaps I am bringing a personal beef /opinion into this discussion. However, if you think that the markup for such lines is in the order of low tens of percent, as you suggest, 'Your "facts" are incorrect by an order of magnitude. I don't know how anyone that is really in the industry as you say you are could actually believe that any electronics line has a dealer markup of "several hundred percent"', I encourage you to dig deeper. I don't doubt that markups for small, boutique lines of audio equipment are more in line with your numbers. But for big firms such as Sony, Philips, etc., they are certainly higher because of volume production costs being low. And Crestron is an industry leader with a strong following, so they can command even higher prices.

But, and I need to be crystal clear here, I am talking about the amount of money, pure profit, for dealer/installers on this equipment, and not so much the profit for the manufacturer itself. Remember that no one buys a Crestron system to self-install, so the customer is a captive of installer pricing. They need to pay whatever the installer decides to charge for the programming/commissioning work. So, an installer can package the whole thing - equipment, installation, setup/programming, and make a killing. I think the $50k number for work is actually being performed should make that obvious. It's not just NYC. It's everywhere.
post #33 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yggdrasill View Post

@Sweetspot - Sorry, but I did not make this figure up. I talked to people in Crestron lighting controls who work directly for Crestron, and we were comparing the business models for lighting controls vs AV. Now, it's possible the people I talked to exaggerated, or were wrong:
In your previous posts you said:
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I know for a fact that the dealer/installer markups for Crestron are... several hundred percent
So your fact is based upon a discussion you had with someone at Crestron? No actual access to pricing, just a discussion with someone at Crestron? I spoke with someone at a car manufacturer last week. Am I now an expert on car dealers margins smile.gif? It would be inappropriate for me to state what margins are but I will say that electronics margins are in the double digits, not 100%, let alone several hundred percent. Nor are the margins for this industry in any way unusually high, they are right in line with many other competitive industries.
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I'm just passing along what folks in the industry told me, but I have no reason to suspect that they were lying or misinformed.
They were misinformed, or you misunderstood them.
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I am very familiar with - thermostats for example - also reinforce my argument. $8,000 for seven thermostats!
The price on the Crestron thermostats runs from $500 to $600 depending on model chosen, and that does not include other required parts such as power supplies. There were 7 thermostats quoted and the total for the equipment, i.e. thermostats was 4K, not 8K. So it would appear there was nothing unusual about the thermostat pricing. Whether the overall quote is fair is a bit harder to say without having seen the job and without all the facts.
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First, that labor rate seems excessive - even in NYC - considering that, as I mentioned, this is low voltage wiring which doesn't require an electrician to install.
Is your knowledge of NYC labor rates on par with your knowledge of Crestron markups? I'm also curious why you think low voltage wiring should cost less to install because it "doesn't require an electrician"? That's simply not always the case, the price to pull LV cable is often the same. For that matter, on many projects the low voltage wire is often pulled by electricians.
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Even just 30 hours of install time still seems too much for the stated scope of work. We're talking about running some wiring, mounting four pairs of speakers, and wiring some AV equipment in a rack. Crestron uses Cresnet cable for all this that is color coded and quick to install.
Do you perform such installations yourself for a living? Did you see the jobsite where the work will be done? What experience do you base your assessment on other than "we're talking about running some wire". With experience comes the understanding that projects usually involve a lot more work than they appear to on the surface.
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What is the basis of your credibility?
This is the basis of my credibility, and projects much larger than those shown here: http://vidacom.com/portfolio/ I own a company that performs these types of installations around the world, we've won awards, our work is often featured in publications, I'm intimately familiar with the industry having worked it in for 25 years, and also contribute to industry publications such as CE Pro to help cover the industry.
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I am sharing what I know, what I have heard
I bolded the relevant part.
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But, and I need to be crystal clear here, I am talking about the amount of money, pure profit, for dealer/installers on this equipment, and not so much the profit for the manufacturer itself.
I suggest studying the P&L statements for public companies that manufacturer high-end electronics equipment, it may cause you to reevaluate your beliefs. While I don't have access to Crestron's private P&L numbers, based on my knowledge of industry it's very safe to say that Crestron's gross profit margins on equipment are higher than their dealers. In the same way that Apple's gross profit margins are higher than the dealers selling their computers. Nothing at all wrong with that, it's just the way the market works (in this industry). Think about it, what do you think the likelihood is that a high-end manufacturer would operate on thin margins while pricing their products so that their dealers make more margin than they do?! Does that seem likely to you?
post #34 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yggdrasill View Post

@Sweetspot - Sorry, but I did not make this figure up. I talked to people in Crestron lighting controls who work directly for Crestron, and we were comparing the business models for lighting controls vs AV. Now, it's possible the people I talked to exaggerated, or were wrong: I'm just passing along what folks in the industry told me, but I have no reason to suspect that they were lying or misinformed.
These things tend to become fish stories when it is third-hand smile.gif. At the risk of looking like I am piling on smile.gif, the margins are as David mentioned. If you are in the industry you can get the price and check.

Note that the margins in commercial and residential realm are different. In commercial systems the customer hires their own expert and specifies exactly what they want. The dealer is not doing that. Due to then much reduced risk of things not working, the commercial margins are usually much lower since the customer takes full responsibility and has paid for design work themselves. So if your people are in commercial world, you can't compare them to residential.
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I think most home automation systems are excessively priced for what they deliver. It doesn't surprise me though, given the markup generally in retail, which is generally at least 70-100% for many products. How else do you think Magnolia Hi-Fi (for example) can afford to discount items by 50%? And I have further corroboration of this from the lighting controls quote - something I do have DIRECT experience with, given that I spec and sell Crestron lighting controls. That price is much higher than commercial lighting. NYC or not, the other prices for things I am very familiar with - thermostats for example - also reinforce my argument. $8,000 for seven thermostats! $4,000 to wire and mount two televisions (again, assuming that the TVs are not included)!
70 to 100% for retail margins? Unless you are talking about cables or extended warranty, nothing comes remotely close to that. Or else, everyone would get into that business and become super rich! There is a reason retailers go out of business left and right. The margins are often close to zero or even negative for popular products like game consoles, TVs, AVRs, etc. To give an example, if we source a TV through a distributor, our price often is *higher* than what the major retailer is selling it for! If there is 70 to 100% margin in what they sell how could this be possible? It wouldn't be.

As to difference in commercial vs residential, see above. Often companies have completely different lines for commercial products as they do residential. You can't compare them to each other. Often the capabilities, look, etc. is different. Lutron for example will do the design themselves for commercial project vs residential that the dealer does. The whole way of doing business is completely different.

But yes, at high level, these are luxury features. A $2 light switch will beat out your commercial bid as well as it does a residential one. But what it won't do is turn off all the outside lights when it gets bright in the morning like mine does. Or know that if I push the button on my remote to go to sleep, to gently turn down the lights behind me and light a dim path to the bedroom if it is after 11:00pm. Ditto for turning the closet light on low if it is late but full on otherwise. Or blink the outside light if there is a fire or other emergency. Or having any light switch or any button on a remote or touch screen turn on or off any light in the house. Can you live without these? Sure. Can you live in a tiny 1 bedroom house that looks run down? Sure. You have to decide how important luxury and safety is to you and spend accordingly.
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Also, I did not assume to know the labor rate. Try actually reading my post. I said, "IF you're paying $75/hour labor." But my logic stands, even if you're paying $150. First, that labor rate seems excessive - even in NYC - considering that, as I mentioned, this is low voltage wiring which doesn't require an electrician to install. Even just 30 hours of install time still seems too much for the stated scope of work. We're talking about running some wiring, mounting four pairs of speakers, and wiring some AV equipment in a rack. Crestron uses Cresnet cable for all this that is color coded and quick to install.
Remember, folks are not paying for what has to be done: they are paying for what may be necessary. Like walking into the project and finding out that the plans you were given is not what was built. So all of a sudden you have an extra day worth of work to do that you did not account for. If it is an existing house, you don't have x-ray vision so you guess at what has to be done. These guesses are educated ones but they may very well be wrong. The business does have healthy margins in both labor and equipment. Despite that, company after company goes out of business because it is a complex situation full of unknowns and at the end of the day many jobs wind up not being profitable. Commercial guys per above have a major advantage in that their business is much more predictable. They work with people who have to build to standards and there is good oversight. Not so with residential projects. This is why an electrician living on 20% margins may be having a profitable business and a residential custom electronics company not with 50%.
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I love that you went straight to dissing my credibility rather than addressing my arguments. What is the basis of your credibility?
You picked on the wrong person there smile.gif. David knows this business.
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I am sharing what I know, what I have heard, and what I can deduce. Any way I see to slice it, that $50k figure is a rip off for what you get. See all the other posts suggesting ways to get similar functionality through stand alone systems for much less money. Not saying it isn't in line with rest of the home automation industry, but rather that the industry as a whole doesn't deliver value commensurate with its price.
There is a ton more value in a used $4,000 car instead of a new $40,000 one. But we most of the time opt for the $40K one. There are now "trucks" that retail for up to $60,000. I lived without automation for many years but now every time the system does some thinking for me, it puts a smile on the house. I love that when I leave our vacation house a single" leave" button fully automates all the things I want done when I leave that place. I hate to get home and find out and I did not turn down the heat or left the blinds open, or my TV. I like to be able to remotely dial up the temps before I go there and have it be ready that way. I love a single button on and off for my entire AV system. I like to be able to peer into the house when there is a storm and see what the temps are and the conditions of the house. I will shortly be adding a water shut off that is synchronized to us leaving or coming back to the house as to eliminate the risk of floods. That is the beauty of these systems: It is a *custom* plan designed for how we use the house.

Yes, you can do DIY solutions and try to become your own expert in this. But I tell you, very few people will enjoy the work involved. I have Crestron lighting and it was super boring initially programming all the loads and default actions for lights. Try terminating nearly 100 cat-5 and cat-6 cables and patch panel. I could do it myself but had my crew come over and do it smile.gif. There are some aspects of home automation that is fun but a lot of it is not.
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@David Haddad - True, I may be guilty of perhaps too broad a brushstroke. And I am indeed somewhat frustrated by what I consider to be industry gouging, so perhaps I am bringing a personal beef /opinion into this discussion. However, if you think that the markup for such lines is in the order of low tens of percent, as you suggest, 'Your "facts" are incorrect by an order of magnitude. I don't know how anyone that is really in the industry as you say you are could actually believe that any electronics line has a dealer markup of "several hundred percent"', I encourage you to dig deeper. I don't doubt that markups for small, boutique lines of audio equipment are more in line with your numbers. But for big firms such as Sony, Philips, etc., they are certainly higher because of volume production costs being low. And Crestron is an industry leader with a strong following, so they can command even higher prices.
I am personal friend with executives at many electronics companies (e.g. CEO of Panasonic) and have had a professional relationship with them for many years. You are not even remotely right there. Vast majority of electronics is sold at *negative* margin let alone have it be server hundred percent. Why do you think Panasonic is considering getting out of Plasma display business? With the exception of Samsung which is very vertically integrated all the rest of the mass market CE companies are hurting and hurting bad when it comes to AV gear. These companies are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in CE business. Your assumptions there are far more wrong than those for the CI industry!
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But, and I need to be crystal clear here, I am talking about the amount of money, pure profit, for dealer/installers on this equipment, and not so much the profit for the manufacturer itself. Remember that no one buys a Crestron system to self-install, so the customer is a captive of installer pricing. They need to pay whatever the installer decides to charge for the programming/commissioning work. So, an installer can package the whole thing - equipment, installation, setup/programming, and make a killing. I think the $50k number for work is actually being performed should make that obvious. It's not just NYC. It's everywhere.
That $50K install will start with a positive margin. But when it is all set I will be surprised if it nets 5% profit to the owner of the company. If it doesn't go well, it could easily be a negative margin. As to your other points, there are multiple companies bidding so there is no one captive here.
post #35 of 56
Thanks for the kind words Amir smile.gif. Great and informative post.

Just to be clear Yggdrasill, I know you were not addressing me with the credibility question, but I thought I owed an answer when responding.
post #36 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yggdrasill View Post

I know for a fact that the dealer/installer markups for Crestron are high - several hundred percent


I have worked for 3 different integrators in the last 10 years specifying Crestron and your statement is simply not true. I doubt you work in the industry based on that statement alone. Not to mention preferring Crestron over Lutron, which in my opinion is a joke. Did you know Joel Spira the founder of Lutron invented the dimmer?

Prove the fact you've stated, Sir.
post #37 of 56
Yggdrasill has been a member since 2006 and has 3 posts. I would wager that this is the "alternative account" of one of the forum regulars. Everything he has stated in this thread has been A.Completely False and B.Anti Crestron. (Don't be fooled by the "i love crestron" nonsense. Thats like the racist redneck who tells you how he lets his black friend use his bathroom.) My guess is that hes a rep for a competing product or an end user troll who thinks everything should be $50 and available @ ebay.
post #38 of 56
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Originally Posted by kewlly View Post


Climate Control:
7 Crestron Thermostats
Equipment: 4K, Installation 2K, Programming 2K, total of 8K


I am only sharing this b/c you've gotten some poor advice IMO. I work for an integrator we provide Proliphix IMT550c ‐ Network Thermostat's for $759.00 each, that doesn't cover installation. I bid a project recently 12k ft home the climate was $6990.00 installed for 7 zones. Crestron thermo's have always been expensive. If you want to save on budget that is the first place to start.

Some one mentioned Nest thermo's, they are the next big thing. http://www.nest.com/ I highly recommend them, you may purchase them yourselve at Lowes or Bestbuy they program themselves and learn your habits, manipulated mobile from your smart phone app.


post #39 of 56
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Originally Posted by 39CentStamp View Post

Yggdrasill has been a member since 2006 and has 3 posts. I would wager that this is the "alternative account" of one of the forum regulars. Everything he has stated in this thread has been A.Completely False and B.Anti Crestron. (Don't be fooled by the "i love crestron" nonsense. Thats like the racist redneck who tells you how he lets his black friend use his bathroom.) My guess is that hes a rep for a competing product or an end user troll who thinks everything should be $50 and available @ ebay.

And his post and others like are why I stay away from this area of the website, because you have folks claiming they know what gear and labor costs should be. And they have no clue what it takes to run a business, a good business. If you dig into a good integration firm you'll find management cost, travel, freight, storage of gear, sales, marketing, insurance, HR, IT not to mention some of the great companies have CAD technicians behind the scenes building documentation. There is so much more to it than some realize. To become a Lutron or Crestron dealer/installer you need to stock the product usually aobut $50k worth and train your technicians which means shipping them back to Creston or down the Lutron for 3-5 days for certification.
post #40 of 56
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Originally Posted by K Shep View Post

And his post and others like are why I stay away from this area of the website, because you have folks claiming they know what gear and labor costs should be. And they have no clue what it takes to run a business, a good business. If you dig into a good integration firm you'll find management cost, travel, freight, storage of gear, sales, marketing, insurance, HR, IT not to mention some of the great companies have CAD technicians behind the scenes building documentation. There is so much more to it than some realize. To become a Lutron or Crestron dealer/installer you need to stock the product usually aobut $50k worth and train your technicians which means shipping them back to Creston or down the Lutron for 3-5 days for certification.

I've also shied away from AVS, both b/c I'm busy in the real world, plus also as an end-user who pissed HUNDREDS of manhours into the wrong thing, or running wires to the wrong location and drilling holes all over my damn house, or bought >$1K of the wrong stuff (at eBay prices), I've come to realize I might not have spent much more had I just hired out.

Of course personally, I had fun setting it all up. But that was from 2004-2009, and once it was set up I was more than happy to be done with it.

Well, not totally done, one of these days I really need to close up the holes I drilled in the floor/subfloor when I ran wiring to the wrong place. And patch the ceiling where I jacked it up. But its been nearly 4 years, the wife is no longer screaming at me about the f-ugliness of it (and there are certainly f-ugly bits). She does prefer hiring pros for most things now though ;-)
post #41 of 56
Back to the original post, I have done similar projects utilizing RTI and Lutron RadioRa2 for under $30k. Is no other company allowed access prior to drywall for prewire? I would bet the builder gets a kick back from the Integrator.
post #42 of 56
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Originally Posted by IVB View Post

I've also shied away from AVS, both b/c I'm busy in the real world, plus also as an end-user who pissed HUNDREDS of manhours into the wrong thing, or running wires to the wrong location and drilling holes all over my damn house, or bought >$1K of the wrong stuff (at eBay prices), I've come to realize I might not have spent much more had I just hired out.

Of course personally, I had fun setting it all up. But that was from 2004-2009, and once it was set up I was more than happy to be done with it.

Well, not totally done, one of these days I really need to close up the holes I drilled in the floor/subfloor when I ran wiring to the wrong place. And patch the ceiling where I jacked it up. But its been nearly 4 years, the wife is no longer screaming at me about the f-ugliness of it (and there are certainly f-ugly bits). She does prefer hiring pros for most things now though ;-)

However, now you are able to run an ethernet cable to that network receiver you just bought so that you may listen to Pandora. Fortunately my 100 year old house isn't too large and the garage is not sheetrocked in so I am able to run wire through the floor joist bays.
post #43 of 56
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Originally Posted by DaveTheAVDude View Post

I would bet the builder gets a kick back from the Integrator.

Do integrator's buy projects like that in your part of the country? I've never heard that type of thing happening in the Bay Area. In fact I don't know how an integrator would broach the subject, I have worked for a few contractors too and if a sub said "here is a kick back" that would be the last job that sub worked on. That would be like a Builder paying a client to build a house for them.
post #44 of 56
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Originally Posted by K Shep View Post

Do integrator's buy projects like that in your part of the country? I've never heard that type of thing happening in the Bay Area. In fact I don't know how an integrator would broach the subject, I have worked for a few contractors too and if a sub said "here is a kick back" that would be the last job that sub worked on. That would be like a Builder paying a client to build a house for them.

I wouldnt call it "buying", but a lot of integrators develop relationships with builders in hopes of getting all of their projects. The builders highly suggest these integrators for the project, but ultimately the decision should be left to the home buyer. These integrators often times will offer the builder a small percentage of the each project, and offer the client the option to include it in their mortgage as an incentive. I havent run across too many builders that will only work with one integrator exclusively, but I have been hired to do projects where the builder typically uses another company, and have made things difficult during the construction process.
post #45 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveTheAVDude View Post

I wouldnt call it "buying", but a lot of integrators develop relationships with builders in hopes of getting all of their projects. The builders highly suggest these integrators for the project, but ultimately the decision should be left to the home buyer. These integrators often times will offer the builder a small percentage of the each project, and offer the client the option to include it in their mortgage as an incentive. I havent run across too many builders that will only work with one integrator exclusively, but I have been hired to do projects where the builder typically uses another company, and have made things difficult during the construction process.

Building relationships in the Architectural community has been advantages for me, I work in business development. The benefit is an introdution to the client (home owner) often times before the builder is hired.
post #46 of 56
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Originally Posted by K Shep View Post

Building relationships in the Architectural community has been advantages for me, I work in business development. The benefit is an introdution to the client (home owner) often times before the builder is hired.

I agree. I do have builders and decorators I work with on a regular basis, but they dont force their clients to use me, nor do I provide a kick back. They have become comfortable with me and my guys, and recommend us because of our work and customer service, rather than because they are looking for a cut of the deal.
post #47 of 56
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Originally Posted by DaveTheAVDude View Post

I agree. I do have builders and decorators I work with on a regular basis, but they dont force their clients to use me, nor do I provide a kick back. They have become comfortable with me and my guys, and recommend us because of our work and customer service, rather than because they are looking for a cut of the deal.


I have worked for 3 integrators, all of them have been the most or close to the most expensive. At times it sucks not to able to say "I'll match the price of the other guy".
post #48 of 56
I came across this "discussion" by accident, and couldn't agree more with K Shep. It is such a waste of time having to explain the facts to phonies - several hundred percent margins for Crestron is stupidly incorrect. You just have to have a Crestron price sheet to know this. Crestron's margins are no different than Savant or Control4 or most audio companies. But then he no doubt doesn't have any of those price sheets to look at the comps either. He knows nothing.

Yggdrasill opinions are as worthless as his facts. The claim that a $75 per hour Labor charge is excessive? Give me a break. In Manhattan, charging so little will leave the integrator quickly broke. Good install techs - never mind programmers - earn a minimum these days of $75K - $85K or more. Do the arithmetic. $75K to $85K = $36 to $41/hr.

But that's before FICA, or health insurance, or payroll costs, or vacation time, sick time, travel time...Or the costs of the truck and tools they travel with. In Manhattan, you also have monumental parking problems driving your costs - a parking ticket could cost you $165, and a parking lot is going to cost you $50 to $75...if you can find a garage that will take a commercial truck or van. But not only do you waste huge amounts of time finding parking, then there's wasted time due to monumental traffic trying to get in an out of the city. Plus, massive tolls at the river crossings. Plus $4.25/gallon gas.

Why not drive in and park by 6:00am and have an easier time of it? A little thing called building work rules. Usually, you can't be in a building before 8:30 or after 5pm.

One more teeny, tiny thing to consider: Not all hours are...BILLABLE. A great conversion rate is 55 to 60%. At $75/hour, given all of the above, you're not even covering your costs. You're a bad business person and you're out of business. Which is no use to the clients who need you at all.

But the part that really irritates me is: It's none of this guy's business what a firm charges its clients or pays its employees! It's within your prerogative to hire someone else if you don't like the cost figures.. Did anybody notice how many integrators went out of business in this last recession? That was despite many of them charging well north of $125/hour, and far more per hour for programmers. Wow, they were really ripping clients off, weren't they? The ripped them off so badly and made so much money that they went out of business. Leaving the client with a system with no support.

The fact is, being an integrator is a very, very difficult profession. The main reward is the enjoyment of the technology and the pride in workmanship. Yes, a few company owners make a decent living, though none are getting truly rich. But there are none who have it easy. The systems are complex and not well understood by end users and other trades, they require 24/7 support if you consider yourself any good at all at service, the clients are demanding, it's hard to find skilled labor (like a lot of businesses), costs are continually going up while margins are being squeezed hard. Know-nothings like Yggdrasill who profess to know all about what to charge are the problem with this part of AVS. Posters with real knowledge, who can really help people, stay away. Too busy to waste our time with dolts.

End of rant.
post #49 of 56
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Originally Posted by kewlly View Post

I am moving into a 3BR apartment in Manhattan next year that's currently under construction. The apartment size is about 2000 sq feet....
I haven't done any research on Lutron yet, and I know it's not cheap, but I imagine I can build my own system with these components for a lot less than $50K.
My questions are:
1) Is this a reasonable quote for the type of work, or are they just trying to rip me off? Or is this just how much Crestron charges?
2) Is it really a big deal if I wait until the unit is built and the walls are up to do the wiring for the shades and lighting? The A/V wiring would be minimal as I wouldn't have a rack hidden somewhere, just a media stand underneath a mounted TV with a single HDMI going from the receiver to the TV through the wall.
Any insights and suggestions would be much appreciated.

Back to the topic at hand. I must tell you Kewlly, I hesitate to give you valuable advice. I don't like it when posters carelessly throw around pejoratives such as "rip-off" unless they can back it up with fact. I don't think you'd like it if I suggested that whatever you do for a living, you must be ripping someone off to afford a multi-million dollar apartment (yes that's what a luxury new construction 2000 sq-ft apartments cost in Manhattan these days - $1200 - $3000 per sq-ft). A middle class integrator shlub trying to make a living charging $50K and hoping for a modest profit for what is clearly a very substantial system judging by your own bill of materials, is unflattering to you, not the guy charging the $50K.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that in haste you were using poorly chosen jargon, and offer you this advice:

I think you should focus on a better question than whether $50K is too much for what you're getting. The correct question is: Will what I get for my money, no matter what I spend, be well installed and work well?

Off the top of my head, and full disclosure I'm doing educated speculating without seeing the details of your quote, $50K seems a bit of an undercharge for your extensive scope:
-audio and video distribution
-shade control
-HVAC control
-lighting control.

That's a big project – especially in Manhattan where working is so difficult - and I’m not talking about parking and traffic, but about constricted space, rebar, a reflected ceiling plan that probably looks like a CAD of a NASA space ship wiring and plumbing diagram.

The tipoff that there's danger here of actually paying too little is the spec of the AES as another poster alluded to. For a complex system such as this, you should be getting a proper processor such as a CP3 or even a couple of CP3s, not an AES. Again, I haven't seen the quote – maybe you’re doing all wireless thermostats and wireless light switches and your distributed video is one zone. If not, an AES for a scope of this complexity is bad practice, in my judgment. It may be that the integrator is not skilled in system engineering or you gave him an unrealistic budget and he’s making the mistake of not telling you that you can’t do what you want to for $50K.

(The AES is also extremely limiting because you can’t do Core3, Crestrons new software platform. Everything Crestron is quickly moving to it. Core3 lets you do some very cool things such as the Apple “finger swipe” on your touch panel, “widgets” which are kind of like apps, and far simpler graphics programming and that means costs savings…among numerous major Core3 advantages. Yet, a Core3 processor such as the CP3 is just $1800. By comparison, the AES is $4100 with an Internet radio card or SiriusXM card, and is obsolete the moment it’s installed. Yes, you may save in the short run with the AES because it’s an all-in-one device, but long term it will cost you more as it increasingly becomes unsupported, or God forbid, it fails and you have no choice but to move to the Core3 platform.)

There's an old contractor and builder saying: It never costs too much to do it right. It costs too much if you have to do it twice. $100K well spent for a perfect system will leave you happy and unconcerned about the cost because you received something of great value for what you paid. $50K for a bad system will make you rue the waste of every penny.

The sad fact is that good integrators are called in all the time to do clean up jobs of poorly installed systems. And BEWARE: Clean ups are difficult, time-consuming, expensive work that is only moderately less costly than starting over from scratch. Imagine being told that you spent $50K, but that it's going to take $25K to $30K more in parts, labor, and programming – “Depending on what we find when we get in there and clean up the mess, so that figure might change” - to correct the issues with your system. Imagine you spent $350K and you’re being told it will cost another $160K to get it working correctly. It happens all the time. Trust me.

So then, how do you find a great integrator? That's the question. Some here say, get references and call all of them. That's the "Angie's List - Yelp" approach. And it's moderately helpful, but by no means foolproof. That’s because often times, the clients you contact will sanitize the truth - it's human nature - and say they're happier than they are. Half the time – no exaggeration - they don't even know that they received poor quality work.

Or, you get handed a list of the 5 clients who, unbeknownst to you, spent a lot and were given all of the firm’s attention. You don't get to talk to the other 95 clients who received short shrift because the firm’s resources were stretched beyond the limit. They can’t get their system completed, they can never get a phone call returned, they can’t their bill reconciled, making even the most minor changes takes weeks or months. Do you actually think you’ll get a list of names of client who would never hire the firm again? I assure that won’t happen.

So here are my two foolproof methods for guaranteeing that the integration firm you hire will do great work. Neither has been mentioned here yet:

1.Call Crestron for a recommendation. They'll give you a list of usually three firms that they highly recommend in your area. 1-888-Crestron
2.Ask to see photos of several of the firm's equipment racks. Not the front of the racks mind you; to a civilian, this is the easiest part for a poor firm to fake and make reasonably professional looking. No, you want to see the BACK of the racks.

If they look like the photos I'm posting here, you can be sure the quality of the work will be outstanding. Craftsmanship is compelling for good reason. But, if they look like the spaghetti mess of the other photos, run for the hills. (Parenthetically, I was taken by complete surprise considering the supposedly knowledgeable forum members here, at how many AVS-ers in another thread had no idea that the poor quality racks reflected completely unacceptable work. Hence my statement above that half of clients have no idea they received a poor system.)

To the above, I would also add the following caution especially for small market homeowners: You also should ask about the quality of the programming the firm does. Not easy to evaluate unless you’re a programmer yourself, and even then you wouldn’t be able to access to the lines of code even if you could decipher them – you’re not a dealer, so Crestron isn’t going to let you in the door.

But, dollars-to-doughnuts, any firm doing work of the quality and skill in the rack photos I've posted, isn't going to throw it away with poor programming practices. Still, you might ask the following:

1.How many programmers does the firm have? If they have a number of them, you're in good hands. If they have one or less - the owner does it on the side when he has time between trying to reconcile QuickBooks with the bookkeeper - be cautious.
2.If they honestly tell you that they sub the work out to specialists, that the code is perfect because it's being written by pros and that's all they do, you still need to be cautious. It probably is good code that you'll be getting, but the issue then is access and support.

While there are some very good firms out there specializing in Crestron programming, responsiveness generally isn't their strength. Let me paint an experienced picture for you. Let’s say you want to change one of your pre-programmed channel favorites on your Crestron touch screen or remote because your lovely cable TV company decided in its infinite wisdom that NFL Network was now going to be on channel 590 instead of channel 690 where it previously resided for years, so that now when you press your trusty NFL Network channel logo button, your system jumps to the latest “Sex in the City” marathon on “Lifetime,” which is now occupying the channel 690 slot. Grrr.

You call your trusty integrator and tell them what you need, and they call the Crestron “pros,” who say, “Great, send us a change order.” Your integrator is swamped with service calls and a big new project, but they get the change order out the next day. Because the Crestron pros are also swamped with big, more profitable work, sending the integrator a quote for this minor task takes a week. Eventually, the quote finally arrives and the integrator calls you. You’re astounded at the price to make the small change (not realizing that you’re paying travel costs for the out-of-town pros), but give the go-ahead because it’s been a week+ and it’s such a pain to have to manually enter 5-9-0 when you’re channel surfing back and forth. Convenience is the whole point of a Crestron system, isn’t it?

The integrator then calls the programming outfit and says we have the go-ahead. The pros say, “Great, we’ll send you a contract, please sign it, and we’ll get you on the schedule once we have the signed contract. Shouldn’t be more than 3 weeks.”

Well, you get the picture.

There’s gotta be an easier way. And there is…if the firm you hire has its own programming staff of at least two people.

And there is an easier way if you ask one more astute question of your prospective integrator: “Do you have IT people and have you set up your clients for remote access so that changes/upgrades/repairs often can be made by a programmer or tech logging into the system without even having to come to our home?”

Now, let’s say the integrator has never done that before, but how hard could it be, so he responds, “Sure, not a problem.” To which you should then follow up, “How will you set up remote access?” If the integrator doesn’t start his answer with, “We’ll set up a VPN…” and then continue with, “This is equipment we have tested and found to be reliable for rebooting components in your rack,” or worse he BS’s you with a story about respecting your privacy and not wanting to compromise the security of your home network, then run away. (FYI you’re not compromising the security of the client’s home network by making provisions for remote login because you’re accessing the Crestron network which is a completely separate and isolated network from the home network.)

Which brings up another topic for your consideration. So much of what automation firms do these days is directly tied to the quality of your wireless network. When you pick up your iPad to control your Crestron system, you’re hopping on your wireless network and counting on it to make a solid connection. If your wireless infrastructure is weak, the Crestron system isn’t going to be responsive no matter how well designed or programmed.

So, as another poster said, if you’re having doubts about spending the money for the full system right now, at least wire the crap out of your new home. Run shielded CAT5 everywhere, and make it at least a Siamese run to each room. You can use wire for future WAPs, for your hardwired network, for distributing video, etc. If you can afford the modest upcharge, even better to run shielded CAT6. Now, in Manhattan, you may be required to run plenum wire, so the cost may be not exactly cheap, but it’s still extremely modest by comparison to the cost of all the other things you’ll be doing: plumbing, electrical, millwork, decorating, etc. You don’t need to worry about running HDMI per se unless you are going to have a local cable box near the TV, or a local blu ray player in the room. We can send even 4K 3D over shielded CAT5/6 now with perfect connectivity.

Run speaker wire, too, if you think there’s ever a chance you’ll want speakers in a room and they won’t be Meridian speakers (which can run off shielded CAT5… but they do require electrical power). Again, it’s very cheap. You want 14-4, not 16-4, or 14-2. Precisely mark your plans where the speaker wire is located for future reference or put it behind a wall plate.

All these wires go back to the head end, of course. If you can, label them for ease of reference.

One last note, you should provide the wire, or have your integrator provide it to your electrician to run. Yes, the electrician will say that he can get it for less, but 9 times out of 10 it will be not great quality. I’ve always found it strange that almost all electricians don’t "get" AV and automation at all. You’d think it was the same skill set, but it’s not. Let them run your wire and pipe it where necessary, but by all means control what they’re installing by having you or your integrator provide it. Because once the walls are sheet-rocked, especially in Manhattan, getting a wire anywhere that it isn’t, is costly and will require paining and patching, or may not even be possible.

This has gotten ridiculously long. I do apologize. For more tips and cost saving measures, please PM me.
Edited by PF - 9/8/13 at 2:50pm
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And here is BAD equipment rack that is seen all too often. The incompetent integrator that did this work is not one you would want to hire. The system crashes constantly the program lags, nothing works well. This is part of a $350K(!) job.


Edited by PF - 9/8/13 at 2:24pm
post #56 of 56
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AVS › AVS Forum › A/V Control & Automation › Home Automation › Quote for NYC 3BR apartment - $50K for Crestron system. Feels like a rip-off, but I'm new to this. Some insight would be appreciated.