Has anyone had any experience with professional layout construction and can comment on their satisfaction as well as affordability?
Where are you located? Have a great builder in West Virginia. Eric Freeland look up on facebook.
Do not let your spouse read this.
Check out the various layout builders in the popular model RR magazines. Basic benchwork for room sized layouts can run $35.00 to $50.00 plus per square foot. Benchwork and track can roughly double that. Wiring varies greatly depending on control systems which can get real pricey.
Add professional scenery and decent structures you can easily exceed $300.00 per sq ft. Now sure your buddy can knock out something small for a weeks paycheck but you asked for professional grade.
This kind of reminds me of the story of a Long Island divorce court story where his wife was charging that her attorney husband was hiding cash by claiming he spent almost $1,000,000 on a 2600 square foot model railroad in their large basement. The court was leaning on the wife's side until a few professional layout builders gave appraisals. Their average estimates came in around $375 per sq ft.
Professional builders use teams of specialty workers. Look at the video above and count the employees assembling the layout. Material and labor add up, fast!
Typical room sized professional benchwork: