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Acting As Your Own General Contractor When Building Your Dream Home
By Robert Kempe
This article is intended for the DIY (Do It Yourself) home builder; however,
it is very useful information for the new home buyer to understand what processes
you can monitor even if you are not acting as the general contractor
and hiring a general contractor. For the inexperienced DIY home builder,
acting as a general contractor is one of the most stressful things
anyone can undertake. After that statement, you ask yourself Why would
anyone really want to be the general contractor for their new home?
Well the number one reason is to save money, and in our society its
all about the money isnt it? It doesnt necessarily mean that
you are building the home (but with this approach sweat equity has a whole
new meaning), you are only managing the sub-contractors.
Successful general contactors are either born good, or have been trained
to be good. You, as your own general contractor, do not have the time
to be as good as a contractor who makes their living building homes. For
this reason, I will give you some guidelines to help you out and feel a bit
more comfortable managing your new dream home as your own general
Define Your Project for the general contractor; I have published an
article on very effective ways to decide on a dream home floor plan. I recommend
that you read that along with this article. The article is called Home Floor
Plan Designing for Your Future Home by Robert Kempe. Once you have decided
on the floor plan and all the associated up front planning projects, such
as finding the right plot of land, gathering information on building codes
and permits, having signed construction drawings, etc. you have to apply
for the building permits. With the homework of gathering all this information
prior the application process and having your construction drawings drawn
to comply with city, county and state codes this process is just a paper
work issue. If you have not properly done this entire process prior to the
application, this will slow your time frame down considerably. Most DYI builders
wait for the building permit application to find out what is needed. Make
it easier on yourself and do it first.
Execution of the Project; Now that you have a clearly defined project
you can get accurate quotes from the general building contractors.
The construction disciplines you will need are as follows: Electricians,
Plumbers, HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning), Framers, Concrete,
Drywall, Finishers, Painters, Roofers, Siding, Landscaping, Windows and Doors,
Garage door. Etc. Keep in mind that most contractors will have multiple
disciplines and will try to combine them as much as possible either with
their own work force or they may hire out subcontractors as well. This is
how you execute the project. Do your homework on the general building
contractors that you will want to work with on your home. Ask people
who you know that have recently built homes who they have used as contractors.
Actually any resource on contractor evaluation is helpful. Have them evaluate
the experience. With this process you can then get three to five contractor
references from trusted resources without involving any salesmen. Have a
set of construction plans ready for each of the contractors that you are
going to have bid from the list you have generated. Make sure that all the
disciplines will be bid upon.
Deciding who to hire as your subcontractors; You do not always have
to take the lowest bid! You want the contractor that is the most qualified
and most prepared to build your home. It is highly suggested that each of
the contractors break down the categories and itemize how they arrived at
their price. This is best done by communicating this up front before receiving
their price. Once you have all this information, evaluate the prices according
to their breakdown. Rate the contractor on their responses on a scale of
1-10 with 10 being the highest rank. If the bids are close then its
a matter of what general building contractor you favor the most. If
there is a large gap in the prices, you need to determine why. This is where
your breakdown of the work performed and the associated prices can help you
determine this. This is also where you find out which contractors are the
most serious and most qualified and which contractors are easier to work
with. This might lead you to conclude that the best contractor isnt
always the lowest price. You get what you pay for!
Managing the Subcontractors You thought deciding who to hire as your
subcontractor was difficult, try managing them! This is where most of the
stress and sweat equity occurs. I have been a construction project
manager for 15+ years and honestly, every time I am assigned a new project
the fear of the unknown working relationships with each of the subs is a
major concern. I feel your pain! To help you in your management, have a schedule
ready during the bidding war between contractors. Have this presented at
the time you present the construction drawings. In fact, have three schedules!
What this will generate is three different prices from each general
building contractor. Use this as part of your evaluation as mentioned
in the previous paragraph. Your long schedule, medium schedule and short
schedule will generate different responses. You want this information up
front so that when it comes time to sign a contact with the subs, you can
put in clauses that if they do not hold the schedule there are financial
burdens placed on them. This will protect you from mismanagement on their
After all the schedules and contracts are agreed upon, you become more than
the customer, now you are the boss. Everyday you need to communicate with
the subs and get an updated detailed report on what, where, when, how and
why they are on or off schedule. Manage the project by the schedule. Keep
in mind that the schedule will change if you decide to change your scope
of work by issuing change orders (example: changing the cupboard or cabinet
size, the flooring, or appliance). Keep in mind that during this time, this
is a small business and your profit is represented by how close you come
to your original agreed upon costs associated with the schedule after the
contract signing. We could talk about management all day long. In fact there
are training courses on this subject that cost thousands of dollars. Hopefully
this bit of information will get you on the right track and help make a smooth
transition from concept to actually building your dream home. Remember this
rule of thumb, the more you prepare the better you will be when handling
the bumps in the road. Gathering information prior to needing it will actually
save you more money, time and stress than you can probably calculate.
If you find this information useful you should visit the site
where you will find lots of interesting articles related to this topic provided
by Robert Kempe.
I have 15+ years in industrial construction and industrial engineered
manufacturing as a project manager and a part time home inspector. Through
my experience in construction and management and my unique prospective in
the home industry, I have been able to simplify and make sense of home building
and designing in what looks to be a complete chaotic project and decision
making process. My articles will guide you through the most difficult decisions
and make it a positive uplifting experience.
Have you ever tried to hire any type of construction trade over the last
5 years? If so you know that its next to impossible unless you are
some billionaire developer with his own T.V. show. The simple fact is that
trades are just like any other business and follow the money. There is nothing
wrong with the trades trying to please their biggest customer or taking care
of customers that they expect will continue to build once the housing boom
is over. In fact if you want a major non essential renovation on your home,
you may want to consider waiting until the housing boom slows down.
Very simply all reputable housing trades want to earn the most amount of
money they can while the housing boom lasts. Again nothing wrong with this.
Ask yourself what you would do in their shoes? or their boots.
What if you need housework done now?
Here are some quick money saving tips
1. Consider hiring a general contractor vs. doing it yourself. The idea is
that a general contractor will have a full time loyal crew working for him.
Often he is able to pay his crew less in return for steady work. So by hiring
a contractor its often cheaper that trying to hire the trades yourself
2. Pair your needs up with a friend and offer the trade both jobs. DO NOT,
I repeat do not insult the trade with an offer like if you do a good
job on my house I will recommend you to many others. When I first started
in business I believed this empty promise and never end getting one lead
from anyone who said this. Now as a seasoned business person I would just
answer that for every new paying customer they bring me I will deduct X amount
off their bill.
3. Due Diligencethere are lots of way to find new contractors and trades.
Try looking online or searching a home improvement directory
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