|Before - and with some cleanup!|
|After cleanup reorg|
|Guest room temporary reorg with Scarlett drapes!|
|Me trying out the key on the new front door!|
- Do not just check references, but also check other work contacts. Ask the other trades. And/or the competition. Reputations are made and lost on the ability to sustain client relationships and often one or two good jobs, just completed, do not give the full picture. Look online for reports of abuse.
- Determine the work style of the GC. If you are the type of person who requires back up and transparency, do not just look at a finished home project to choose your GC. It may have been hell to get there. Too often homeowners look at the finished pictures in a portfolio and do not gauge how the GC manages the process of the work. Those of us accustomed to teamwork and corporate work structures cannot abide sloppy, poorly managed and error prone work documents and processes. Interview the entire work style – not just the finished home work project.
- Ask if the GC has a line of credit. I do. I pay my teams most often way before my client pays me and could use this if needed. Our GC always complained loudly that she did not have any money to pay her teams if we didn’t submit a check immediately. An established, credible GC should have enough working capital to pay the team(s) until you write the check. Plus the GC gets their 10-15% from you straight away – and that could help cover the team cost if it is so necessary, right?
- Establish a work process that suits you – the client - and ask if the proposed GC can work within these guidelines. Say I will prefer meeting notes, emails and/or text and phone updates. Document it as part of the working contract. Meeting notes, especially, help clarify what was decided and who is responsible. Keep up the reports even after construction starts. So many of ours fell to me to do early on and then afterwards meetings turned into an ATM – merely an opportunity to tell us, “I need these checks and now… “
- Make certain the GC understands they are responsible for the Spreadsheets and managing of the budget. They are your advocate and need to manage to your stated budget even if that is a working aspirational budget. They need to update accordingly and be held accountable to meeting the approved working budget. And share this with you. You are working the home renovation project together.
- Establish weekly or bi weekly meeting updates that are more about the design and the workflow than about writing checks. Walk the construction site. See what manifests itself – the space and rooms look different once the work commences than when it was on the blueprint. We only made a few design changes from the start – adding two windows. But if we had focused on the design work rather than check writing at the meetings, we could all have discovered the need for the windows sooner. My cousin pointed out to us it might be nice to add the one, and the window in the loft was my idea once I saw the room framed out… I’ve heard of many home renovations going spectacularly over budget due to design changes requiring massive change orders. We didn’t have that. But do walk the site and see if the work in progress suggests something else you might do at that time and save money later. Or add something you just can’t live without now that you See it.
- Establish payment schedules. While it is true that most construction trades require a deposit and one can plan for that, there is simply no need for immediate payments and the high drama that goes with demanding checks as soon as the request is sent. Most every business operates on net-30 or 60 days and there is no reason for home construction to be any different. Our GC was always in a high drama mode waving pieces of paper with a number on it or emailing demands. We had to manage our monies and move from various accounts so the immediate turn around didn’t work nor was it necessary. I found a huge error when I took the time to review the spreadsheet and proposals from the trades. Further, permits and weather often modify even the best work schedule so payments based on work are not always established as set in stone.
- But it is always preferred to provide an invoice with the original budget proposal, the back up and the invoice. This standard operating procedure and should be provided with courtesy and clarity. With proper notice and back up, payment can readily be made with confidence -- within a week, 30 days, (or a day) whatever is agreed to. We have continued to pay our excellent trades and craftspeople on this weekly and monthly schedule. No problems. No drama.
- Review the proposals and spreadsheet before signing the contract. Review repeatedly. Overbudget occurred to us due to sloppy, mis-management errors and no detailed itemized list of necessary items on the proposed and final budget proposal and spreadsheet.
- Establish a realistic timeline for the work. This way you know you will be moving things for not just “a few weeks” but for a year -- or whatever. Demand that you get more than a few weeks’ (or in our case, days – notice – especially if you travel for work) about moving the household items so that you can pack and store with respect and assurance and will know where items are for the duration of the work project.
- Update the workflow and timeline as the work progresses.
- Courtesy and preferred client relations should be a given, but it’s not. So establish what you need up front. Everything. Not just the construction work. Interview many points of contact. Make it a joyful, blissful project. After all, it’s your dream house.