So you are planning a remodel or addition and are wondering about whether you should try to manage your building project on your own to save money.
There are a lot of web articles on the internet that tout how to save money by self-managing your build and give you all kinds of advice on how to carry it out. Because of this, it is all too easy to make the superficial assumption that anyone can general contract if you have people skills, are well organized and are good at planning. However, not everyone has the construction knowledge and experience to do the job efficiently and can end up, at best, wasting more money in the end or, at worst, end up with legal issues and failing workmanship.
When looking to the internet to answer the question of whether or not to self-manage your project, consider the source. To what end is the person writing the article? What experience do they have to back up their statements? If the writer offers up advice based on their own success managing their project, consider their set of circumstances and ask yourself this question before jumping in with both feet…Do I have the right mindset, enough experience and the right circumstances to be successful?
To help you make the right decision for your situation, it is important to, 1. know your strengths and your limitations, 2. understand the responsibilities involved in managing a build and 3. be aware of the risks:
1. KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS AND YOUR LIMITATIONS
You’ve heard of the saying, “you either have time, or money” (well, okay, the top 1% earners probably have both). Most of us spend our working lives trying to achieve a balance between the two sides of the “time: money” spectrum. If you happen to be rich in time, it can be very a rewarding and valuable learning experience to take on the challenge of managing your own building project, providing you are prepared for a challenge and understand the realities of taking on this kind of responsibility beforehand. For those who have money in the bank and work full-time weeks, self-managing your home remodel can get exhausting and very time consuming because, for the duration of the planning and building process, you will be taking on another job hiring, scheduling and managing multiple trades, applying for permits, picking up building materials and ordering products. Hiring a contractor to manage your home remodel can take a huge load off you shoulders and let you enjoy the process more, while affording you the time to make well thought out choices. Yes, it will cost more money you would otherwise pay to complete a self-managed project (assuming you stay on top of everything and make no costly mistakes). But if you have money and time is a rare commodity in your life, then you are paying for that trade-off.
Let’s do a little role playing for a moment and pretend you are applying for a position as a general contractor. Let’s say you found a job posting announcing that a construction firm is looking for a resourceful, self-motivated, highly organized person who likes taking on new challenges… does it sound like you?
The winning candidate possesses exceptional interpersonal and negotiating skills and has the ability to make quick, on the spot decisions. Schedule flexibility and possession of a vehicle are required to meet with sub-trades at the building site on a weekly basis to supervise all operations. Previous experience with and knowledge of building construction processes and current building codes is an asset…If you checked off all these boxes, then self-managing your own build might just be up your alley. Here are the duties involved in managing a home remodel:
2. UNDERSTAND THE RESPONSIBILITIES
3. BE AWARE OF THE RISKS
One thing that most people take for granted is when you hire a contractor to manage your build, you off-load any financial risk from your shoulders, should something go wrong. It is the responsibility of the general contractor to build a detailed scope of work and building estimate as well as foresee any potential problems that might arise in the future to limit project creep and keep the project on budget and on schedule. Should any problems or failings occur with the workmanship or a sub-trade skips town with your money, it is the responsibility of the contractor to eat those costs. This is why experienced contractors are equipped with a roster of sub-trades that they work with regularly and trust to do the job right because they know it is on their shoulders should anything go wrong. When you opt to take on the role of general contractor yourself, unless you are well connected with the construction world or have a lot of handy friends, you will have to research and interview several bidders before you find the right fit. In addition to this, it is important to note that sub-trades will bid lower to general contractors they trust because they know the risk of failure is low. When self-contracting, you assume the risks of any mistakes or failures that may arise by not foreseeing potential problems. When you hire on a contractor, you are not only getting access to someone with experience and knowledge about the processes of construction, but you get access to the relationships that they have already established with experienced sub-trades. If you decide to take on the job yourself, you are responsible for any mistakes a sub makes and will pay out of pocket for this. You are also more vulnerable to being cheated out of your money should a sub with malicious intent catch on to your inexperience and either charge you through the roof for their service or take your money and run. For more well-meaning subs, they may see your project as high risk and pad their quotes to give them a buffer in case a problem arises (they have to protect their own interests as well). When you pay an established contractor to manage your project, you are not only paying for their time to schedule and manage subs efficiently, but also for risk mitigation, and the peace of mind knowing that your home is in capable hands.