Renovating on a Budget?

I’m about to risk raising some eyebrows with this suggestion, but I’m going to make it anyway.

There is a simple way for homeowners to save significant sums on renovation projects. And that is, if you cannot act as your own general contractor, hire an Owner’s Project Manager (O.P.M.) to manage the project on your behalf.

Why should that raise eyebrows? Because it relieves the general contractor of that duty, and therefore also relieves him of a hefty mark-up on the subcontractors. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the function of a general contractor, especially on large and complex projects (in which case having both an O.P.M. and G.C. would be a good idea). But, on smaller projects where the G.C. may be only funneling work to the subs and there is not a lot of work for his own crew, an O.P.M. seems to make sense.

A G.C. doesn’t really want to be bothered with a bathroom renovation, for example, where there is little carpentry involved. However, some homeowners have neither the time or the inclination to be their own G.C. This is where an O.P.M. can help. An O.P.M. can organize the project, coordinate the subs, communicate between the client and subs, make decisions on behalf of the client when necessary, manage the schedule, manage the budget, and see that everything is done according to the project specifications. For this service, an O.P.M. could save a client literally thousands compared to a G.C.’s mark-up.

If you plan to give it a try, look for an experienced Construction Project Manager, preferably with a Construction Supervisor’s License and general liability insurance.   Here is one resource for locating a Construction Project Manager in your area:

Cost Estimating Strategy

I am a firm advocate of getting a preliminary construction cost estimate as early on in the design process as possible. As an estimator, too many times have I been in the position of having to deliver the bad news that the clients have paid their architect thousands of dollars for a design that is way over their budget to construct. Yes, there have even been tears shed over such news. Imagine having to offer condolences for a dead project, share longer-than-comfortable hugs and then drive your suit jacket straight to the dry-cleaners to remove the tears and nasal drool from your shoulder.

But, that all can be avoided so easily! In the ideal situation, which unfortunately does not happen often enough, a client will select their contractor in the project planning stages to work as a team with the designer. Even if that doesn’t happen, it is still possible to solicit preliminary bids from contractors when schematic drawings are available. The preliminary estimate will help guide the design in line with the project budget, and will hopefully guide the clients in selecting a contractor to join the team early on.

This strategy has proven very successful for me in helping clients be more at ease through the entire project. Remodeling is considered one of the most stressful events people can endure. If something as simple as a preliminary cost estimate can help ease that stress, I am all for it, and you should be, too!

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