Why Expecting General Contractors To Be Ontime and On Budget Is Crazy
As a Brandon Property Management company, I just recently hired two general contractors for two different projects. Both had done work for our companies over the years and had good reputations, but it was the first time I hired them for some personal construction projects.
One of them, I hired to add some windows and move a sliding glass door. It required some block work and some advanced carpentry work. The 2nd GC I hired to renovate a house I bought as a Brandon Property Manager which he agreed to do for $35,000.
The quality of the work for both projects were excellent. The time frames were delayed. This is where normal folks start getting upset, and I must admit it does bother me a bit. In this case, I didn’t give either one of them a hard time, because I could clearly see the quality and attention to detail was superb.
I also have a partner who is a general contractor and he has told me renovations always take longer and cost more, because once you open-up the walls, you always find more stuff wrong.
However, when I got the bills from both, I was annoyed because the change orders were higher then expressed to me during the projects. So, I did what I usually do when I’m thinking of engaging in an aggressive argument, I talk to my very calm, Buddha-like patient, partner, Chris.
He explained that I can’t have the same standard for a general contractor that I have for myself. They are working in hot, dirty environments all day and dealing with surly sub-contractors that don’t show up and give them hassles all the time. When they get home after a working 12-hour day, they attempt to do their paperwork and billing. This is why they are so often disorganized and change orders can come in higher than originally expressed.
Granted the GCs’ must have integrity, but it is easy to see how change orders
can get away from them because they are only tracking it sporadically until the job is complete. Not to mention, renovations should go over the initial budget and if they are 20% or less on a major project, it is still a victory.
Would you like the GC to keep you informed and have you sign off on every change order? Sure…I would do, but as I’ve explained this is unlikely. This is doubling so if you are dealing with a GC in his forties or older. He is often set in his ways, and you aren’t going to get him to change. If he doesn’t come in super organized, he isn’t going to suddenly become that way. And if he was super organized, you probably couldn’t afford to hire in the first place. He would be doing bigger projects and earning top dollar.
These thoughts from my partner, Chris, were a revelation to me. So, when I got on the phone with both GC’s later to review their final bill, the conversations went much better.
Now keep in mind, if you are hiring a GC without coming from a trusted referral source, all bets are off. You can get royally screwed half the time. I would suggest only hiring GC’s that come from good friends and check them out on public records in your county and at the state level. However, if everything checks out, consider being patient on the change orders if they go over budget (20% or less of total budget). For the reasons I’ve explained, this is normal and expected.
Hope this helps you with your future interactions with general contractors.