Bob France

Just recently, I had a reminder of how little the skill of being a contractor is perceived.  A young fellow called looking for someone to take over the project that he had been trying to perform over the last 1 ½ years.  He did have his Construction Supervisor’s license and he bravely escorted the project through the community regulatory process with the assistance of his civil engineer.  He had secured agreements with several trade contractors and began the Work.  After spending nearly one million dollars (including deposits to secure agreements), it was recommended that he hire a professional General Contractor to complete the project before the project was in trouble. He willingly admitted that he was in over his head, and needed someone who knew what they were doing to complete the work. At the end of the day, this will end up costing more money than if he had hired a professional to complete the work in the first place.

The biggest problem in today’s development world is HGTV. It ain’t that easy folks. Knowing the local, state and federal building codes and applying them takes experience and knowledge. Try reading the Massachusetts Building Code someday.  It is a series of references and cross references that site a number of regulatory organizations and their guidelines outside of the building code.  Better yet try to prepare a comprehensive estimate before you have professionally designed the building. We recently prepared an estimate for a development group who had just taken the leap from buying fixer uppers to purchasing a historic building and remodeling it into 30 apartments.  Our budget estimate $3.3 million theirs $1.9 million. They thought that we were taking advantage of them so they took their business elsewhere.  Our competitor’s price $4.0 million.  The building now sits vacant and deteriorating because the developer did not budget enough for their project. When budgeting a project, people often do not count their own time as an expense, or account for things like lost rent, taxes and debt service, which can add up quickly and take away from the most important thing, the bottom line.

Taking a building concept, putting it on paper, navigating the approval process, and most importantly, having a realistic budget, are a result of knowledge and experience in the commercial building sector.  There are a number of excellent General Contractor’s, do yourself a favor hire one for their knowledge and experience, not for the lowest price.  The return on investment will be worth it.

(Bob France is the President and CEO of Senate Construction Corp.)