How to Stay On Top of a Renovation Project Even When You’re Not On Site
If you are reading this article, you likely either own a summer home or you are an investor in rental properties, whether they are apartments or SFRs (single family rentals).
If you are remote from the site or away from your home and you don’t want to invest a lot of money in a property manager who could charge up to 20% of your rent, your options are limited. There is some good news — we at Kukun are embarking on a quest to fix this issue once and for all.
First, the basics. There are three things you should be thinking about when you manage any renovation project:
-Time it takes
-Quality of the work
Let’s talk about money. To hire the right contractor at the right price, there are two important areas of consideration when it comes to money.
- Who is it that you are hiring? For example: Do you know anything about his or her history? Does he or she have references? How trustworthy is the contractor and is he or she worried about his or her reputation? If the contractor in question is not worried about reputation, you don’t want to use him or her.
-How much does the project really cost and how can you stay under that amount?
Hiring a professional based on his or her history depends heavily on knowing people who have worked with that pro. References are key but most of us who don’t live close to the relevant property will not know people who we can trust to recommend a professional — even if we did, the options might be limited. Your best bet in this case is use Kukun’s directory to find a proven professional. You can see professionals’ permits histories, the addresses where they have worked, and an aggregation of their internet reviews distilled into an online reputation that takes quality, on time delivery and pricing into consideration.
Now, the harder part. You’ve hired someone. He or she has promised you that your project will take two months and will set you back $100,000. How on earth can you know if he or she will deliver on those promises, given that you are far away and cannot watch over the work? And let’s face it, that’s hard to do that even when you are on location (unless you really understand construction and all of its intricate task dependencies, as well as the cost of materials and labor).
To help yourself, it is important for you to understand project management principles. If you do, then you need to apply those skills on your project, and collaborate with your contractor to create a plan that you can use to monitor progress and cost. After all, project management is essentially about managing time and money.
Build a plan that specifies every task. Many contractors use an Excel sheet for that and others may use QuickBooks. Get all the tasks documented, and discuss the dependencies so that you know which tasks must be serial and which can be parallel. After specifying each task, go ahead and create start and end dates. The next step is for you to get a list of every material required and specify whether it is you or the contractor who will source each one. Find out how much of each are needed and how much each will cost. Caution: Pricing should be based on market pricing, not contractor pricing (for more info, read my article: How to Find Relevant Home Renovation Information on Google…and Filter Out the Noise.)
You need to know at what point of every task that the contractor needs the material on the floor and if he or she is going to subcontract all or some of the project. If the job needs a sub, go ahead and indicate that timeslot on your schedule.
It may sound hard, but it is what you need to do, unless you make use of Kukun’s smart bids tool and let the system do it for you — and save yourself a lot of headaches.
Now that you have the schedule, plan for a daily call with your contractor to track the project’s progress. If he or she is late, check how that may impact your serial timeline so you can build a mitigation plan before the delay compounds. On your daily call, check all the materials required three weeks ahead to give yourself some lead time. Delays often come from people ordering material late, not knowing that there are serious lead times. Finally, check that any subcontractor is lined up a month ahead and confirm every week moving forward. Many delays come from the fact that subcontractors will respond to urgent business, so when your task is ready to start, the subcontractor is busy with another. Regularly check on the sub’s availability so you can start searching for another before it is too late.
If you follow this plan, you will be successful at controlling time and money. Don’t forget that most contracts are written so that the contractors are penalized if they are late, which should help you. Your job is not only to organize yourself, but also to help organize your contractor and ensure that your project is at the top of his or her priority list — especially if he or she is handling multiple projects.
You can save yourself a lot of pain if you use Kukun’s smart bids tool. Not only you can compare how each pro is pricing a project, but you can also see the contractor’s plan and timeline. The system will notify you for every start and end date. It will additionally remind you to check on the subcontractor and the materials needed.
Now, to check on the quality of work, you need to use video calls with your pro. You need to have your contractor show you exactly what he or she has worked on so you can check the quality. That is the best you can do on your own, though if you have a good real estate agent who is going to rent the house out for you, he or she can be your quality controller. Be sure to use that service effectively if it is available.