Why Waiting Until Spring Could Prove Costly

It seems every spring we’re faced with same situation – the phones ringing off the hook with Property Owners, Community Managers and Association Board Members wanting to get started on their repair or renovation project. 

If only they would have contacted us in December, January, or even February, we would have been able to position them ahead of the crowd and started them on a path for greater savings.

Do they really think they are the only community with plans of starting their project in the springtime?  I understand, it’s winter the temperatures and weather conditions are less then optimal and people are wrapped up in the holiday season.  They got enough on their plates as is and don’t even want to think about necessary repairs around their property until well after the first of the year.  Well, I’m here to tell you that kind of thinking may end up costing you in the end.  Here’s why:

A successful renovation of your property should start several months before even the first nail is pound.  Understanding these preliminary steps and allocating enough time for the development of a successful plan will help you avoid the bottle neck created by the summertime construction rush when most contractors’ costs are up due to an increase of jobs on their books and more often than not, a shrinking labor pool and increases in material costs.

Preliminary Steps and Timeline:

Inspections & Rough Order of Magnitude Budgeting (average 2 to 3+ weeks)

Before you can even think about budgeting for your repair or renovation project you better understand the extent or severity of the issues at hand.  Sure, you may know the roof is leaky and the siding is at the end of its life expectancy, but what condition are the underlying substrates in (e.g. framing, insulation, gypsum, etc.)?  Are the windows failing or nearing the end of their warranty period.  Are there critical flashings missing at vulnerable areas of the building?  Is the weather resistive barrier performing as it should?  Or has dry-rot damage gone undetected for years?  These are all questions that need to be answered before an accurate, realistic budget can be generated.  Understand that if you’re not planning for these contingencies it may come back to bite you likely in the form of change orders from your chosen contractor.

Often times the full extent of these issues can’t be fully understood without the help of a building envelope consultant (i.e. engineer/architect) or qualified contractor.  Do yourself and your budget a favor and have a Visual or Intrusive Inspection performed early on in this process so a comprehensive repair scope and budget can be generated.

Scope of Work – Developing Drawings, Waterproofing Details and Specifications (minimum 6+ weeks)

If you plan on getting estimates to replace your community’s siding, windows, roof or other cladding system I strongly recommend having a qualified architect or engineer develop construction drawings and a detailed scope of work prior to calling contractors out for bids.

Why this is important and the impact it will have on your timeline:

Competitive Bids/Documents (minimum 2 weeks for contractors to bid)

Most everyone is familiar with the expression ‘Apples-to-Apples’ pricing, or maybe you’ve heard contractors say “that’s apples and oranges” when comparing their bid against a competitors.  If no bid form or written scope was provided then it’s almost certain the differences between the bids you receive will be considerable, and near impossible to compare.  Having clear bid documents will set parameters for bidding contractors and make sure everyone is factoring in the same products, installation techniques and other specified requirements.  Having good bid documents also means less risk and therefore lower costs when estimating.

Schedule of Values and Alternate Pricing

Knowing how much a specific task or what a particular product will cost is an essential part of planning and budgeting for renovations at your property.  Asking bidding contractors to provide a breakdown of their bid proposal in the form of a Schedule of Values will allow you to make important decisions in terms of what activities are affordable, priority, may need to be phased, or even eliminated altogether.  Not to mention having a Schedule of Values is invaluable in the review and approval of progress payments to your contractor.

Not sure if the fancy windows or decking product you’re looking at is affordable?  Asking for specific alternate prices on the bid form is one way to decide if your “wish list” needs to be scaled down to meet budgetary constraints.

Financing (average 2-3 weeks before funds are available)

Any lending institution will require a review of the basic financial health of your community.  This includes among other things a review of available reserve funds, delinquency of homeowner dues, as well as occupancy rates and the number of foreclosures.  In addition to the basic financial stability of your community banks will need projected renovation and repair costs.  This is another reason why a bid form with a detailed Schedule of Values can be helpful when looking to a lender for project funding.

The Majority Vote

I’ve been working with Homeowner Associations long enough to know coming to a consensus on just about any issue can be difficult, especially when that decision involves the potential for spending large amounts of the community’s reserve funds.  Being able to present a written plan and budget will go a long way in convincing skeptical homeowners that these expenditures are worthwhile and will equate to added value in their property.

Contract Review & Mobilization (average 2-3 weeks)

After bids have been received and a decision is made on hiring a contractor, contracts will need to be reviewed and signed.  Contract negotiations shouldn’t impact the projected construction start date, especially if a specific contract template (e.g. AIA 101, 201, AGC 205, 200, etc.) is provided to contractors during bid time.  However, anticipate at least another week before contracts are signed and related documents (e.g. insurance certificates, assurance of funding, etc.) have been received.

Once contract documents are in order a contractor will need some time to mobilize equipment, temporary facilities, materials and subcontractors.  This process is only going to start in earnest after a contract has been fully executed.

Permitting, Product Submittals & Mock-ups (average 2-3 weeks)

The local municipality in which you are applying for your building permit can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks to review your permit application before issuance.  Understanding laws governing condominium rehabilitation (RCW64.55) and what will be required by local building officials to obtain a permit is often over looked by Homeowner Associations looking to start work right away.  Although some of these tasks can run concurrent with other start-up activities they need to be accounted for.  Having your contractor and construction manager review and approve product submittals, and mock-ups during mobilization can help mitigate further delays.

If you start adding up the weeks involved in project preparation you can see a timeline of four months or greater is not unrealistic.

That is why it’s not uncommon for a full year or two to laps between the times we first lay eyes on a property to when actual construction begins.  Starting the planning, budgeting and contracting of a large repair or renovations project at least four months in advance of your desired start date will put you ahead of the game and translate into a big savings!