Don’t act as your own Contractor

Don’t act as your own Contractor

This Architect firm encounters several potential clients each year who think they’re going to be their own General Contractor for their new house project.  That is a big mistake.

don't act as your own contractor
Home Architects mountain project.












They have the delusion that due their desire to save money, their “force of personality” and other “mind over matter” imaginings that they’re going to build their house for far less than anyone has ever done, because they are tough, smart and capable individuals.


Here’s why that’s not going to happen:

  1. You can kill or maim yourself, get a heart attack, stroke and other unpleasant events.
  2. You won’t really be saving any money, if you would have found a good, honest GC who works on a fixed price basis.
  3. You actually could SAVE money by finding a GC who can do it for LESS than you.
  4. The last point needs repeating: if you let your Architect help you find the right Contractor, you may well have all the goods and services of a Licensed GC for less than you could do it yourself. There is no guarantee of this, but we have actually done this for ourselves, so we have found, that in some circumstances it may be possible.


Sound impossible?  It’s not (given conditions indicated above).  The Senior Staff Architect of this Architecture firm did just that for his family’s new house, now about halfway complete.


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Hire an Architect and pay them to not only design your house, but to bid it out to Licensed Contractors.  It may even require rebidding (several times), to find the right Contractor.  It may not come out the way the owner would like every time, but it can be done, assuming there are the right kind of Contractors out there who are interested in the location of your proposed house project.


The Architect is the professional holding the whole thing together.  Without them, this miraculous deal can fall apart. 
Why: Some Contractors really don’t care much about you, in a long-term business context. 
Why: because you are only ONE project to them.  After that, you’re gone forever. 


However, an Architect represents DOZENS of projects to a Contractor, over a period of decades: a lifetime of good work flow, helping the Contractor survive in good times and bad.  And that’s worth a lot to a Builder.  So, any logical, business oriented Contractor should want to make the Architect happy, in order to have the Architect send them more work for the long haul.  Only an imbecile Builder would alienate an Architect.  Therefore, sensible Contractors should try to provide more reasonable offers to Architect’s Clients.  Of course Builders want happy clients (and local referrals), however, they really want the Architect happy, so the Architect will send them many more projects and more Clients into the future. 


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And all that money you think you’re going to be saving while acting as your own Contractor?
Think about these factors:

1.  Subcontractors are likely to charge you MORE than they would their trusted General Contractors, because you’re an unknown entity.  They know you could be trouble, because you don’t know what you’re doing.  And they might have trouble collecting their money from you.  They certainly aren’t going to charge you less than they would their trusted Builders. And this one factor alone could mean that all the money you thought you’d be saving by acting as your own Contractor just evaporated.


2.  Subcontractor availability: in many mountain areas, it’s not like Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston or Cincinnati.  Work doesn’t exist year round.  So the number and quality of subcontractors is usually far LESS than in those other “big box” big cities, where a tough-guy approach might get you better deals.  In remote, mountainous regions, you’re going to find very quickly a few things:
A.  Subcontractors don’t care who you think you are.
B.  They don’t return phone calls.
C.  What’s email?
D.  What’s a website?
E.  We don’t care how you did it wherever you came from.
F.  No, we ain’t giving you a discounted price for anything.  As a matter of fact, we’re going to charge you double, because you’re acting like a horse’s ass and we don’t like your attitude.

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Just try to find a foundation and foundation wall crew.  Or a concrete finishing crew.  Or a framing crew.  Good luck: you’re going to need it.

The good old boys in the back hills really don’t give a damn who you work for or what you do or where you come from.  As a matter of fact, all those things really piss them off.  So they’re going to charge you much MORE than they will their trusted General Contractor friends, whom they went to high school with and who are god parents to their grandchildren and with whom they go to church. 


You don’t mean anything to them.  They don’t trust your big city ways or that you’re going to pay them for their hard work.  So as you start throwing around your AAA personality in the little mountain villages where you want to build your special retirement house, just think about all those shotguns in the gunracks of the pickup trucks driving around those places.  Don’t push your luck.  And don’t act like a “tough guy”.  And if you are an Attorney or related high-powered corporate type and think you’re going legally “catch” them, because they are unsophisticated, and you’re a smart guy from Atlanta or Birmingham or wherever, think again.  This Architect has seen where 3 guys in a pickup truck have driven to the place where the “tough-guy” was horsing them around, then bodily picked him up, sat him down in the back seat of their truck, drove to the tough guy’s bank, walked him inside, then asked him for payment or else.  They got paid.  Then the tough guy was left standing there in his bank with no ride back to where he came from. And he got off easy.  He could have ended up in the back woods tied to a tree, waiting for bears.  Do not mess around with hard working mountain folk and think you’re going to take advantage of them.  You may not live to regret it.  Have you ever seen Deliverance?


So: do Not believe you’re going to save money by acting as your own Contractor.  You’ll end up spending MORE, not less, and you could get into a huge amount of trouble. 


Other things that could damage you and your project involve not engaging or using the Construction Administration services of a licensed Architect.  Without an Architect to check on the progress of the work, whoever’s doing the work pretty much can change whatever they want, probably without your knowledge, making your house leak, rot and in general require serious repairs to attempt to get it where it should have been, had you invested in an Architect.  And your Architect can help you by bidding out your project (multiple times, if necessary) to find Licensed General Contractors who already have all the required Subcontractors required to build your project, with the objective of finding a GC who will hopefully agree to a Fixed Price contract.  Now that can save you real money.  And your Architect is the key to that.











tags: don’t act as your own contractor, Cashiers, Glenville, Highlands, Lake Toxaway, Sapphire, Hendersonville, Asheville, Aspen, Telluride, post and beam, timber frame




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