Is there such a thing as a home construction consultant?

17 Replies

My situation is that I have remodeled 200+ homes over the last 15 years, but I now for the first time find myself in a situation in the Denver Metro area where the demand for fixers so much exceeds the supply that one can't buy a fixer at a low enough price to make an acceptable profit, at least by my standards. If I don't find something for my crew to do in the next month, I am going to have to let them go. So I am looking at new home construction as an alternative. I have a guy on my crew that has a general contractors license, so he could handle pulling the permits. I am looking to build a few spec homes. Although I built one home 10 years ago, I would not say I am qualified to just start building more. So, I am looking for some sort of paid consultant that could advise me on local building practices and costs. Do you think such a person exists? If so, what would they be called? Architect or Engineer is not the answer I am looking for.

Why is architect an unacceptable answer? It's my answer. It's what they do. Some act as project manager and shepherd the permitting process all the way to certificate of occupancy.

I don't have an answer to your question, but have you considered looking outside of Denver Metro? Maybe go South or North. Its crazy that the demand is so high you cannot find anything considering the obvious experience you have locating fixers.

Hi John. I have a concrete crew that does mostly does stamped / colored patios (along w/ std. flatwork) here in the front range. Anyway, this year we did a couple of projects for a guy who is the son-in-law of the president of oakwood homes. he is indirectly involved in the business and is also a denver fireman. i might be able to get you in touch w/ him to see if he has any ideas.

and great to hear about the local flipping market, just as I join here looking to get into it... lol...

Originally posted by Kyle Doney:
I don't have an answer to your question, but have you considered looking outside of Denver Metro? Maybe go South or North. Its crazy that the demand is so high you cannot find anything considering the obvious experience you have locating fixers.

Sure. But the further I venture from my house, the greater the deal has got to be. Traveling to and from a job site to monitor progress is not a good use of my time. I would sooner buy a house 3 minutes from me and net $15,000 then buy a house an hour from me and net $25,000.

Originally posted by Jon Klaus:
Why is architect an unacceptable answer? It's my answer. It's what they do. Some act as project manager and shepherd the permitting process all the way to certificate of occupancy.

Because Architects, excepting Howard Roark, know nothing about local building costs and practices. All they do is process information though a computer CAD program, which generates generalized cost information, then they put a stamp on it. I need someone to provide me ballpark figures on projects, before I commit to them, and at a reasonable $, not an inflated Architect $. I just want to build a house not a museum.

I just sold a listing where the buyers were going to scrape a triplex and build a new one in Denver. They said it would take 6 months for them to get permits, etc before they could break ground. I would tell your guys the situation so it is on their radar.

What have you done to find the 200+ deals? Bird doggers, etc?

I think you are ready to build spec homes. I have found most builders to be "territorial", some think they invented the 2x4. I should know I am a builder, but do not have those tendencies. Architects will tend to drive costs too hi, they are accustomed to commercial-corporate pockets, where $$ is passed on. I assume your costs will be limited by appraisal value.

In any event, there is no short cut. But it is relative simple. Here are the "must dos".

1.Build an excel cost sheet with "all construction costs" on one sheet, this is your "secret recipe". It's easy I did 22 years ago, still works today. I even place "built-in" formulas for the variables on cost psf on concrete etc.

2. Place boots on the ground.- go to lumber yard- concrete plant, ask for recommended subs " subs who pay their bills". Call them , meet them, have them look at plans and write their price on paper. "no, good ole boy, we will take care of ya". That is recipe for disaster, I assume with your past resume, you already knew that, so forgive me.

Let me repeat. Build the budget - then build the house! The reverse does not, will not ever work. There…? the bill is in the mail. hope this helps.

You could try partnering with your GC so that he gets a part of the profit once the house is sold. Would give him incentive to keep costs down and work quickly.

A different approach is to bid projects. If you have fixed 200 houses you know how to estimate and complete jobs within a budget. Where you may lack is customer service. Custom contracting is quite different than spec. Not too much risk, if you know what you're doing.

Architects bid projects as a way of life. Introduce yourself. The value of working with an architect is defined scope is easier to bid and they have the jobs. You can keep your crew busy, look for your own project, and make 15% .

I was in the same boat as you. Here in Dallas finding a good flip is very challenging right now, so I decided to start building specs this year.

It is a very daunting task even for someone who has flipped a large amount of houses. Here is what I did.

I contacted all of the builders I could find in my area that seemed to be successful spec builders. Guess What... None of them had any interest in talking with me, and I was offering to pay them. What I have come to learn is why in the world would a guy making 100-200k+++ on a single build be willing to waste any time with you, even for a few hundred an hour. It is seriously a waste of their time, unless they just want to help.

I did get very lucky and one of the bigger guys here sat down with me for a few hours. I offered to pay him and he declined, wouldn't surprise me if his hourly was well over $1,000 an hour, so naturally my offer was pennies for him.

Another thing you can try is just stop by all the job sites and see if you can get lucky to find the GC there. Many of the established spec builders have GC's that are making only about 100k a year or so. These guys would probably be very willing to sit down with you for $100 an hour or so, as that is still great money for them.

Good Luck, building a spec house IMO is way easier than flipping, it just takes longer.

Originally posted by @John Rooster :
My situation is that I have remodeled 200+ homes over the last 15 years, but I now for the first time find myself in a situation in the Denver Metro area where the demand for fixers so much exceeds the supply that one can't buy a fixer at a low enough price to make an acceptable profit, at least by my standards. If I don't find something for my crew to do in the next month, I am going to have to let them go. So I am looking at new home construction as an alternative. I have a guy on my crew that has a general contractors license, so he could handle pulling the permits. I am looking to build a few spec homes. Although I built one home 10 years ago, I would not say I am qualified to just start building more. So, I am looking for some sort of paid consultant that could advise me on local building practices and costs. Do you think such a person exists? If so, what would they be called? Architect or Engineer is not the answer I am looking for.

I'm guessing the deals on the MLS are ****** right? Don't worry you're not the only person who's feeling this. You either learn to market directly to sellers or you get priced out like yourself. With that... here's a company I use for my development projects. They create a feasibility report for my deals... maybe that helps?

http://www.buildzig.com/

@John Rooster

Sorry to hear your frustration. I can tell you that most builders are usually not willing to share their "secrets". You're competition to them even with just one build job. I have over 20 years experience in building industry and would love to help via the phone/emails if you havent found someone. The process is the same in most areas of the country. It's the lack of knowledge of the process that is the obstacle. Currently I am not building homes anymore but stay in the rehab investor biz side of it now because we still have decent inventory and the cash flows quicker as you know. I've also developed residential subdivisions, so working with the city, county and state officials is nothing new for me. Let me know if I can help even it is long distance.

I would suggest you go to the "code enforcement officer" or township "building inspector" in your area and enter into a discussion with him/her. I'm sure they will recommend the right individuals to speak to. If you do become active you will have established a relationship; and they would only recommend individuals that present them with the least amount of problems. Food for thought.

How can your guy have a contractor's license and not know how to build a house? Rather odd, I understand if you don't trust him.

I agree in getting another GC, probably find one to do certain aspects that your guy may have trouble with.

We have a couple Designers here, Home Designers can prepare a material list, cost it out, use standard plans and provide plumbing, electrical, HVAC, foundation, specs and drawings. They can also modify designs. Generally the do custom homes but also do a lot of plans and drawings for spec contractors.

Another area, you might use a title company disbursement service, used by lenders for construction financing but it doesn't have to be in connection with a loan. If you're getting a loan, this will probably be done. Point is, they have an inspector go to the site, that inspector is not looking for compliance with code (but they may) but more to phase management, costs, materials actually going into the build and not walking off, punch list check offs and construction management. Running your job through a title company is a pretty good deal and they are in a position to do title coverage over liens/wavers. :)

@John Rooster

One of the first places I look when I think about doing something new is community college faculty. Not the full-time faculty necessarily, but the part-time guys. You find professionals who teach a class here and there and recently retired guys who are filling their time. Both types tend to have a lot of knowledge at their fingertips, and by virtue of their willingness to teach America's youth they have a demonstrated interest in passing that on.

I would imagine that your ideal contact would be a recently retired guy who still knows all the local codes, processes, etc., who would enjoy a gig, and who doesn't need a full-time job. I've found guys like that, either on faculty or through a faculty member, for just about every crazy new thing I've wanted to learn.

If one of the colleges has a good construction management program (or some similar name) you might take a look there.