General Contractor seeking insight on Developing

9 Replies

Hello BP, I've been a residential general contractor for 12 years. I specialized in renovating distressed properties in urban areas. I've decided to become less hands on(hang up my tools) and devote most of my time to the development side of real estate construction. Because of my experience I'm pretty comfortable with this transition. I want to build SF's but want to keep it simple at first and purchase land that has been already approved for building, does this sound like a good idea? Since I'll be looking in areas that I'm not familiar with how do I find out if these areas are ripe for building? As a GC I figured I would just sub out all phases of construction just Iike I would on a renovation, does this make sense when building? or should I setup a more formal bidding process? If I follow zoning guidelines when submitting permits is the process for getting approved to build pretty straight forward? Thanks for any and all input  

Marcus,

Way to go! I think it's always a good idea to take a step towards managing instead of doing the work yourself, you can produce so much more with that model. I don't know how big your urban area is out there but I know that where I'm from, Portland, OR, there are GC's who do well just looking for infill lots in the city and building skinny houses or whatever the lot will allow. Team up with a knowledgeable Realtor who can give you stats on the market conditions in your area. 

Greg

Originally posted by @Greg Palmer:

Marcus,

Way to go! I think it's always a good idea to take a step towards managing instead of doing the work yourself, you can produce so much more with that model. I don't know how big your urban area is out there but I know that where I'm from, Portland, OR, there are GC's who do well just looking for infill lots in the city and building skinny houses or whatever the lot will allow. Team up with a knowledgeable Realtor who can give you stats on the market conditions in your area. 

Greg

 Marcus gives great advice. Get a good realtor that knows the area, use them to find your lots, then list with them, build a good relationship it will pay you tenfold. 

I essentially do the same thing, I buy lots that are ready to build on, then sub all the work out. 

Thanks guys, appreciate the advice and insight.

@Greg Palmer 

@Keith Bloemendaal  

When building your SF houses do you use a cookie cutter approach and build the same style house for each build to keep costs down and to keep construction more streamlined or do you have an architect draw up a different set of plans for each property that you build. Thanks

Originally posted by @Marcus Ware :

@Greg Palmer 

@Keith Bloemendaal 

When building your SF houses do you use a cookie cutter approach and build the same style house for each build to keep costs down and to keep construction more streamlined or do you have an architect draw up a different set of plans for each property that you build. Thanks

 I am working on 4 sets of plans right now, and have 4 lots under contract. I plan to start there and add to my design arsenal as I build more. I am also adding some "options" to a couple of my plans, like an inlaw suite underneath one, and a media/bonus room in the walk in attic of another, which gives me a couple more plans, sort of :-)

For me, I live on the coast, so the lots I am buying need to have a certain "coastal" design, when I decide to build further inland they will be a completely different type of home. 

For our company, we stay away from the tract homes. We are more interested in seeing detailed homes built than the cookie cutter approach. We all know that the cookie cutter homes are a way too keep costs down but in my mind, I'm sick of seeing the same old houses everywhere. If you can put some detail into moldings and trim finish, you can gain a lot of future clients by your details. 

@Marcus Ware  The first thing you need to do is get to KNOW whatever market it is that you plan on building in. When you say "development" what is it that you mean, as people use the term to describe different scenarios. 

As to the type of home, you want to make that decision based on the economy of the area where you are building, and the land on which you will build. It all has to work.  

Development can be finding a raw piece of land, and doing all the work to bring it up to being buildable lots, subdivision, etc. That would include putting in all utilities, curb, gutters, sidewalks, etc. To others they consider buying a a finished lot and building a house on it development. 

Every region of the country, state, and city has their own hoops to jump in order to be able to build. When we relocated to southern California from northern California the first thing we did was get familiar with the different Planning and Building Departments, talked to other builders, real estate agents, etc. and decide which we thought were easy to work with, and which would be impossible to get through. There can be huge variations. One city can take a matter of a month to get plans from submitting to permits, and others can take 1-2 years! Big difference if you have a loan you're paying interest on. 

Zoning is one of the things we look at. However; we are in coastal cities where there are views, which means there are strict height limits so as not to block anyone's view. If you want 9' ceilings on 2 floors, it means using flat roofs, which work with modern style homes, etc. But, I'm sure you aren't looking at anything with the same issues we have here. 

We sub out most of our stuff. However; on the job we are doing now my husband and son did the excavation work and saved us a lot, but for everything else, it will be subs. Our son also does all the preliminary design and site plans then we pass off to a structural engineer and architect, which saves too, as the architect basically just has to go over and double check design. 

Sorry for the long post. Good luck! 

Thanks [email protected] Margrave The more info the better!!! I'll actually be starting out with buildable lots in the beginning. Great insight about knowing and researching the areas that you plan on working in. Thanks again

@Marcus Ware  I would say just two designs for now, then slowly grow little by little. Managerial level on development/general contracting sometimes has its own frustrating days, I had the trouble of shifting from taking directions to driving the job and doing the books and compliance, though my case is different because we work with governments like school districts that a <100,000 project needs 300-500 pages just for closeout procedure.

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