Developers: how do you organize your typical specifications?

9 Replies

I work with my dad developing a few new houses for our portfolio each year. The pace has been picking up lately, and especially since we're considering another GC, we're realizing we need to be more organized about all the details that need to be communicated to our builder. I've heard that on government jobs, the spec book is several inches thick. Obviously that's an extreme example, but that tells me there is a more methodical way to do this.

This year we did our biggest project yet, 12 townhouses. Because of the scale, there have been a lot of minor things that he did that are not bad, but aren't what we would have wanted. Somehow, these details were easier to manage when we were just building two identical houses at a time!

So, developers out there (especially @Jay Hinrichs ) what does your sheet/book of specifications look like? How is it formatted? Were you methodical about building it, or did you just add items as you thought of them? Would you be willing to share yours with me to point me in the right direction?

Thanks so much!

I started off very similar to you.  We started with spec homes, then went the custom home route.  Huge learning curve between the two.   We use a 30 page word doc that outlines it all, everything from allowances on dirt work to the brand of toilet going in the bathroom.  

On specs I found it best to just have a detailed cost breakdown sheet. We use a google doc thats about 300 line items to break it all down.  Depending on your contract with the GC if hes cost plus or a fixed fee.

Originally posted by @Tim Johnson :

I started off very similar to you.  We started with spec homes, then went the custom home route.  Huge learning curve between the two.   We use a 30 page word doc that outlines it all, everything from allowances on dirt work to the brand of toilet going in the bathroom.  

On specs I found it best to just have a detailed cost breakdown sheet. We use a google doc thats about 300 line items to break it all down.  Depending on your contract with the GC if hes cost plus or a fixed fee.

Slightly off topic but perhaps relevant.  What is the "cost +" percentage in your part of the country?  Around here they try to get 15%-20%.

 

We shoot for 22-25% right now when its a tight market we drop to 15-20%

Originally posted by @Jay M. :
Originally posted by @Tim Johnson:

I started off very similar to you.  We started with spec homes, then went the custom home route.  Huge learning curve between the two.   We use a 30 page word doc that outlines it all, everything from allowances on dirt work to the brand of toilet going in the bathroom.  

On specs I found it best to just have a detailed cost breakdown sheet. We use a google doc thats about 300 line items to break it all down.  Depending on your contract with the GC if hes cost plus or a fixed fee.

Slightly off topic but perhaps relevant.  What is the "cost +" percentage in your part of the country?  Around here they try to get 15%-20%.

 

 

@Ross Leavitt I would be happy to discuss with you what I use. Feel free to shoot me a PM.

 I detail everything in the plans and specifications all the way down to the last nail and screw. 

I also use my vendors and subcontractors to create detailed submittals for all of the selections and allowance items.

My residential projects look like commercial projects in terms of a level of detail we used.

I sometimes do appraisals of proposed construction, usually of large custom homes. I have one now, the cost breakdown is 2 pages, with minimal detail. The material specs is 6 pages, also with limited details. The architect plans are very detailed. To me, that is the most important part. I'm sure they add details as they go along, but this is enough for the bank, and me. The main approach to value is sales comparison. Cost approach is secondary, there probably will not be good land sale comps. Income approach for a custom 4,000 SF house? Fuggetadboutit. Examples.


@Tim Johnson , does your cost breakdown specify details like paint product, alignment of bath mirrors/lights/faucets, and style of baseboard corners? It seems like the cost breakdown would get cluttered if there was more than one or two details specified per line.

@Greg Dickerson that sounds like exactly the way we'd like to do it. Thanks so much for the offer. PM is on its way.

@Lee Bell thanks for sharing. We haven't worked with an architect, so I think the process is a little different.

@Jay Hinrichs I'm looking at details like paint product, whether bath mirrors/lights are aligned to the cabinet or the faucet, and style of baseboard corners, whether there are stair skirts, minimum open space for the washer and dryer, how strong half-walls need to be, etc. These are some of the issues that have come up during our walkthroughs. 

Originally posted by @Ross Leavitt :

@Tim Johnson , does your cost breakdown specify details like paint product, alignment of bath mirrors/lights/faucets, and style of baseboard corners? It seems like the cost breakdown would get cluttered if there was more than one or two details specified per line.

@Greg Dickerson that sounds like exactly the way we'd like to do it. Thanks so much for the offer. PM is on its way.

@Lee Bell thanks for sharing. We haven't worked with an architect, so I think the process is a little different.

@Jay Hinrichs I'm looking at details like paint product, whether bath mirrors/lights are aligned to the cabinet or the faucet, and style of baseboard corners, whether there are stair skirts, minimum open space for the washer and dryer, how strong half-walls need to be, etc. These are some of the issues that have come up during our walkthroughs. 

Well for our product here in Oregon.. for the finish's we use one vendor for all flooring and hard surfaces and work with their designer on 3 color boards.. so buyer usually picks one.  We pre sell most of our homes.. Architect would handle the half wall or that would be changed in the field if it was not structural..  Washer dryer we don't put conscience thought into leave that again to architect.. stairs either open rail or solid wall..price point dictates..  Mirrors and light switch's you need to catch at framing and make notes.. our GC does that. We pick our plumbing and lighting package as well as paint schemes inside and out..  we also pick appliance packages.

 

We do it 2 ways.  One is about a 20 pages word doc for the customer.  It breaks down everything from paint brand to trim and door style with pictures of what is included.  

We also share our google drive spreadsheet for the detailed person that likes the math, I would say only 5% of customers the rest need simple with pictures.


I would post it here but I can't figure out how to, if you want a copy you can pm and I will share it.