Most of the large national builders have an organization that segments the home buying process for new clients. The home buying experience typically begins with a salesperson who has been trained to emphasize features and benefits of a new home while starting the new homebuyer’s qualification process. At some point, the client will be passed to a person on the team who will manage all the financial steps in the process as well as a home designer who will finalize all product selections and details of the home. Once the salesperson, finance person and home designer complete their tasks in the home buying process, the client is then passed to a project manager who will take all the agreed upon decisions and construction plans to begin the building process.
In the case of builders from yesteryear, all the jobs were normally handled by one person. The builder would sell the project to the client and hold their hand throughout the entire process. Clients would build a great relationship with their builder and the chance of miscommunicated details in the home was greatly reduced, especially if the custom builder was detailed-oriented and hands-on. Today, there are still a few old-school builders in Lake and Sumter counties who handle every aspect of the new home building process.
Whether it is a residential or commercial construction project, its success or failure depends greatly on the competencies of a qualified, hard-working, honest project manager. With the labor shortage and exodus of many qualified craftsmen after the Great Recession, the position of project manager in most building companies has become a training position, or even worse a place for a warm body to occupy. Every day, builders are hiring project managers who are not qualified.
For the new home buyer who is having a custom home built, below are some core competencies that are good indicators if your project manager can handle your construction project.
- When your project manager meets with you, do they have your most current set of construction plans and some type of note taking process — either paper or digital? Poor note taking is one of the most frustrating aspects for new home buyers in construction projects because it conveys the notion that no one is really listening to them. Memories can change but copious notes do not.
- Does your project manager carry and use a contractor grade tape measure? Measuring the accuracy of the slab, door and window openings as well as lot setbacks is important in the building process. Eyeball measurements do not work.
- Beware if your project manager answers a lot of questions with, “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to check that.” Although no project manager knows everything and will have to check some details, a basic understanding of building should be a minimal requirement. Don’t let excuses like, “I don’t know electrical” be a reason for subpar work.
- We live in a world of real-time communications. Some new homebuyers abuse communications and call too often about every minor issue, which is wrong. Consolidate and limit calls to your project manager with the understanding they probably have other construction projects. A good project manager will promptly communicate back to their clients, and great ones will over communicate. If your project manager does not return calls, emails or texts, demand someone who will communicate with you.
- Finally, don’t be shy to discuss your project manager’s background and experience. You must be satisfied that your project manager can be trusted with your home and can get it done properly. Remember, the most important aspects of your home are normally not seen.
While college construction programs can be very good for training project managers, it seems the best ones attain their education from the School of Hard Knocks. The best project managers have worked for builders on all aspects of the home, and they have literally advanced from a ditch digger to foreman. Look for the project managers who have successfully managed and built projects, because in construction nothing beats experience.
Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply. He is also the host of the Around the House TV show that airs on LSTV on Xfinity 13, Spectrum 498, Prism 83, and LakeSumterTV.com... M/W/F at 1:00pm and 6:30pm, Tu/Th at 9:00am and 4:00pm, and Saturdays at 7:00am, Noon, and 6:00pm.