I took this project on in the winter of 2010. Up until this point I had only done small carpentry and renovation jobs that no one else wanted to take. This would be my first whole house remodel for a house flipping developer.
Looking back, this was a great first large project for me. Loaded with curveballs, I walked away without too many permanent scars.
The house was built in the early 80's, and of terrible quality. On top of that, the prior owner did a lot of work himself without permits! I should’ve known what I was getting into, but I was far less seasoned at that time.
We began the job late fall/early winter, deciding to tackle the deck out back. There was on a myriad of different types and depths of footings. Some had cinder blocks, some sono tubes, and most were out of level. The deck was not properly flashed to the house. Actually it wasn't flashed at all.
Once we got the deck off, we made some interesting discoveries. All framing and sheathing from the deck down to the foundation was completely rotted out. We now had a growing change order on our hands.
Since we were going to be replacing all framing, sheathing, and siding in this area, we got to work stripping back.
It didn’t take long to realize that the former homeowner had done his own plumbing in the second floor bathroom. It had been leaking for some time. This was directly above the area we were already stripping.
Now we had rotted framing and osb sheathing reaching all the way from the basement to the second floor.
With the back of the house completely open, we had growing concerns about the pipes freezing. Mother nature had other plans and now we were in the middle of an early winter blizzard!
In a freezing down pour we finished the sheathing and weatherization of that entire area. This was hours before we got a foot of snow. The excitement of being able to work inside for a few days was about to be extinguished.
THE GODS SMILE ON US
From here, we encountered countless no shows from electric and plumbing subs that I went with on price due to the unanticipated costs on the front end of the job, a carpenter I was subbing the front and rear deck builds out to disappeared, never to return, while I was out renting an auger, and on and on.
WHAT DID I LEARN
I took this project to stay busy for the winter and to get the ball rolling while I made the transition from painter to remodeler. My inexperience was the reason I priced it so low to begin with.
This is a constantly evolving process to perfect. I walked away with knowledge that building an accurate budget is the most important thing. Without that, there is no project or your project will go wildly over what you were comfortable spending.
Once you start encountering change orders that obstruct you from proceeding, a begrudging ‘ok’ comes out of your mouth over and over. Before you know it, you’re running out of money and you're only halfway through the project.
Having experienced this, I realize how important having a contingency amount in the budget is . There’s a reason banks make you do this. You can't just take from other line items and expect those other items to magically cost less because you ran into some unexpected problems.
I also took some valuable experience from managing subcontractors. Its easier said than done, but if you build a proper budget, you can hire professional, attentive, and communicative subcontractors.
There is no money saved with cut rate subs. It ALWAYS ends up costing you more time, money, or both. This is because these low price subs don’t care about your project. They care about getting paid for doing their works as fast as possible with the cheapest materials possible. Corners are cut, and they are always supposed to be 5 other places besides your project.
Does that sound that a guy who is fully focused and not likely to miss anything on your project?
There is always new information out there for fixing things you have previously never tackled. You can seldom control the little things that come up.
If you build a subcontractor network of guys that care about their work, create budgets that can pay them, and account for a realistic amount of unexpected, then your only real hurdle is selling the client on it.
If they buy they buy. If not, at least you won't be taking a job for less than you should be.
Trust me, I did this for years thinking I was investing in experience or whatever other justification I gave it.
In the end - If you are supremely confident in your skills and why you are the best choice for the job, then let the potential client know why. I’ve found that price becomes a 1A priority to hiring the right person.