Learning to speak “Constructionese”

US Wealth Napolitano |

By: John P. Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST

As we all know, this economy is still pretty hot.  And when it comes to real estate, most markets are still smoking hot. For sale signs are going into the ground just because sellers can’t seem to refuse the high prices that buyers are willing to pay.  This feeding frenzy is particularly active in the first time buyers’ price point, highly desirable locations near train stations or the ocean.

The same holds true for contractors. They can’t find help, can’t finish jobs on time because it is so hard to line up subs for a timely arrival and even the towns and utility companies are backed up taking weeks to do a seemingly 5 minute task.

My personal experience has also shown that many contractors are simply throwing spaghetti against the wall in terms of pricing just to see what jobs will stick. In plain English, I’ve seen variations in estimates that are 100 - 200% higher than other quotes. I guess I can’t blame them, hotels and airlines have been pricing based on demand for years. But in some ways, I miss the slower economy where you could find help and feel confident that you are paying a fair price for the labor and materials that you need.

Today’s subcontractors also have a language of their own. When they say they’ll be there early next week… that really means the end of the week.  When they say they’ll be there towards the end of the week… that really means next week. Timeliness is not their forte.

But neither is cleaning up after themselves. Every sub-contractor wants to go last, so none of the other subs mess up what they’ve done. Electricians and plumbers leave holes in the walls and plaster and dust everywhere. Framers leave wood scraps and nails everywhere. And the painters, who probably should go last, moan about all of the dust and the lack of clean up from everyone else.

The moral of the story… either wait until things slow down to do your build or renovation or be extremely patient and leave your schedule open for as long as a 50% time overrun.