Why You Want Your Contractor to Tell You the Truth, Even When It’s Not What You Want to Hear

Today’s construction environment is nothing short of crazy. Inflation, supply chain problems, labor shortages. you name it.  But work still needs to go on and projects continue to move forward at a fever pace. Figuring out what a project will ultimately cost and how long it will take to design and construct has always been essential to clients during the early concept stages.  In today’s world, this is much more difficult, and not all contractors will take the time to do it right. Clients looking to hire a general contractor should use this initial process to evaluate their potential partner for overall approach, attention to detail and willingness to tell it like it is, even if it may be hard to hear.

Projecting a Realistic Cost 

No one wants their project’s cost to be more than their budget will allow.   An experienced contractor can take limited conceptual information available in a preliminary stage and use their knowledge to read between the lines and extrapolate to the eventual project.  The issue is most often not what is on the concept drawing or space plan, it’s what isn’t on the drawing. Owners should be able to rely on a general contractor’s expertise to think beyond what’s on paper, look for the pitfalls, price accordingly and then transparently share that information. Here are a few reasons to start with a real, well thought out value. 

  • Inflated values that cover any and every contingency can kill a deal unnecessarily.  Beware of round number $/sf estimates that show little or no thought.
  • Lenders are wary of price creep. They want to see detailed estimates and contractor credentials to build confidence and prevent the need to add large contingencies of their own.  With interest rates rising, this issue is compounded.
  • The amount and timing of cash outlay has become more critical.  Long lead-times mean purchasing as early as possible, sometimes spending well in advance of the project’s physical start to assure materials are on hand when needed.
  • Change orders are no one’s friend. A realistic price helps keep unexpected change orders in check.

Determining a Realistic Timeline 

The “how much” is only half the battle. When will it start and how long will it take are key factors that owners need their contractors to get right.  As with price, getting into the details and having experience with all of the project elements is essential to making accurate timing predictions. Everything is taking longer, from permitting to inspections to material acquisition and labor.  No one wants to hear how long it is taking to execute work these days, but banking on an unrealistic date has some negative consequences.  Here are a few reasons to start with the right schedule. 

  • The construction delivery schedule has a lot of other elements that wrap around it: moving; IT; product stocking; and other transitions that need to take place in conjunction with construction completion.
  • In rental situations many hold-over provisions can be punitive. These can often be negotiated in advance to the benefit of both landlord and tenant.
  • Knowing when a revenue stream will start is incredibly vital to any new venture or expansion.
  • Getting timing accurate will help owners manage the expectation so third parties like lenders, their clients and suppliers have a realistic expectation from the start.

Will your contractor take the time to come up with realistic answers or tell you what you want to hear? We believe that being informed and transparent, even if it includes bad news, is the best approach. This is a time for contractors to be fully disclosing information to clients, making them aware of the uncertainties and working together to solve the problems.  This fits well with KasCon’s approach as it’s always the way we behave.  We would rather lose an opportunity than win it and be unable to meet expectations. In our experience the successful client wants to hear it all, good, bad or indifferent and the relationship now more than ever requires us to be in the same boat rowing in the same direction.