Choosing a general contractor is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make if you want to build or renovate multifamily housing. Whether you’re a developer yourself or merely interested in investing in a development project, it’s critical to understand the function of a contractor and, more significantly, what you need to know to choose a skilled, professional contractor who will get the job done well.
A General Contractor’s Role in Multifamily and Commercial Construction
Multifamily and commercial contractors, like general contractors for single-family houses, are in charge of practically every stage of the construction process. This often includes:
Design: A general contractor will be entrusted with collaborating with the architect on a project’s design and suggesting changes and enhancements that might save time and money while lowering risks and potential safety issues.
Permitting: A general contractor is normally in charge of getting the necessary city and county permits for a construction or renovation project.
Hiring subcontractors: A general contractor would often obtain bids from many subcontractors, ranging from plumbers and electricians to flooring specialists and security installation companies, in order to identify the business with the greatest combination of price and quality.
Purchasing supplies: While some subcontractors can buy their own supplies and charge the GC, in general, the general contractor will purchase most building materials directly.
Zoning/building codes: While it is critical that a building’s architectural designs adhere to zoning regulations and building codes, it is also the responsibility of the contractor to ensure that these standards are followed and applied throughout the building and construction process.
In general, the first step in choosing a general contractor for a multifamily construction project is to research. A developer or investor may want to explore online, contact other developers for advice, or even identify local homes they like and then look up the contractors who worked on them in municipal or county records. If they’re using construction finance, they should also inquire about which general contractors their lender recommends. Quality builders often have their hands full in today’s busy construction market, so developers should be aware of general contractors that advertise directly to potential clients.
Start early: Getting the necessary permissions from a municipality for major multifamily construction projects can take up to 9 months. Choosing a good general contractor early on in the process might help speed up the process since they are familiar with the permit approval procedure.
Make a comprehensive project description: The easiest method to acquire a realistic cost estimate and work timetable from a general contractor is to provide a detailed project description.
Obtain proposals from a number of contractors: For smaller projects, investors and developers should obtain at least three competitive bids from contractors. It may be advisable to obtain 5-6 bids for larger projects, however this depends on the number of accessible businesses in the region. More bids usually means more competition, which lowers pricing.
Look into references: As an investor or developer, checking references is an important component of your due diligence. You can identify the contractor’s working style in addition to checking that previous clients haven’t had any serious issues with them. It’s crucial to ask precise questions here, such as how long it took a contractor to respond to their calls and whether the job was completed on schedule and on (or under) budget.
You could even wish to phone previous clients who weren’t provided as references to get a better sense of their reputation and talents. If a contractor does not offer references, make sure to ask for them, and if they are unwilling to supply them, you might want to search elsewhere.
Avoid common errors.
One of numerous red flags that might appear throughout the GC bidding and due diligence process is a reluctance to provide references. Other red flags include a general contractor that only accepts cash, refuses to secure permits, or does not have a track record of successfully completing projects.
Make communication a primary focus.
One of the most critical parts of a good general contractor is communication, and finding one that suits your communication style is essential. While some clients may want daily updates, others may be OK with a check-in every few weeks, so you’ll want to be sure your contractor is versatile when it comes to communication. This is particularly important during the planning stages of a project, when a general contractor may be required to attend zoning board and city council meetings in order to get the necessary permits.
In some instances, selecting a general contractor is similar to selecting a partner: choose well, and things will go smoothly; choose poorly, and you may find yourself in serious trouble.. Like a spouse, you’ll need to interact and negotiate with your contractor on a frequent basis, but unlike a marriage, this will only happen for 6 to 24 months, depending on the size and complexity of your project. Because you’ll be entrusting them with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, a good general contractor must be dependable, trustworthy, communicative, and financially responsible.