Using Consultants in Residential Contruction

Should the use of professional consultants such as designers be considered in residential construction?

The answer to this question is best stated by noting that my daughter and son – law just completed a major renovation on their home. The house was a historic home of masonry construction and was a challenging, large renovation. The builder was a local, well accomplished builder that was highly recommended and had a reputation, as well as portfolio, supporting their accomplishments within the area.

My daughter and I are extremely close and she has been involved in my professional construction life, as the daughter of a contractor for over 30 years.

Did my daughter employ professional consultants in the completion of their renovation? The answer to that question is absolutely.

It is my opinion that the use of local professionals, that are aware of the local, State and Federal requirements for new projects, as well as renovations, and have the experience and knowledge to assist in the design, construction and completion of the home, is money well spent.

Errors and miscalculations can be reduced, if outside professionals are incorporated within the project.

Please note that I did not indicate that these issues would be eliminated, they will not. Construction and especially renovations are hampered by problems, inconsistencies, unknowns and countless issues and problems that both reoccur, and occur as unique issues to specific projects.

Residential construction is not an easy endeavor, and the use of as many local, experienced individuals will lighten the load, and reduce the never ending issues that you will encounter on the project.

My rationale for making such a strong statement regarding local professional consultants is based upon the following :

  • Each consultant whether it be a kitchen designer, interior designer, landscape architect, structural engineer, licensed local architect, mechanical ,electrical, structural, sound, data, etc. engineers who act as consultants all specialize in their own fields. This focuses the knowledge and the attention to those specific points of interest focused on by the consultant. These consultants are usually the cutting edge in terms of local knowledge of the discipline or activity. The kitchen designer will lead you to the best cabinet makers, the best appliance showrooms, the best ventilation and lighting manufacturers and suppliers. The consultant is focused on the end result of their points of interest. Their interests are not diluted by the entire picture and can provide the details and the knowledge required to reach the final goal. Your builder can put all the pieces together, but the intimate knowledge of each and every consultant you can afford will ease the burden on the builder and solve problems as the project is constructed.
  • Consultants are normally knowledgeable and familiar with the builders and contractors in the area. They are capable of providing accurate and informed recommendations and background information to the purchaser, in regard to all subs and contractors, that might be involved on the project. Many times the consultants are more intimate with all the local conversation regarding builders and their reputations. This information is invaluable to the purchaser.
  • Consultants are easily controlled. The normal contract agreement is on an hourly basis and the amount of time spent on each project is totally controlled by the purchaser. If the consultant is immediately invaluable, then additional time can be used and paid for, if the consultant is a “ dud “ then the time can be minimized without any penalty to the purchaser.
  • Consultant contracts are totally customizable and can be modified at will by the purchaser. I have yet to involve myself with a professional consultant that cannot be negotiated with and common contract ground secured. They want the work and if they don’t, you can delete that consultant from your contact book.
  • Consultants have already made the mistakes. They have been there, done that. There is infinite value to be placed on an individual living the issues already, and having solved similar problems in the past.
  • Consultants know the local manufacturers, the local products and what stands up in the local environment as well as what materials should not be considered due to humidity, warm or cold temperatures, freezing conditions, etc.
  • Consultants can be customized in their involvement according to the purchaser. Help can be obtained only with certain elements of the project that the purchaser feels less experienced or knowledgeable. If it is obvious that the architect for the home has exceptional talent with interior spaces, the purchaser can have the architect double as the interior designer. The options are endless and the purchaser can utilize the consultants at will. Total customization is only based upon the needs and wishes of the purchaser.
  • Consultants have a tendency to control the builder. If the builder understands that there are professional consultants involved, the communication and data transfer between the builder and the purchaser is enhanced. There is nothing better than having a peer in the ring when it comes to negotiations, decisions, communication.
  • Consultants work directly for you, the purchaser. They do not have a loyalty to anyone but you the purchaser. This provides a balance when issues are being discussed or decisions are required.
  • Consultants help with the negotiation of change orders. The consultants have had similar instances where contractors have been charging for change orders to purchasers. The consultant will have the history of what has occurred elsewhere and can reinforce the position of the purchaser with historical data and cost. They know what other builders have and would charge for similar change orders, this information is invaluable.
  • Consultants can reduce the time and expense of legal issues as the project advances. Due to the experience and detailed knowledge of the consultants, many times, issues of disagreement between purchaser and builder are less likely to be blown out of proportion, because the consultant will be able to better communicate, better negotiate and more clearly and accurately evaluate costs.
  • Building codes, legal issues, etc. are better handled with knowledgeable consultants in the management of the situation.
  • The purchaser will save money in the long run due to more correct decisions, a stronger negotiating position, less time making material selections, less time holding up the builder and more peace of mind knowing that professional experience individuals have supported your position.
  • Consultants are not your relatives, yes, my daughter asked me questions, however no matter how strong the relationships, the professional that is paid has the upper hand in confidence and ability. Whether that is true or not has no bearing on the thought process!!

To further substantiate my position on consultants, my daughter, as she renovated her home with the use of several professional consultants, had a good friend of hers, construct a new home in the same City in Florida.

The difference between the two experiences was the difference of night and day.

My point can be supported by briefly summarizing the many difficulties of her friend’s construction project performed without professional consultants.

  • Inability to select materials due to lack of information and guidance.
  • Inability to interpret the builder’s questions and issues.
  • Inability to control costs
  • Inability to control schedule, due to cost overruns.
  • Lack of support information to negotiate with the builder.
  • Sense of venerability as the builder sensed the insecurities of the purchaser.
  • Sense of helplessness as the costs continued to rise and the project schedule overran.
  • No ability to negotiate or defend cost resulting from changes in the project.
  • No support when the finished product showed flaws in construction and functionality.

These negative issues are only a few of the difficulties that can, and will be encountered by a purchaser, if they do not employ the use of professional consultants to guide them in the construction process.

It is important to note that the builder will almost always attempt to convince the purchaser, that the use of professional consultants is a waste of money. According to the builder, the purchaser already has all the professional expertise they need, by simply hiring the builder.

Please, do not allow this hollow argument to convince you that professionals, separate from the actual construction contractor, are essential for the project to remain in a controlled and manageable state.

It is too late once the project has commenced, the builder is issuing the change orders, the schedule continues to slip on a regular basis and there is no end in sight, in regard to cost and schedule. It is now very difficult to hire any consultant, other than a claim or litigation consultant. Not the way anyone wants to finalize the construction or renovation of their home.

You do not want to end up in this position.

The money spent on professional and experienced consultants, will not only save you money in the long run, but will also provide the peace of mind as your construction project advances, and, yes, eventually completed.


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