Should I hire a project manager for my home remodel?

A construction project is one of the most difficult and costly challenges anyone can undertake.  With so many choices to make and so many people to manage, the entire process can be very overwhelming.
Hiring a Project Manager (PM) can alleviate some of that stress.  It’s best to engage the PM very early on (even before you have a design).  The PM can be by the Owner’s side acting exclusively on the Owner’s behalf through every phase of work.  The PM’s role is to bring order to the project and to provide expert advise on technical, contractual, and financial matters of the project.Your project may include several other professional service providers including Architects, Contractors, and maybe even Lawyers and Accountants, but each of them have boundaries of responsibility.  A skilled PM can address each step of the process and fill the service gaps that exist between each of the other professionals.

In this article, I point out some of the advantages of hiring a Project Manager.  There may be other benefits as well and your PM may have certain strengths and weaknesses, but the advantages of having a PM on your project will certainly benefit the project in the long run.

Number One:  Organize your thoughts 

Before you are ready to start your project, you may need someone with whom to discuss your ideas.  During early stages of project conception, you’ll have lots of thoughts and ideas.  A PM can help you narrow down your choices and hone in on the best ideas.  The PM can also help document your thoughts so they can be presented in clear industry specific terms to others.  This documentation is critical to getting off to a good start on your project.

Number Two:   Identify a good Designer

When selecting a designer for your project, it’s not enough to search the word “Architect” in your web browser or look in the Yellow Pages under “designer”.  You need to have industry knowledge to sort through the hundreds of firms and sole proprietors to narrow down the pool of choices.  Then knowing what questions to ask and how to interpret the responses is a critical skill for qualifying a firm.  A Project Manager can help with all of that.  Your PM can then also help negotiate your design contract to ensure you are getting the best value.

Number Three:  Turn your design into Construction Documents 

Most of the time the amount of documentation and information that you get from design drawing isn’t sufficient to move on to construction.  Those pretty pictures and 3D renderings need to be converted to Construction Documents.  Construction Documents communicate to the General Contractor your design intent and allow you to solicit construction pricing.  It may be necessary to have a separate agreement for your design drawings to become construction documents.  You may even need a different Company to execute the Construction Documents.  If your designer isn’t able to supply you with Construction Documents or your agreement did not include Construction Documents,  you may be left holding a beautiful set of renderings, but not be any closer to building your dream.  A PM will anticipate these issues and help you to decide the best option for converting your design documents into construction documents.

Number Four:  Objective Professional Advise

During the design process you will have hundreds of decisions to make.  Many of these decisions will have long-term impact on your project.  Some decisions will impact price, other decisions will impact functionality. In either case, having an experienced professional (other than your designer) by your side to consult with on key decision will give you the confidence to move forward.  Whether you want to act boldly or you want to mitigate risk, the objective professional advise of a PM will keep you on the right track.

Number Five:  Know when a Change Order is legitimate  

Whether you are in the design phase or the construction phase, you may have to consider requests for additional fees.   Design changes and unknown conditions of the site are the most common events that trigger requests for additional fees from Architects and General Contractors.  A PM can help you discern when a  request for additional fees is legitimate and when it is not.  The PM can also negotiate on your behalf to ensure that what you pay on Change Orders is reasonable.

Number Six:  Choosing the right Contractor 

Choosing the right contractor requires objective consideration of both qualifications and price.  For obvious reasons, Owner’s always want to rationalize an award to a low price bidder.  Price-based decisions are generally not favorable.  Owner’s need an experienced professional who will implement a rigorous objective system to help them make award decisions.  An experienced Project Manager will know how to implement such a system and will help guide the Owner in structuring an evaluation process.

Number Seven:  Define a Project Execution plan 

There are a number of ways that a project can be executed.  These are often referred to as delivery models.  Each delivery model has certain nuances and considerations that can have long term implications on your project.  An experienced Project Manager will listen to your specific goals and will recommend a plan that suits you.  The Execution plan you choose may impact the Architect and General Contractor you choose.  The Execution plan will even impact which contract and pricing models you use.  This is a critical step that is often overlooked and should not be taken on without professional advice.

Number Eight:  Choose the correct pricing option 

Most Owner’s probably don’t know that there are multiple pricing options to choose from.  Depending on your circumstances a fixed price (or lump sum price) may not be the best choice.  A full assessment of your scope of work together with an honest discussion about your ability to make decisions should precede any decisions about pricing options.

Number Nine:  Construction Management 

Even after you have hired the General Contractor, there is still a great deal of project management to be done.  There will also be invoices to review, schedules to manage, consultants to coordinate with, and contracts to manage.  All of these require experience and know how.  Without a PM, these duties will rest on the Owner and without a background in construction, these tasks may seem overwhelming.

Number Ten:  Final payment and Project Closeout 

At the end of every construction project there is a list of critical tasks that the GC should perform before he receives his final payment.  If you release final payment before everything on the list has been satisfied, it’s unlikely to happen.  Your PM can confirm that everything has been completed before he releases (or advises you to release) the final payment.

These are just a few of the reasons why an Owner should not undertake a project without a Project Manager.  Project Managers have the experience and the know how to help navigate the complex issues that existing in every construction project.  From technical issues to contract issues, you need to have an independent professional working for you to advise you every step of the way.  A PM contracted directly to you as your agent will represent your best interests through every phase of work and will bring the oversight needed to make your project a success.

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