Owners as General Contractors and Other Ethics Problems
Everyone wants a good deal and everyone is aware of the devastation the recession inflicted on the residential construction industry. Armed with “facts” from the Internet, some Owners believe that any contractor still standing is weakened and can be easily taken advantage of. Or because the Owner watches “Do it Yourself” TV shows that makes them able to manage their own projects and become General Contractors.
So if you can produce and read construction drawings from a licensed Engineer and Architect, get those plans approved by the City so you can get a permit, buy and store all your construction materials on the jobsite in a manner so nobody gets hurt (it is your liability insurance now and your homeowners insurance will not cover you), know all applicable building codes for all the trades and know how and when to prove that to the City inspectors, then by all means, be your own General Contractor.
Most Owners don’t even try to be their own General Contractor, but they may not be aware of the “rules of engagement” when they are talking to General Contractors that are bidding their job. Most General Contractors will provide the Owner with a limited estimate (rough order of magnitude) for free. Owners must understand that these estimates are confidential and should never be shared in whole or in part to competing bidders. Home Improvement shows say “go get at least three estimates”, but they don’t tell you what to do with them when you get them. Most of the time you will get three different prices from three different scopes and the prices are all over the map, so the Owner’s eyes cross when they are trying to compare the bids apples to apples so they just give up and award the bid to the low guy who will now increase the price of the job considerably so your job starts out cheap and ends expensive.
General Contractors are professionals and they don’t want to play these stupid games, but the Owners need to take responsibility for their role in this. Good Contractors stake their reputations on doing quality work for a fair price. Their business depends on referrals, so quality work really does matter. Building quality projects is not cheap, but good General Contractors will build your dream that will last a lifetime.