How To Avoid the Renovation Nightmares You’ve Heard About!

Choose a Project Manager (PM) – OVER – a General Contractor (GC)

You’ve Heard the Horror Stories..And I’ve Been There Myself! Many years ago I depended on a GC to oversee a large renovation project only to find myself in the midst of continual project delays, inferior materials and installations and as a result, a project completed at a lesser quality Using a Project Manager - Making the right renovation decision!than the overall design had dictated plus many lost dollars. The GC made claims and promises he did not keep and I had virtually no recourse. I learned then how important an Owner Representative Project Manager is…one who provides onsite oversight to meet the owner’s objectives from project inception to project completion. Choosing a PM over a GC makes it possible to survive a renovation so that planned outcomes are realized with a minimum of unplanned disruptions, stress, sleepless nights, problems with partners, and financial losses!

Choose the Smoothest Renovation Project Experience: Hire a PM, NOT a GC! The common wisdom is that a residential and/or commercial real estate renovation project requires a GC to head up the construction, which is only one phase of the project . Unfortunately, especially in the residential realm, most owners are not aware of the more comprehensive role which a PM plays in a renovation: managing a renovation project from design, through construction to completion. In other words, the PM oversees the entire project as the owner’s representative; the GC only operates during the construction phase representing his/her staff of trades and vendors supplying construction materials. The use of a PM is more common to commercial projects, and high-end construction and renovations. They are utilized by top architectural firms.

Unfortunately, most owners planning to begin a renovation project begin the construction process by interviewing and asking for bids from GCs only after working with architects and engineers during the design phase. The wiser course is for the owner to seek out a PM at the start of the design process who then moves into the construction phase understanding, visualizing, and executing the overall project design through onsite oversight.

Here’s Where Many Renovation Nightmares Begin! Not realizing that they have the PM choice, many owners try to find a GC thinking the GC represents their interests and will therefore work to meet their specific needs, complete the project on time and stay in budget. Most owners who have undertaken a renovation, however, encounter the following problems as a result of working with a GC because a GC is NOT the owner’s representative, but rather represents their staff of trades and their materials vendors.

Common GC Nightmares

                                  Lack of Communications                                                             Systems Failure

                                  Attitude Problems w/Subcontractors                                        Unfinished Projects

                                  Starting & Quitting Times w/ Workers                                       Missed Deadlines

                                  Worker Cleanliness, Attire and Language                                 Lack of Invoices and Documentation

                                  Lack of Craftsmanship                                                                  Project Cost Overruns

                                  Substandard Materials and Installation                                     Delayed Completion Dates

                                  Lack of GC Project & Worker Oversight                                     Lack of Transparency

                                  Unfinished Projects                                                                        Lack of Ongoing Accountability

                                  Lack of Oversight                                                                            Inferior Materials

                                  Inferior Installations                                                                       Expensive Litigation

Need More Info on the Difference Between a PM and a GC? Here are Some Details… 

The Project Manager (PM) becomes involved in the owner’s renovation process during the planning/ pre-construction phase and continues to work on behalf of the client by overseeing the construction project on a day-by-day basis from start to finish. The PM vets the best of workers, trades, and subcontractors to complete each individual phase of the project with a concentrated effort to streamline project scheduling among the trades to keep the focus on quality, cost and time. By involving PMs early in the development process, the pre-construction design team is capable of making more informed decisions and the construction team is capable of deriving more precise cost estimates, thereby saving the client time and money. The collaboration between the client, construction Project Manager, architects and engineers results in a better-informed and more efficient project process, further strengthens relationships, and yields specific and overall project outcomes which best meet the client’s plan design.

The General Contractor (GC) becomes involved after the architects and engineers have completed the plans and is responsible for only the management and coordination of the construction phase of a project. GCs are typically hired on by the client through a bidding process that integrates the advice from the client’s consultants, namely the architects and engineers. Often the lowest qualified bid is selected for the job. The GC uses his own staff, trades, subcontractors and materials vendors with whom he/she has a working relationship. Once the construction process is underway, the GC primarily interacts with the client through the architect. There is little to no effort made to foster an environment of cooperation and collaboration between the GC, client, and architect. Often, this results in misunderstandings, confrontations, hostilities and less than planned-for project outcomes.

                           Item-by-item Comparison Between a PM and a GM

Project Manager (PM)

General Contractor (GC)

Works with Architects & Engineers at the beginning of the Real Estate Renovation project– Assists with design and purchasing

Bids on project after architectural & engineering plans are drafted – Not involved in the client, architect, or engineer’s design vision so execution can be compromised

Has the capacity to manage multiple types of projects

Often has expertise and workers focused on specific types of construction

Vets and hires the most expert trades and professionals to construct each job associated with the renovation, researches the best solutions for the design, and oversees materials quality and installation

Utilizes own staff, trades, and materials vendors with whom they have an ongoing relationship, often with cursory regard for the expertise needed for a given project

Trades and subcontractors hired by PM as the Owner’s Representative

Trades and subcontractors work for GC – Client has little or no say

Works with the client, architect, and designers to select materials compatible with the owners specifications

Generally works with the materials provided by the client through the architects and designers, and/or the materials vendors with whom the GC has a financial relationship, with minimal, if any, client input

As the Owner’s Representative, works with Architects, Engineers and specific trades to assure that all permits are obtained, work is to code, and that inspections go smoothly to protect the owner

Generally expects the Architects, Engineers and Subcontractors to handle permits, code violations and inspections with the responsibility for meeting code requirements left to the Client.

Works with client on paying trades and subcontractors when projects – or parts of projects – have been inspected for quality and approved when the job specifications have been met. Provides the client with invoices and daily work logs

Client pays GC who pays the Trades and Subcontractors and materials as agreed upon with client, most often without critical materials and/or project quality inspection and approval…GC may or may not itemize expenses and hours for the client

Communicates with the client on a daily basis – or as agreed upon. Total transparency re: the concerns, progress and costs of projects

Generally have limited communications with the client – unless there are major problems, delays or when more funding is required

Provides onsite oversight whenever work is being done on projects associated with the renovation, inspecting projects for quality as work is being done

Is on site only as needed by the trades and subcontractors with cursory oversight for quality of materials and installation specified by the project design

Here’s a Second Opinion About the Value of a PM vs a GC

From a Leader in the Construction Industry…

Watchdogpm is an owner representative firm for large commercial and industrial projects and is not related to PPR. Watchdogpm says that before you decide whether to hire a Project PM or a GC for your next real estate project, you should

…know the difference. And if you can’t decide, do your project a favor: hire a project manager who will manage your full project scope, not just construction.”

Here’s the PPR Conclusion – If you want a strong foundation for the real estate renovation project you are Project Manager, construction manager, home renovations, remodeling, real estateconsidering, it’s time to take the 1st Steps by putting together your management team: Architect; Engineers and Project Manager. Then your renovation project will be completed with a minimum of fuss and bother and a maximum of satisfaction and pride!

We’re good listeners at PPR and if you and we agree that the fit is right our PPR WatchDog is ready, willing and able to protect your real estate interests by managing the full scope of your project through onsite oversight–from inception to completion!

Want to discuss your project? Contact PPR by email or call 216.577.5579

Stop & Think Before You Begin Home Renovations! 12 Things To Do!!

Home Renovations? Stop and Think!Renovating a home or property can be extremely rewarding – adding value to both the property and lifestyles while providing a great sense of satisfaction and achievement in the process. However, no matter if you’re undertaking a big or small project – or renovating for profit or love – there are a number of factors you need to consider in your planning before beginning work.

1) The Big Why. Be clear on why you are renovating. Are you renovating to flip or are your intentions more long-term for comfort and better use? There are many reasons to renovate a property. You may want to enhance its livability. You may want to expand it or update it. You may want to fix it up to rent- out or sell.

If renovations are for family or personal reasons, it often involves a more emotional spend; it can be easy to over-capitalize this important investment and it is wise to recognize that it is very easy to get carried away beyond your intended renovation project budget!

On the other hand, the renovation may be a purely financial one because you plan to rent-out or sell the property in future; then it may be wise to plan and budget your renovation project more exclusively from a return-on-investment perspective.”

2) Treat Your Property & the Renovation as an Investment! Consider the valuation of your property – before and after renovation. Determine the value of similar properties in your area to help you decide what improvement projects are reasonable and worthwhile based on the property’s future: for lifestyle, renting or selling. Comparative property values (“Comps”) can help you determine if and when you can get a return on your investment (ROI) within your planning future. Most often, it is not wise to over-capitalize your property if one of your primary goals is to maximize its investment potential.

3) Get a Pre-Renovation Inspection. The pre-renovation inspection of the property is a different service than a pre-purchase inspection. The inspection before you purchase a property should determine the big picture of the house condition; it should focus on determining the exact condition of major systems such as the roof, furnace, plumbing and wiring. It is a must in the purchase of any property — new or old.

The pre-renovation inspection has a scope that is defined more by the homeowner, the renovations planned, and the details of the house. It is an encompassing inspection of all systems related to the renovation and, in the case of property additions, those systems which will be affected post-renovation within the existing property. It requires a set of experienced inspectors from a variety of trades and professions.

4) Expect the Unexpected! One unpleasant aspect of home renovations is that renovating your property to accomplish your desired results almost always leads to repairing or replacing materials and systems which you weren’t planning. Most often, this occurs because hidden problems are found when the work progresses or the property owner decides to change aspects of the project plans after the project has begun.

5) Budget/Budget/Budget – Don’t bite off more than you can chew…budget for the unexpected! Determine with your financial advisers and project manager what projects should be done in the near term and which could be done in phases. Whether you are acting as project manager or have hired a competent project manager to do onsight oversight, build in a 20-30 percent cushion to cover the nasty, unexpected surprises. Never pay a trade in full before the work is done and the work has been inspected by you or your project manager.

6) Don’t Forget Big Brother! Check with the local government entities re: Codes, Permits, etc. Your tradespeople and project manager should provide you with these details. Aside from warning your neighbors about loud noise, there’s most likely a zoning commission, town clerk or council which needs to know that you are altering your property. In addition, there may be interim systems inspections of the work at stages of completion; until these inspections are completed and the work approved by the inspector, work on the systems in questions cannot proceed. Check the rules and regulations in your city, council or area to make sure you comply! Schedule the inspections and the projected wait times between work completion and inspections into your timeline. The last thing you want is to have to undo the work you have paid for because a tradesperson proceeded with work which had not been approved before a scheduled interim system inspection!

7) Buyer Beware! Determine what you need for the project and compare based on five factors: the best choices, value, quality and durability at the best price! Your contractor may have vendor relationships, but often comparison shopping will offer a better choice of the five factors. You may get the best buys from a variety of vendors – from local vendors and online. On a project-by-project, room-by-room basis, work with your project manager to determine and buy for the five factors for all materials and fixtures. Before making any purchases for the materials you have chosen, check with your project manager on obtaining discounts from relationships the trades have with vendors.

8) Don’t Take Your Eyes Off the Project! You or your project manager need to be onsight and overseeing each and every phase of the project on each and every day when tradespeople are working on your property’s renovation project. Do Not Trust the Builder or General Contractor to be your Eyes and Ears! Their relationship to the project is to minimize timelines (often at the expense of quality) and to provide working opportunities for their team of tradespeople (without necessarily vetting them for their expertise for a given type of installation included in your plans or for the quality of materials they would use).

A project manager (PM) will protect your current and ongoing property investment by ensuring that your project’s budget, timeline, quality materials, installation and workmanship are managed to the highest degree possible. It is the PM’s responsibility to vet, oversee and supervise the contractors and subcontractors to make sure the property is being renovated both to your project specifications and to local building codes. The PM is your property watchdog!

9) Who’s Making the Decisions? To assure quality materials and installation throughout your project, it is vital that day-to-day project decisions are not left to the builder(s) or General Contractor(s). Day-to-day decisions should be made by you or your project manager – to prevent as many errors as possible and especially when mistakes have been made, problems occur, material deliveries are late or material substitutions are required.

10) For Residential Renovations, Where and How will you Live? If the renovation project is only short term, minor or cosmetic, you may be able to live in the property during the renovation process. However, it is important to take into account the needs and safety of all family members – including pets. You need to plan for: unsafe areas; anxious pets; noise; neighbor complaints; intermittent electric, plumbing, heating & cooling, etc; dust, dust and more dust; toxic smells; people coming in and out at all hours; a complete lack of privacy.

For bigger, structural renovations, considering the real disruptions to your space such a renovation will require, you may need to move out for a few weeks, a few months or even longer! Will you stay with friends or family, or rent another place?

11) Timing is Everything! – It is extremely important for you or your Project Manager to keep timelines for all aspects of the project – packing and storage; demolition; trash removal; plumbing, electrical, carpentry; tilers; painters; etc. By the nature of the work, renovation project timelines are ever-evolving due to delays of any kind such as unavailable materials or unavailable tradespeople who were scheduled and/or those unanticipated surprise problems. Any delay creates a domino effect which effects all of the trades and the timelines; and these delays often increase costs, especially if they are not handled at the time of discovery. Remember: The work of each trade must be coordinated with all the other trades…A change in one timeline effects all timelines.

You, or your Project Manager, should have regular, day-to-day, “pulse meetings” to keep all of the trades in sync with the timelines as they evolve every day.

12) Prepare Your Family! points out: “’A home-remodeling project can strain even the most stable relationship,’ said the counselor. ‘Colleen and John had a solid marriage, but the renovations left their house and their lives in a state of perpetual disorder and anxiety, which they used against each other.’”

An analogy: stresses, “Renovating a home with a significant other is one of the ultimate tests of relationship endurance. It’s like having a baby, only if every detail of that baby were customized by you and your partner — eye and hair color, haircut style, eyebrow texture, cuticle length, frequency of spit-ups, etc. OK, so maybe remodeling a house together is the ultimate test.”

Working with a trusted Project Manager like PPR can assist you in achieving your property renovation’s objectives without experiencing many of the pitfalls. During the renovation, your property management Watchdog can provide you and your family peace-of-mind while permitting you to live a reasonably normal life!

Have a Renovation Project you’d like to discuss – Go To —


Don’t Let Your Dream House Become a Nightmare!

Don’t Let Your Dream House Become a Nightmare!

10 Action TipsImportance of Annual Home Inspections

“Though there’s no such thing as a perfect house, the trick is to make… sure the home is free of any major problems before signing on the dotted line.” (Zillo)

If you are planning a home purchase it is critical that you arrange to have experts conduct an in-depth, “forensic”, physical on the home before making a commitment. That way, you will know what additional repair/renovation expenses await you if you choose to purchase.

If you currently own your home, you should give your home a comprehensive physical once a year. When you detect problems early, you can correct them, or have them corrected before you suffer an unexpected disaster. Deferred analysis of your home’s major structures and systems most often results in expensive, budget-busting consuming repairs.

  1. Check Things Out Seasonally – Even if you are not buying or selling a home, you should give your house a physical at least once a year – even better, seasonally. Just like with your personal doctor’s physical, early detection pays off!
  2. Review Your Home Insurance – Is your home covered against unexpected calamities? Read through your home insurance policy(s) and know what is and what is not covered. What are your deductibles? Is your home insured to its replacement value? Check with your insurance broker with questions and when in doubt call several brokers for opinions and quotes.
    • Remember, “Homeowners insurance covers mold damage if it was caused by a “covered” peril or mishap. Learn what mishaps are and are not covered and you will probably determine that your homeowner’s policy will likely not cover mold damage when that mold resulted from a preventable water leak, flooding, or high humidity.” (
  3. Inspect Your Home’s Systems on a Set Schedule – With time, systems deteriorate! Find and read all of your systems and appliance warranties. Inspect all major systems: electrical breakers and service panels; smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors; plumbing connections, valves, toilets and drains; sump pump; water heater; and HVAC units.
    • Note – All of the above are often best left to professionals. Each of these systems requires specific expertise, tools, and equipment.
  4. Control Humidity and Sources of Moisture – When the humidity and moisture combine, it can lead to destructive and health-endangering mildew and mold. Keep the humidity at an ideal low throughout the house–between 30 and 50 percent.
    • Recommendation – Under most circumstances do not use a whole house humidifier! They add unwanted moisture.
  5. Check your walls for Moisture and Mold – Here are three things to do: A) Push on the wall – moisture-damaged drywall will feel soft and spongy, while wood-sheathed walls may feel slightly solid even with a moisture problem. B) Smell the walls – if the wall smells musty, it’s a sure sign of a problem; C) Invest in a moisture meter! They are incredibly powerful and accurate instruments for detecting moisture, which can reveal potential mold colonies. Units start at about $50.00 with non-invasive measurement techniques (no holes in the walls).
    • Note – Mold can be washed off but that will not get to the source. When dealing with mold, this is a job best left to the pros.
  6. Have your home inspected for lead-based paint and radon – Your house could be poisoning you, your family and guests! Since lead was last used as a legal paint ingredient over 35 years ago, most people have no idea what the paint in their current home contains. Radon comes from deep in the earth and is typically found in basements and crawl areas. Heavy concentrations are suspected of having a cancer-causing effect when exposure to radon is continued for years.
    • Caution – Lead paint abatement and radon remediation are best left to professionals!
  7. Inspect Your Home’s Basement, Crawl Spaces and/or Slab – Remember to check the exposed systems in these areas: plumbing, electrical, heating pipes, and ducts; drains, etc. Look for cracks in basement walls that can lead to termite and other problems. Check for mold or water stains on wood, particularly near water lines that may indicate a leak that needs repair.
    1. Reminder – Cracks and water stains may indicate a problem with the foundation. Call a professional!
  8. Inspect Those Often Forgotten Space Above Your Head –- Attics and Crawl Spaces. Inspections should include structural truss damage; insulation; ventilation; water damage; damage around the chimney; condition of electrical conduit and wiring; signs of pests – tiny poop pellets left behind by the critters: squirrels, raccoons, possums, rodents. They often enter attics through the eaves or loose boards. Also, check for signs of carpenter ants and termites–look for piles of wood shavings.
    • Note – Your chimney should be inspected annually, and cleaned periodically. The chimney carries dangerous gases from your fireplace, wood stove or furnace out of your home.
  9. Check Outdoor Home Features – Regular inspections of the eaves, gutters, and soffits are an essential part of home maintenance because these areas are particularly susceptible to water damage and can be a cause of mold. Undetected problems can lead to unexpected and hefty costs.
    • Reminder – Inspect your property’s trees and bushes. Untrimmed vegetation can cause moisture-related concerns, can stain the siding of your home, can give thieves a hiding place, can promote insect infestation and more. Take preventive action and trim the trees and shrubs away from your home’s foundation and near utility poles.
  10. Get a Sewer or Septic System Inspection – A professional should use a digital camera that is inserted into the sewer line and pushed through to the main line to check for blockages and deterioration.
    • Note – These same digital camera systems can be utilized to inspect your water, heating and drain pipes.

In Closing – While your home should bring your family and your joy, pride, and comfort, homes can be full of surprises! Weather, deterioration, wear and the effects of time can cause the systems in your home to break down. Sometimes these conditions can develop suddenly. Even the most careful homeowners could have home-related issues that require immediate attention without even knowing it. While attempting DIY solutions is often tempting, in most cases the inspections and solutions to problems are best left to professionals.

As Lifehacker points out, “DIY home improvements can definitely be very rewarding, both in terms of saving money and the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel as you turn your living space into your dream home. Choose the wrong projects, however, and all your time and effort will be wasted—not to mention you’ll end up paying more to have the work redone correctly. Also, some improvements are just plain dangerous for regular homeowners (even experienced DIYers) to do themselves.”

Bottom Line

Inspecting your entire home annually.A forensic, in-depth, comprehensive home inspection, should be conducted by a team of professionals who are able to assess whether or not the major structures and systems in a house are functioning safely and efficiently.

And that’s what the PPR WatchDog can do for you!!