Clearly Written Narratives for Framing Extras

            During construction of the sales models for multi-unit production housing the total dollar amount for carpentry framing extras, resulting from owner’s changes as well as corrections for architectural and structural engineering mistakes, can total in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars depending upon the extent of these revisions.

            It simplifies the payment approval process in the field by the jobsite superintendent in terms of the recollection of past events, if each submittal for a framing extra to the contract contains a short narrative of exactly what the extra work entailed.

            This narrative should include the sales model unit or lot number, the reason for the extra work, who initiated the extra, the number of hours involved and the names of the framing carpenters doing the work, the hourly wage rate of these carpenters, and the cost of the materials.

            The jobsite superintendent or project manager can thus review and approve framing extras for the sales models, which can be numerous and extensive, without setting up two-hour meetings in the construction trailer with the framing contractor and their field foreman to verbally discuss the details and justification behind each individual extra each time a group of framing extras is submitted for payment.

            This narrative requirement should be included in the conditions for extras approval stated in the framing subcontract and verbally discussed upfront before the start of the work.

            It should be self-explanatory in its wording to enable the framing contractor to be able to meet this time-saving requirement for the builder. 

            If the field superintendent or project manager cannot understand the framing extra from the narrative, it should be returned to the framing contractor for more clarification.

            This general approach should be extended to all other subcontractors as well. 

            If extras are required to be submitted on standard change order forms supplied by the builder, this is an opportunity to state on the change order form the requirement for a detailed description of the extra work, in blank spaces labeling the information specifics required by the builder as briefly listed above, and any other required information that is project-specific and/or builder-specific. 

Revise Contracts After the Sales Models

            Every housing construction project is slightly different, and it is difficult to anticipate and cover every activity in the subcontracts. Some items are missed on the plans, some changes are made to the houses by the company owners or the interior design/marketing department, and some things are determined to be unnecessary and thus dropped.

            All these changes generate paperwork for the jobsite superintendent because they are not covered in the contracts and people must be paid for their work.

            After the sales models are complete, and during the purchasing stage prior to the start of the first phase of the production units for large projects, the subcontracts should be revised to include changes and extra work added to the construction so that the additional paperwork does not carry through the entire project.

            If the amount of extra work-order paperwork, time-and-material monitoring, and accounting are kept to the absolute minimum, the jobsite superintendent can then be out in the field running the construction rather than stuck in the trailer filling-out paperwork. 

Resolve Questions During Models Phase

            The construction of the sales models should be used as a trial-run to identify and solve problems before starting construction of the production units.  The sales model construction is the time to investigate and solve design, scheduling, and coordination problems.

            Equally important is the cooperation of the city building inspectors in anticipating and identifying building code and engineering questions on the plans. 

            The builder should encourage the raising of any questions and issues the inspector may have during the construction of the four or five sales models, so that these are resolved once the construction starts on the 50, 100, or 200 production units.

            The builder should take the lead and encourage the debugging of the models through the use of requests for information (RFIs) to the architect and structural engineer, constructability analysis of the plans, and the input of the city building inspector.

            If the builder instead rushes through the sales model construction to get into the start of the production units, any unresolved problems only multiply over several units rather than a single sales model floor plan. 

            If unresolved problems still exist in the plans, a change of building inspectors midway through the production units only exposes some latent/hidden issue that could and should have been identified and resolved earlier during the sales model construction.

            The production schedule can then be held up resolving problems on several repeating units, sometimes affecting several trades…creating a ripple effect of debugging part-way through the production phase rather than problem resolution confined to a single sales model unit.

            Finally, for multi-unit production tract housing and condominiums, changes to the sales models in terms of problems identification and resolution, and owner’s changes to the floor plans should be memorialized in revised sets of plans re-submitted to the city or county plan checking department.

            These revised plans reflect the changes and corrections before the production phase begins. 

            Some cities and counties will not allow the production construction to begin until revised plans are complete, so that their inspectors are looking at the revised plans rather than old plans plus a number of architectural or engineering field memos or “cut-sheets.”

            Old, outdated plans plus addendums, cut-sheets, and memos get to be too confusing for the building construction and the building inspectors to follow.

Install a Panic Button in the Sales Models Office

            When the project sales office has a security system, it is a good practice for the builder to have a panic button connected to the security system on the land-line telephone so the salesperson can summon help quicker than dialing 911 on their smart phone.

            Some new housing projects are located out in the middle of uninhabited areas, and sales offices are open for business during weekends until 5 or 6 PM.

            When a lone female salesperson is working the sales office, the secluded conditions of the location place that person at risk.

            When a button on the telephone can set-off the security alarm and summon the police to the project, the salesperson can quickly call for help if a problem develops, using the panic button or their smart phone whichever is faster in terms of accessibility.

Collect Samples for the Sales Office

            For multi-unit tract housing and condominiums, one of the things the builder should orchestrate during the construction of the sales models is the collection of finish materials to be featured on display within the sales office.

            Such items as door casing, detailed baseboard, bull-nose drywall cornerbead, bathroom sinks with the plumbing fixtures installed, doorknob hardware, and other featured materials are sometimes mounted on display boards by the interior designer and placed within the sales office as a sales tool.

            Consider this activity item with the sales department and the interior designer before the start of the construction, so these materials can be procured from the various vendors and subcontractors in a timely manner.

            Pre-planning is better than coming up with this idea as an afterthought, then rushing to get these materials to the interior designer in time for the sales office grand opening.

Sell the Sales Models As-Is

            Sales model units receive thousands of prospective buyers throughout the course of a large multi-unit project.

            This amount of traffic creates wear-and-tear in these units in a variety of ways. 

            The builder should sell the sales models on an as-is basis.  Most sales models are decorated with wallpaper, wall treatments, optional decorator features, and upgraded flooring.  Sometimes sales models are purchased with all of the furniture.

            For these reasons the sales model prices are often negotiated with the homebuyer.  Like a demonstration automobile with low mileage at a car dealership, the homebuyer must understand that the sales models are slightly used. 

            The builder wants to avoid a purchaser demanding that entire areas of vinyl flooring be replaced in the kitchen, for example, because of a small cigarette burn discovered after move-in and occupancy.

            The builder should not intimate to the buyers that the sales models will be brought up to the standard of quality of the new, untouched by sales traffic, production units.

            For the negotiated sale of a model-unit to have any meaning, the words as-is in the sales agreement must mean as-is. 

            This should be the arms-length understanding, even when the builder engages in some final prep-repair work in converting the models into livable units.

Carpet Maintenance for the Sales Office

            Several things can be done to prolong the new look of carpeting in the sales models in spite of the wear-and-tear from sales traffic. 

            The first thing is to place wipe-off mats at the entry doors to each model.  These mats should be washable, and they should be cleaned often.  Mats at the entry doors intercept dirt before people can track it into the models and onto the carpeting.

            The second thing is to schedule cleaning of the sales models on Fridays and Mondays of each week.  Models are cleaned in anticipation of increased weekend sales traffic, and the weekend wear-and-tear to the flooring is then followed up with a Monday cleaning.  This benefits the lighter sales traffic generated during the upcoming week.

            Carpet manufacturers recommend frequent vacuuming as one method to help maintain carpeting.  Not only does the Friday/Monday cleaning schedule get the sales models looking their best for the busiest sales period of the week, but it also gets the carpets vacuumed before and after the heaviest foot traffic period.

            Carpet manufacturers also recommend having the carpets professionally cleaned periodically.  Because of the abuse that sales models carpeting takes from all of the foot traffic, the builder should consult with the interior design center (or the flooring contractor) and the carpet manufacturer directly to determine how often the carpet can be safely cleaned to keep it looking new. 

Warranty Work

            For a multi-unit, two or three-year production housing project the builder should consider budgeting a contingency dollar amount for the one-year warranty period between the builder and the homebuyers, for the converted sales models and the empty inventory units that are sold and occupied long past the completion of the construction.

            After two or three years, some subcontractors might be out of business and not available for customer service repairs.  Some repair items might be due to the wear and tear from the age of the units sitting empty which would not come under the subcontractor’s or manufacturer’s warranty.

            The issues of what is warrantied between the builder and the buyer of sales models, and the length of time the subcontractors are responsible for warranty repair work, needs to be addressed contractually for units that may be sold beyond the standard 12-month warranty period at the close of the construction, for example.   

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