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Old 02-10-2011, 12:13 AM   #1
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Anyone used a project manager instead of GC?

Hi folks, first time user here so please bear with me.

We're about to begin a fairly major remodeling job (5000sf house). We have the architectural drawings done, but had a hard time finding a GC with terms/prices we like. The GCs that bid on our project gave us fairly detailed breakouts of the subs' bids, but they were just all over the place. For example, one GC would quote $75k for painting while another guy would quote $40k. But the guy with the cheaper painter would quote $75k for electricals while the other guy would quote $50k for electricals. All the GC's claim they're using the best subs out there - I just wish I could mix & match them and that alone would drop the pricetag by 30%. Anyway, you get the drift.

So we were thinking - if we got to pick the subs ourselves we can probably save quite a bit of money. But neither of us have done a renovation in the past, so the task is a bit daunting. Someone suggested to us that maybe we could run the project with a Project Manager that gets paid a straight fee (flat fee, % or hourly), and his entire job is to act as a GC would normally act, with the main exceptions being that we have final say on which subs to hire, and he doesn't have to take any financial risk.

Now, we know we're not qualified to manage the project ourselves so we have no interest in GC-ing this puppy. We are very organized and good with #s. Our goals are to put a "price check" on all the subs, and secondarily, to remove financial risk from the PM/GC so that he doesn't need to put in extra layers to protect himself. We'll be funding the project with cash and don't need to move into the house in a hurry.

So my question to the good folks here is, has anyone tried this approach before? Any advice for us on
1. things we should be concerned about or aware of
2. things we should do to make sure that the project runs smoothly
3. where/how do we find quality subs?
4. is this overall approach a good idea or bad idea?

We'll ask the PM/GC and architect to provide some sub references, but we'd also like to find our own subs to bid for each function as well, to make sure everyone stays honest.

Thanks everyone!!!



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Old 02-10-2011, 04:34 AM   #2
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I think it may turn into a project where you spend a dollar to save a dime.

A PM could work, and as far as I know perform similar functions, but I never really hear of a PM outside of large commercial or multi-residential jobs. If you find a PM familiar with and experienced in renovations I'd be interested in hearing about it. (not that I doubt you, I just like hearing of things I haven't seen before)

I think it may be in your best interest to have a GC that knows his subs and their ins and outs, and how to co-ordinate them.
Often, especially on larger jobs you will likely require more than just specialty subs, but there will be times where you may need just some general skilled labor and some general carpentry work that a GC would typically take care of too.

Are you going to take the time to research every sub, look at past work, take bids from them? How will you even know when you have a good one?
How are you going to discern a good electrical sub from a bad one? Or plumber, geothermal, hvac, drywall, etc...? Do you know what to look for and what to look out for? We can offer help and opinions, but I don't think anyone on a forum would be able (or even willing) to help you that much.

When you're paying for a project you are not just paying for a finished project, it's not a commodity, you are also paying for the level of service and the process, among other things. Are your current GCs proposals coming in around the same price?
If you don't like the prices or GCs you are talking with now, why not look at another one?

As far as saving money by trying to hire your own subs:
You may end up not saving money or paying more. Getting advice on a forum is like askign for short-term investing advice on a forum. I can't tell you what to do to save money just like I can't tell you what stocks to invest in to make money even if I have a great "pick" or "hot tip" if you don't pull out at the right moment you won't make anything (or worse). I can't tell you you'll save money by choosing your own subs because you might not. What if one of the subs you choose turns out to be a deadbeat and it ends up stalling your whole project?

I can tell you that on average every time I have worked for a customer that was trying to save money without (and sometimes despite) input from myself or another professional, they ended up paying more in the long run.

It's late at night so I am likely not typing completely coherently, so I'll just conclude my post for now and reread this in the morning and wonder what it was I was trying to say exactly

So, the answer is yes, you may end up saving money, but you will be putting in a lot more work to do it, and taking on more risk.

How much is your time worth to you?


Last edited by fungku; 02-10-2011 at 04:44 AM.
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Old 02-10-2011, 07:23 AM   #3
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First of all...nice post Fungku. I agree with you

I worked as a PM for a GC in residential & light commercial.
The GC was always my go to guy when I needed resources.
He was known by everyone in town. He could call and get people or products very quickly and many times cheaper than I could.
He was sometimes very hands-on when we needed an equipment repair or a problem solved.
In your case, where you're trying to bypass the GC, the PM has to be hands on and a problem solver. Not a white collar who blames the subs or the vendors for all the things going wrong.

Do I think you'll save money? .....maybe
Do I think you're setting everyone up for a fall? ....probably

You WILL end up being the GC. Make sure you have the resources..........

Last edited by tcleve4911; 02-10-2011 at 07:26 AM.
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Old 02-10-2011, 10:51 AM   #4
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What you need is an experienced GC willing to wear two hats. Depending on the agreement it's not as uncommon as one may think.

The only problem you will have is what you said......
"but we'd also like to find our own subs to bid for each function as well, to make sure everyone stays honest."

Find a quality oriented GC that you trust and it's a home-run for both of you.
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:37 AM   #5
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What would you expect to pay such an individual to PM a project?

What exactly would you expect of that individual, have you written any of your expectations down in the form of a scope of work?

Did you do a scope of work when requesting pricing from a GC.

Without a SOW either for a PM or a GC your pricing will be all over the map.

If you do choose to go the route of a PM, the first step for that individual is to write all scopes for all trades and review that with you to ensure that is EXACTLY what you want.

Then a schedule, then pricing based on the schedule and allotted time frames for each task, ensuring there is some float in that schedule in event that something doesn't happen in time.

I am sure you can see where this is going, stick with a GC, put your requests in writing so there is absolutely no confusion as to what you expect, find a GC that you are comfortable with, not necessarily the least expensive.

A good PM will charge as much or more than a GC, I don't believe there would be any saving to be had going that route.

When its all said and done there is usually more said than done
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Old 02-10-2011, 02:07 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jackofall1 View Post
A good PM will charge as much or more than a GC, I don't believe there would be any saving to be had going that route.
I was thinking the same thing. They may charge a smaller % because a lot of the jobs they are involved in are in the millions, they are making money. But to do the same job on a single-family home they would have to charge similar (or more) than a GC. People are in business to make money no matter what business it is. Like Orson said in another thread. For the average GC it is typical to have a 10% profit goal, and usually is 7%. realized.

As far as which GC to hire look at their past work, which one do you like the most?

When my wife was choosing a wedding photographer, price was an issue but not as much as the picture quality. We were looking at 3 different photographers she had found or recommended to her. We were concerned about price but in the end went with the most expensive option because my wife liked the vibrant colors and photos. Every photographer had their own style and their own price and they were all good in their own way.

We didn't ask each one what kind of cameras they use, what type of lenses they use, or what post-processing software and start trying to mix and match to get the same results for a cheaper price.

Find a GC that you like, whose work you like and has good references. You are much more likely to end up with the project you're dreaming about then trying to wrangle the project together yourself.

Last edited by fungku; 02-10-2011 at 02:10 PM.
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Old 02-10-2011, 02:47 PM   #7
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Is it possible that you could give us the details on the biggest single item that involves some serious thought on what you want . Forget about the painting, the electric, the HVAC. A picture of the area would be nice.
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Old 02-11-2011, 05:51 AM   #8
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bear in mind a project manager can't pull permits OR build the work because of no license,,, the idea of using 1 to save $ will, undoubtedly, come back to bite you in the a**,,, you aren't experienced & this is serious work involving knowledge, experience, & much planning,,, i know it looks great on tv shows & the romantic adventure is appealing,,, in the end, you'll wind up suing yourself for sub-standard work, living in a structure you hate, &/or seeing a marriage counselor

i was a laborer, foreman, superintendent, project eng, & proj mgr before becoming an owner & licensed gc yet i have no dog in your fight,,, either change your budget, find another gc, or rescale your work - no one can fit 5gal into 4gal buckets,,, perhaps you just need clerk of the works who will do your bidding for an hourly rate
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Old 02-11-2011, 07:19 AM   #9
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Regardless who does the work, and yes, even Jesus Christ would have problems along the way with your project. The more your personally involved with your project, the more bitter you will become. The best you can do is deal with someone who has patience and has a record of seeing a job through, and a happy customer base. Some of the very best of workers that I've come across had drinking problems,and family problems, and a bad attitude, just the way it is. You the owner, should make darn sure every trade has insurance, and don't take their word for it, you want proof. By the way your handle "pulpit" kind of tells me your a preacher,not meaning any dis-respect mind you , but if thats the case, I wouldn't do any preaching when the painters are there. (just a little humor).
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Old 02-11-2011, 08:22 AM   #10
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GC vs PM

First of all find reputable GCs in your area give the same bid documents to 4 or 5 of them get the bids then research each one and pick the one you are comfortable with in person and price.

Don't waste money on a PM why? it's difficult to hold them responsible for anything. The GC you pick is responsible for he entire job including SUBS, just make sure you check everything out,IE: references, insurance, material, completion dates, final product.

Remember changes after the contracts are signed cost a FORTUNE.
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Old 02-11-2011, 10:08 AM   #11
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Find a gc with a good reputation, BUT, check to see who is giving him the reputation! Some people with absolutely no idea of construction will give a contractor top marks for being a nice guy.
You need someone you can talk to, contact directly, and who is willing to provide his subs certificate of insurance details. Too many times a sub will hire people under the counter. When that employee gets hurt and finds he's not covered by workers comp, he'll go after the gc...and then you!


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