Guest Post: Doing Your Own Site Management

Have you been trying to decide whether to manage your own site development? Most of our clients decide to manage it themselves. In fact, we only manage about 30% of our client sites. And when it comes to managing your own site development, there are a few things you should consider. I’ve asked a client to write a guest post on this hot topic. I think he makes some great points. I hope you agree!

Friends – meet Steven, proud NDI Homeowner since August 2014.

As my wife said in her earlier blog post, we were excited when we learned that building a custom house was financially possible. We knew what we wanted, we collaborated the home design with NDI, and the question of site work came up; will we be handling it ourselves or will we want NDI to manage it for us? In my early research, I’d already contacted contractors and had a general idea of what needed to be done; I felt that I could handle it. Given some of our desired house upgrades and because I also really wanted to save money, we decided I would manage the site work myself. I’m the type of person that likes to be involved in projects and know every little detail so it was a win-win… or so I thought.

There are many advantages to doing the management yourself besides saving money:
– Learning a lot about the process (hopefully I’ll be able to help someone build their own dream house either through this post or a friend in the future)
– Being involved
– Being able to research company reviews and make the final decision of who to contact

Those advantages come with related disadvantages:
– “Learning about the process” means not knowing much to begin with. An experienced company like NDI knows about procedures/timeframes/methods/etc., where I had to research, brainstorm, and learn as I went. I’d imagine this may have caused a little behind-the-scenes frustration with some of my contractors.
– Being involved with everything means… being involved with everything. My commute gave me time to deal with contractors and make calls as necessary, but questions rarely come up before 9 or after 5. The contractors are working those times too, so when they had an issue, I had to deal with it. Luckily I have a fairly flexible job; I was able to take time to deal with issues and just make up the hours. Not everyone has this luxury.
– Doing your research, talking to NDI, and asking around can only get you so far compared to direct experience. In the end, I made some pretty good choices with the contractors, but I also made some bad ones: which leads me to the biggest tip I can offer…

Don’t skimp on Engineering.

I’d say “don’t skimp on contractors,” but there’s always a more expensive contractor and sometimes the cheap ones are great, too. Site Engineering is the lifeblood of the whole site work process in my opinion, though. Jennifer has devoted a very well detailed post to this, and I am first-hand proof that if you have bad engineering done, you’ll incur more problems than you can imagine. A simple “oops, we took the measurements wrong” can turn into clearing more trees, moving the silt fence, re-engineering, re-grading, another round or two with the county, and many other issues.

Ask me how I know!

It was an honest mistake, but I can’t help thinking that if I’d gone with a better engineer, they wouldn’t have taken the wrong measurements or they would have at least caught the mistake before our footers were poured. In the end, the house being in the “wrong” place wasn’t a major issue for any other reason than cost. The engineer covered some costs, but it ended up being like a whole new site plan. We had to make more decisions which resulted in additional non-essential work which, you guessed it – ended up costing more money. To reiterate, whether or not you decide to do your own site work, if you have to skimp in a few areas, don’t skimp on the Engineering.

If you have the time, the know-how, and/or the desire to manage the site work yourself, know that it’ll be a lot of work. Also know that there are benefits to you putting the work in. And don’t worry; NDI will be there for you if you have any questions. They recently updated their site work guide which has a lot of answers as well! If you’re unsure or don’t think you can handle another twenty decisions in the process, I’m sure NDI would be more than happy to manage them for you.

Good luck and happy building!

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