The Days Before Design Build
Over the last 40 years, I have seen many changes in the Austin Home Remodeling industry. In the early days General contractors were the only game in town. Austin design build firms were not even a thing back then. Architects designed, builders built, and customers rolled the dice. In light of our desire to one-stop-shop we can all thank goodness those days are past. We are not out of the woods though.
The struggle to identify and hire a reliable home remodeling contractor is one complicated by impressive web sites and grand promises. At $1.3 Trillion per year, the U.S. construction industry is the largest in the world. It is also the least regulated and the easiest to enter and start a business. Most construction companies are owned and operated by three types of people: Tradespeople, Salespeople, and Entrepreneurs. Individually, none of these skillsets are adequate to safely and effectively manage your project or your money. Still, homeowners give these unqualified individuals tens of millions of dollars in down payments and progression draws every day.
As an example of the dangers the homeowner faces in even a highly regulated city, statistics show that in the city of Houston, Texas more than 4,000 complaints, grievances and lawsuits are brought against LICENSED contractors every year.
Whether a builder’s experience is based in the trades or in sales, few owners of modern building firms possess any type of business degree or even business management knowledge. A well-funded and effective HR department is nearly unheard of in the industry. Most sub-contractors and tradesmen are unemployable, so they work for the only person who will hire them – themselves.
The inexperienced and unprepared building contractor, licensed or not, has to select from these questionable contractors to provide skilled labor for your project. Much of the loss of money and time on a client’s project is directly related to poor hiring decisions by the builder.
It surprises many of our clients when we inform them that most sub-contractors in the building industry are unemployable. Many cannot pass a basic background check; they may not be able to show up on time for a job; others are unable to adhere to the rules and requirements of the conventional workplace.
Clients rarely dedicate any part of their project budget to HR efforts. When selecting a remodeling contractor, the client depends upon his or her gut feelings, online information, and the referrals of strangers to make a huge financial decision.
The Self-Reliant Builder
Cable networks like HGTV and the DIY network have put home improvement at our fingertips. Even the most non-handy husband or wife can take a swipe at sprucing up the old casa with the help of Chip and Joanna or those two brothers.
I am a huge proponent of self-reliance. The more you can do yourself, the better you are at guiding your own destiny. The home improvement industry used to be as exclusive as the medical field back in the day. The Home Depot and Lowes helped along the way. They learned early that there were many more homeowners than there were home builders. They were eager to put those Saturday hammock dozers to work. With the apparent ease the home improvement shows characterized home renovations, overnight the honey do list became way more complex.
After trying their hand at DIY renovation projects, a few of those weekend warriors found that they had a bit of a knack for handyman projects. With the economy what it is, and the large dollar amounts associated with even the simplest remodel project, the idea of turning weekend chores into cold hard cash appealed to many. With no limitations on starting a business, the weekend builder found that tools and a strong back fulfilled about 3/4 of the requirements to start their own company.
The building industry is the 3rd largest in the US. It is also the easiest to enter and start a business in, requiring no licensing, certification, degree, or skill.