Capital Improvement Projects Part 2

February 26, 2013

We talked last week about contracting with a building engineering/construction management firm to help manage capital improvement projects for condominiums.  Let’s take a closer look at what the specialized companies can do and how much easier your project goes when they’re around.

A construction management company can prepare your bid specifications for you including specifications for building coatings.  As technology and materials improve, these management firms know what works and what doesn’t work for your application.

A construction management company will know quality companies to bid your project with.

A construction management company will handle the day to day management of the project as it relates to the approved vendors.  It will be the responsibility of the board of directors and the management company to manage the owners and contract vendors (landscape maintenance, pool maintenance).high-rise painting

A good construction management company will provide you with the facts in easy to understand language, giving the Board of Directors the pros and cons of coatings or companies.

Before hiring a construction management company for your next capital improvement project ask for references.  Everyone can have a flashy website with pictures of oceanfront condominiums on their pages but asking for references and contacting those references can help find the right company.  As you know, this project is not just some building, it’s your home and the home of several others.  When contacting references, ask them how well did the construction management company accommodate the owners?  Was enough notice provided for unit access?  Or did the project manager just barge in.

When contracting with a construction management firm trying to find the right balance between professionalism and accommodation can be challenging.  Capital improvement projects are never at the top of anyone’s list of things to endure, but the right construction management company can make it run as smooth as possible.



Effectively Managing a Capital Improvement Project

February 19, 2013

What is a capital improvement project?  According to Investopedia, a capital improvement is “The addition of a permanent structural improvement or the restoration of some aspect of a property that will either enhance the property’s overall value or increases its useful life. Although the scale of the capital improvement can vary, capital improvements can be made by both individual homeowners and large-scale property owners.”  What does that mean to you exactly?

If you live in a homeowners association, a capital improvement will be something along the lines of replacing an entry sign, replacing or adding perimeter fencing, adding a playground, paving, replacing entry gates, the list can go on and on. It is recommended that capital improvement projects be placed out for competitive bidding after settling on a design or plan.  In some counties, building permits are required depending on what is being done and it will be up to the Board of Directors to determine who will be responsible, either the selected vendor or a member of the Board.

When dealing with town home or condominium associations, something to consider is contracting with an engineering and construction management firm.  While it adds to the bottom line cost of the improvement, there are a number of reasons an association can benefit from the additional expense.

During the housing boom through the 2000’s, condominiums and town homes were being constructed at an incredibly fast rate to keep up with the demand.  As a result, corners were cut and certain construction elements were missed.  Municipal building inspectors were also under pressure to pass buildings and issue certificates of occupancy so these owners could take up residence in their new digs.  The result was building defects rearing their ugly heads years after the builder left, and in some instances, declared bankruptcy and closed up shop.  Examples of these building defects would be roofs not attached correctly, plumbing under slabs not draining, no fire sprinkler systems in attics, the list can go on and on.

Engaging the services of a construction management firm can make the difference in having a project run smoothly and one that is disruptive and drawn out.  Some are sitting there scratching their heads wondering why the management company wouldn’t include that in their management fee.  The answer is that most association management companies are business managers and are ill-equipped or knowledgeable enough to understand what all of it means. Multi-story buildings have many systems designed into them such as elevators, pumps and fire sprinkler systems that your association manager only has a cursory knowledge of. Ideally, spending the money on a construction management firm can improve the outcome of your project and the maintenance thereafter.

Vendors-How to get in front of the right people

February 12, 2013

Landscape, pool contractors and handymen often ask “How can I get more business from the management company?”  The answer is sometimes complicated and sometimes not.  The complicated answer is make sure you have all the requisite liability insurance and business licenses, leave us some information about your company and the next time a contract comes up for bid we’ll let you know.  The simple answer is being in the right place at the right time.

The management company does not award a contract for services.  The management company only solicits qualified bids based on what the association or Board of Directors is looking for. Lets take landscape maintenance for example.  For a fairly large contract in excess of $1000 per month, if the existing landscape maintenance company performs adequately, that contract may not be bid out for some time. The same holds true for pool maintenance.  No amount of cajoling or enticements will afford you the opportunity to bid if the existing company is doing its job.

When the association manager does request a bid, he/she should make sure that all bids are uniform, meaning they all bid on the same specifications.  For landscape maintenance it should included “x” number of cuts per year, fertilization treatments, pest control treatments and irrigation repairs. Once the bids are received they are then forwarded to the Board of Directors for consideration at a Board meeting.  It is entirely possible that no decision is made or a Board member would like for ABC Company to submit a bid and it all has to wait for another month for a decision.  A low ball bid doesn’t help your cause much either as low bids tend to be scrutinized more.

For intermittent service, it’s more about being available and performing quality work.  Intermittent service or on demand service usually is awarded based on a relationship of some sort.  Either the manager knows you and your work or a member of the Board knows you and knows your work.  They’re willing to stick their neck out for you if you can resolve their crisis in short order. If you perform quickly and admirably with a price that’s acceptable, more work will come your way.

We will continue to visit this topic in the coming weeks and touch on insurance and capital improvements.  The bottom line is for contract vendors, start now developing relationships.  While association managers do not award contracts they hold the key to future projects.  Staying in constant touch with them could pay dividends down the line.

Don’t be fooled just yet

February 5, 2013

Back in November, we talked here on this blog about how to winterize your lawn.  Because our weather here in North Florida varies from mild to wild and everything in between, maybe we should visit the other end of the spectrum.

When the weather is as nice as its been, it is terribly tempting to get out and start prepping the lawn in February and get a head start on that yard of the month competition. Be careful though.  More than once have we received freezing weather in March and all of that fertilizing, dethatching and early mowing has just made your lawn a potential freeze victim.  The victim will typically not start showing any signs of damage until June when the chinch bugs invade and your lawn turns from beautiful and green to brown and bare.

A good rule of thumb here in Northeast Florida is to not apply any fertilizers or start any significant lawn maintenance until the second week of March (right around Bike Week). By that time the threat of freezing weather has essentially passed and your lawn shouldn’t suffer any ill effects over the course of the long, hot summer.

While we’re waiting on a tweet back from a local landscape maintenance company on their opinion about watering your lawn during a freeze for that pretty “iced over” appearance, let’s hear your opinion.  What are your spring time lawn maintenance ritual?

After checking in with the lawn maintenance pros, Clay Brewer of Nuvision Landscape and Tex Davis of C.B. Murphy Lawn Service, the consensus was that ice on the lawn is not a bad thing provided you don’t walk on it.  However, Tex did say that the additional weight of ice on shrubs will cause limbs and branches to break.  Things to consider the next time you are looking for your own winter wonderland.