Flying Solo Hiring Contractors in Self-Managed Buildings

So you've noticed your building's façade has lost its luster, or maybe the entryway needs a complete renovation. Before you rush out and hire the first contractor listed in the Yellow Pages, there are many aspects of repair and construction board members self-managing their own buildings should consider. Among the questions you should ponder: Do we need to have an architect or an engineer? How do we find the most qualified contractor for the job? What will construction mean for residents? The steps below may be of help when you're a board on your own and you're faced with renovations, repairs, or new construction.

The Advantage of Hiring Professionals

First things first: Without a managing agent to do the bulk of the legwork vetting out prospective contractors and laborers, it might be to your board's advantage to hire a consultant - often an architect or engineer.

Eugene Ferrara of consulting engineers JMA Consultants in North Bergen, N.J., thinks that the need for retaining a consultant depends on the job. For a major project - such as a complete lobby renovation, or a job that will affect the structure of the building - he thinks boards "should have the guidance of a competent consultant."

Something to consider: Ferrara says that independent boards that work with consultants on major projects usually end up with a completed job that lasts longer. According to Ferrara, projects undertaken without the benefit of a pre-project consultation tend to last between five and seven years, whereas when a consultant is involved in the process, the finished product is much more likely to last longer; often closer to 20 years. Why? A consultant can help you decipher the ins and outs of a complicated project, and he or she may be able to help your board make a decision in the best interest of the building. A consultant can shed some light on aspects of the project you may have overlooked or misunderstood, and in the end, this saves money. To make sure your consultant has the appropriate license(s), check with the State Education Department.

Jason Fox, the president and owner of Astral Construction in Bergenfield, N.J., thinks it's financially beneficial to the board to hire an architect on an hourly basis. It's important, he says, for the architect to maintain his or her objectivity on a project, and that may be difficult to do if the architect is paid a percentage of the total project (which can be anywhere from six to ten percent of a project's cost).


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