talking about….construction

Moon_logoOne of the most stressful things in the world is construction.  I am in the midst of four personal construction projects right now.  Talk about stress.  I would not recommend doing four projects at once but in my case it just happened that way.  As Fred says "but you are so good at it.".  Shoot me.

I was born with an incredible skill…the ability to make decisions quickly and never look back.  That skill is probably the reason I am able to juggle all the moving parts.  It is a serious gift.  I figure that if I make a mistake I can always make another decision.

I just wrapped up on one project, phase 1 and am moving into phase 2.  The reason I am writing this post is to share what I have learned along the way.  Keep in mind that phase 1 finished on time and under budget.  How did that happen?  Most people laugh at you when you tell them you will be done by such and such a date.  I am here to tell you that it is possible to get it done. 

I rarely talk about this particular investment.  I am an investor in the Moon Group.  I am actually the only investor in the Moon Group  That is a story in itself.  They are the key to my success in real estate projects but what I have learned from them can be applied to any project even if you are doing it yourself.

Before I get to what I have learned about construction projects, I want to talk about the Moon Group.  Many years ago, we built our first home in NYC.  As we were attempting to wrap up the project our contractor brought in this guy, Rich Moon, to finish the project.  I called him the sweeper because he was able to bring everyone to the finish line, quickly.  I was impressed and totally hit it off with him.  His mouth and attitude were comparable to mine.  At that point of my life I was trying to figure out what to do next.  I'd come home with a yoga mat under my arm most days while he was getting shit done.  Hmmm, maybe we should go into business together and i'd be a real estate developer.  Ok, that didn't happen. 

Fast forward we sell our place and we build another and I call Rich because there is no way I was going to do a project without him by my side.  Before that he becomes the guy who builds the Gramercy Hotel and then during our project he is hired to build the Standard Hotel.  Not physically build it but be the guy who makes sure shit is getting done.  An owners rep per se, the person you want watching out for you, the number one on the job. 

Keeping on top of the projects is key.  I mean talking to the construction head every single day.  Having a face to face meeting once a week with an agenda.  Buying a lot of the long term lead items yourself because most construction companies float cash so even if you think that they have purchased that hood for your kitchen stove, they haven't.  Things are late not because they are late but because they didn't buy them on time.  Ask your contractor how complete the architects drawings are before shaking hands on the cost.  Guaranteed they aren't 90% done but more like 70% so that 30% ends up not being a fixed cost but a work in progress.  Set goals and dates.  Give a bonus if finished on time that is paid in cash directly to the contractor.  Have a contract that allows you to opt out if goals are not completed.  When things slow down it is probably because subs are not being paid. It is not a exact business each project takes a life on to itself.  I am just getting started. 

This is not an easy business and I am no doubt incredibly lucky to have found Rich who has hired incredible people to run our projects and all of his other clients ( hotels,offices, apartments and homes).  Yet he has proven that you can be on time and on budget.  BTW, on one of our projects the contractor just wasn't hitting the high notes.  What did we do?  Fire them and hire someone else.  On Monday they were fired and on Tuesday the other company jumped in already knowing each sub who was working on the job so we didn't miss a beat.  That is impressive.

Am I looking forward to all these projects being over….for sure.  Is there no doubt that our projects will be on time and on budget….for sure.  Do I hope that what I have learned I can pass on to anyone doing a construction project…absolutely.   What will I come up with to fill the time on these projects….relax??



Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    Success is the journey.. 🙂

  2. kirklove

    I’m stressing over our modest little apt project. Damn sam, you’re crazy girl. Best of luck. 

  3. Ryan Drew

    Rich Moon = Winston WolfWe recently completed renovations. Finding someone who is punctual and you trust is crucial, but difficult, and can be very time consuming. Absolutely worth delaying the start of a project to find the right contractor.

  4. rebeccastees

    Fortunately, my construction manager (and friend) is very decisive.    I learn a lot from her…… that I don’t have to get too hung up and that I can keep on making decisions.    I like your idea of giving a bonus for projects completed on time!

  5. Lally Rementilla

    Great post!  Will share with my husband who deals with contractors.  We were lucky with the crew we found for a basement dig but these nuggets will definitely come in handy if we want to do other work.

  6. Thomas Vladeck

    Two questions for ya. Bear in mind that I am not really familiar with the construction industry so there may be very simple answers to these questions. (1) Why don’t you structure contracts with the contractors such that you pay directly for the items they will have to purchase (so that you can be sure that it is bought & delivered on time)?and/or(2) Why don’t you demand that the contractors keep a segregated account for your project, and give you visibility into it, so that you can make sure that the money you spend on the project gets spent on the project? 

    1. Gotham Gal

      We do have contracts that are open books…and I also buy the items directly so in answer to both your questions, we do both in our contracts. There is more transparency and a little more control.

  7. ellen

    It is all about choosing a good  construction manager and excellent subs who take pride in their work.  I try to always buy my own materials as I know they will be exactly what I want for the price I want to pay.  There is nothing like having a floor guy that  doesn’t   really  cull the wood for stains or bad pieces. Clear and a  wood has lots of imperfections.  If you buy lots of extra and don’t mind throwing out bad pieces or donating them  you get the best finishes. Same with marble and tile.  Buy the best but buy lots of extra.

  8. ellen

    I just went onto the Moon site.  He does fantastic work. I love the Perry Street bathroom tile.  He has great attention to detail.

    1. Gotham Gal

      he has an amazing eye. we have walked through projects together and see things that nobody else sees. a gift and a curse at the same time.

  9. ShanaC

    I love this line ” It is a serious gift.  I figure that if I make a mistake I can always make another decision.”Words to live by.  Totally true

    1. You As A Machine

      Agreed. To not being afraid to fail – To landing on our feet – The excitement is in the challenge which is why new projects never cease. 

  10. Rohan

    Knock knock. What happened? 

    1. Gotham Gal

      exhausting weekend…taking a few days hiatus.

      1. Rohan

        Ah. Hope you get some rest then! If you haven’t watched Modern Family yet, now is the time! Would hasten your return to energy..Happy week!  🙂