Well Begun Is Half Done

Well Begun Is Half Done

By Adam Snitzer / Published February 2023

Photo by iStockphoto.com/felixmizioznikov

Aristotle said, “Well begun is half done,” and Julie Andrews made the proverb famous when she said it in her 1964 Oscar winning role as the magical Mary Poppins.

     These ageless words of wisdom are especially true for construction projects, particularly those undertaken to restore and repair high-rise condominiums, such as concrete restoration, roofing, waterproofing, mechanical system, life safety system, and interior beautification projects.

     For condominium associations, failure to get off to a good start is most often caused by one of two contradictory syndromes. 

      The first is inertia. Some associations simply don’t know how to begin a major restoration project. They’re unsure about what needs to be done, how much it will cost, and how long it will take. While they debate and procrastinate, their buildings’ conditions get worse, and the scope of needed repairs expands, building supplies get more expensive, and the best contractors get even busier.

     The second syndrome is being in a hurry, which can be just as bad. Too many condominium associations rush into expensive renovation projects, hiring design professionals and even general contractors before consulting with their attorneys and without getting guidance from a construction project management owners’ representative.

  As a result associations can find themselves locked into contracts with terms and conditions that are not in their best interests and with design specifications that are not complete. Both problems are likely to lead to costly setbacks down the road, but it’s possible to beat both these syndromes. 

     Any condominium association contemplating a major restoration project should engage two types of professionals to drive their projects forward while at the same time safeguarding their community’s interests. 

     One is a qualified attorney who is experienced in crafting construction contracts between condominium associations and engineers, architects, and general contractors. An experienced condominium attorney will know how to write construction contracts that are in the association’s favor and that will keep the community out of trouble throughout the construction process.

     Another necessary professional is a qualified owners’ representative, who specializes in leading improvement and restoration projects on behalf of a condominium’s board members and unit owners. When an owners’ representative firm is engaged early, they can get the project off to the right start by helping define the project’s full scope, design, and budget. This is critical. An incomplete scope leads to expensive change orders and frequently to claims and disputes that result in cost overruns and delays. Experienced owners’ representatives agree that the time to achieve savings and reduce changes is in the early stages of the project, not at the start of construction or, even worse, during construction itself.

     An owners’ representative, like an attorney, will bring the sort of experience and critical thinking that can protect the association’s interests while also getting the restoration project started, keeping it on track, and maintaining the budget. If this sounds expensive, it’s not.

     In fact, what’s expensive is not working with an owners’ representative. Most association board members aren’t construction professionals. So, because of their inexperience, it’s all too easy to make mistakes that unnecessarily cost communities hundreds of thousands of dollars. Without experts to guide you, the following are likely to occur:

  • Your construction documents may be incomplete or confusing, leading to costly change orders.
  • You choose a general contractor based primarily on price without enough consideration for the long-term quality of their workmanship and value of their warranties.
  • You sign a construction contract that inadequately protects the association, exposing you to delays and extra charges.
  • You fail to properly manage project logistics, resulting in costly do-overs.
  • You miss opportunities to protect your association from inflation through vendor negotiations and advance purchasing of building materials.
  • You accept product specifications from your engineer without exploring lower cost alternatives that will do the job just as well.

     Therefore, condominium communities can often save in multiple ways on the professional services fees they pay to their owners’ representative. The savings come from four distinct areas:

  1. Owners’ representatives have extensive relationships with design professionals, contractors, and construction vendors and a deep knowledge of going rates in the marketplace and experience negotiating rates that benefit an association.
  2. Owners’ representatives are experts in construction and can often recommend less costly alternative means and methods in the restoration process.
  3. Qualified owners’ representatives know how to attract and negotiate more competitive pricing from all involved.
  4. Owners’ representatives know how to collaborate with attorneys to craft and negotiate construction contracts that are written to reduce costly change orders, and they know how to enforce the terms of those contracts.
  5. Owners’ representatives know how to keep tight control on the millions of dollars that flow between the parties of a major restoration project. They work with an association’s property management company to ensure strict verification of vendor payment applications.

     Together, these types of savings can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more on a condominium restoration project.

     Aristotle and Mary Poppins were right. A condominium improvement or restoration project well begun is half done.

Adam Snitzer

Chief Financial Officer, DSS Condo, LLC

     Adam Snitzer is chief financial officer of DSS Condo, LLC, South Florida’s only construction project management/owners’ representative firm specializing exclusively in serving condominium and homeowners communities. “What I love most about my job,” he says, “is the way we save our clients so much money.” He can be reached via email at adam@dsscondo.com. For more information about DSS Condo, visit www.dsscondo.com.