Slowly but surely more progress on the house

So it turns out my contractor and I have been misunderstanding each other this whole time.

We thought we were supposed to get in there by the end of February. So did he.

But when I thought get in there by February, I meant that at least one room would be completely finished, including floors and paint, so we could move all of our stuff in and know that construction workers wouldn’t have to go back in there to finish anything else up.

He meant that the electricity would be up and running so we could plug in a space heater. Maybe there would be walls too, if we were lucky.

And would we have to move our stuff around for the construction workers to work?

Well, yeah. Of course.

So this whole time I’ve been trying to push for walls to go up by the 3rd week of February and floors to go in by the last week of February so we could move in by the first week of March, and I found out on last week’s call that “there’s no way that’s going to happen.”

And now it’s come to a point where I can be totally livid about this (which I already tried) or do what my boyfriend did and not be surprised in the least because this is how it’s been the entire time.

My boyfriend described it as the always-just-15-minutes-late syndrome. Our contractor means to do all of these things when he says he’s going to, he just doesn’t actually plan that far enough ahead to get them done when he means to. And so “Sunday probably, and at the latest, Monday” really means Tuesday afternoon he’s still waiting for the garbage trucks to come and get the trash and mid- to late-February really means mid- to late-March that he’s going to be able to get us in there in a way that is actually livable.

And he already knows how generally pissed off I am at him, and maybe being more pissed off isn’t the best way to keep approaching this, mostly to save my own sanity and to spare my boyfriend having to patiently give me the same speech every time we get off the phone with this guy.

So the plumber is there this week and when we went to visit the house yesterday, he gave a non committal grunt when my boyfriend asked him when he thought the hook ups would be done.

We said hi to our contractor, who told us that he was planning to be on site every day now. It’s day 3 since he’s said that and he has so far been at the site.

He showed me that the had fixed a mistake in the framing on the second floor (they had put in a doorway leading to the kitchen when we asked them to leave the wall as open as possible) and that the kitchen was going to be on the side that the bathroom was on so they could share the plumbing. This would also mean all the kitchen appliances wouldn’t be blocking the nice, open entryway they just framed. Which is awesome.

I still plan to bug the guy every day so he knows I am still on top of it. But I plan to freak out (a little) less based on what I hear back (or don’t hear back) from him.

Because at the end of the day, he’s building our house and, well, that’s pretty great.


12 thoughts on “Slowly but surely more progress on the house

  1. We live down the street at the Knick and thought about looking at that exact place before deciding we’re in no way cut out to do what you guys are doing. We just opted for the already finished but smaller place without the yard. Good for you! I was excited to see that place getting worked on and wondered what type of people bought it. I’m glad to see you’re not just there to flip it. Now I’ll be able to properly spy on the renovation!

  2. I saw your article in new york times. I am a broker in austin texas and have done what you are involved in many times. If you do it right and hold contractors to their word (on time and on budget) with a solid paper trail then you will do very well. In Austin there is an horrendous permit process which is the biggest impediment. It seems that its not that big of a deal there. With rats you didn’t have to go through all those issues. Rats here in austin usually climb in on trees so if one puts a wire mesh around all perceived openings and caulk/good stuff then you are good to go. If you have any questions feel free to email me. I go to nyc every once in a while. I have clients from there. Best of luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Oh my gosh, if rats were climbing on trees here, I don’t know if I would have stuck around NYC! Thanks for the feedback and advice, if I run across anything that seems funny, I’ll definitely reach out 🙂

  3. Um…just trying to help here. It looks like your electrician is installing Romex…the yellow cables…into plastic boxes…Last time I checked that isn’t legal in NYC; you should have “BX” which is a brand name for “armored cable” which is flexible cable covered in metal, or if run exposed, straight metal pipe, and all run into metal boxes. My advice is to say nothing to your contractor…get a licensed electrician to look at this job after hours to get an opinion.
    Many, many people get burned with contractors, especially on the low end. You will need to get this work inspected by the City and it all has to pass, or it has to be re-done. You may have issues with everything that was done. I hope you have an architect…and filed for permits.
    Keep your eye on your money, your contractor, your contract with your contractor, and everything else. Good luck!

    • Thanks for the feedback, J! I did a bit of research and found the following on Romex wires (or Non-Metallic Cable or NMC) and it looks like they are now legal in NYC, per below:

      ARTICLE 334 Nonmetallic-Sheathed Cable: Types NM, NMC, and NMS
      SECTION 334.10
      Section 334.10 – Revise to read as follows:
      334.10 Uses Permitted. Type NM, Type NMC, and Type NMS cables shall be permitted to be used in the following:
      (1) One- and two-family dwellings. (2) Multifamily dwellings, except as prohibited in Section 334.12.
      FPN: See Section 310.10 for temperature limitation of conductors.
      SECTION 334.12
      Subsection 334.12(A)(1) – Revise to read as follows:
      (1) In any multifamily dwelling exceeding three floors above grade.
      Subsection 334.12(A)(11) – Add a new subsection 334.12 (A)(11) to read as follows:
      (11) In non-residential buildings.

      Also, since I have a construction loan from the bank, everything has to be by the book, so the contractor doesn’t actually get paid until his work is done and I definitely have an architect and permits:

      Thanks for the advice though, I really appreciate the input! I had no idea there was even a difference between the types of wires!

  4. Good work and good luck!

    I just finished a 4 year process of buying, living in, demolishing and building new in CT. Just the process of getting approval from the town alone cost $8000 and took 6 months.

    One suggestion I’d make is find a friend or friend of friend who is an architect, engineer or accomplished builder (ie: free advice). When you have a question, or at any time during the construction process when you’re unsure of the information being provided by GC or subcontractor, call in your “oracle”. My builder was good but never there, his subs did good to mediocre to terrible work and it was very frustrating. The paper trail is an absolute must, never consider any item too minor to document. Make sure any products, materials etc used in the build have a paper trail (receipts etc) and that the builder gives them to you (warranties etc). A set of plans must be onsite at all times and any changes noted and initialed by GC or Sub.(This is extremely helpful when GC hits you with change order charges) TAKE PICTURES OF EVERYTHING, EVERY TIME SOMETHING CHANGES, FROM DIFFERENT ANGLES/PERSPECTIVES ETC. The pictures will be incredibly helpful in the future if there are problems or insurance issues and as a record of your incredible efforts to build your home. (On you can also print out your entire blog which is cool!!!) AND do not issue final payments until you are satisfied. That will be the most difficult because you will be exhausted and simply want to be done. That’s what they’re hoping for, that’ll they can just slip away with the check. STAND YOUR GROUND!! My house is basically finished but it took just short of a legal battle to get my GC to pay attention. Enjoy your lovely home!

    • Thanks for the insight! I wish I knew someone in NYC who I could ask random questions to (so many things are NYC-specific!), so far, google has been my “oracle” for any questions 🙂

      The weird thing about the 203k loan that I found out is that the contractor is not required to provide any invoices to me or the bank. I asked my loan specialist what the contractor needed to show us (I wanted to see the materials and labor costs breakdown) and she said that they used the contractor’s approved bid as their “invoice” and base the payout on the estimated cost of the particular item and the pictures and report the HUD inspector sends to the house.

      If anything ends up costing more than the estimated amount, the contractor has to request a form to draw from the contingency funds. They also hold back 10% of all payouts until the very end and a final inspection is done. The system definitely has some good and bad aspects to it.

      Totally appreciate your feedback. Definitely trying to take as many pictures as I possibly can!!

      • Hi, my boyfriend and I recently went through the exact same 203k process in Chicago. We found that the process right now is so specific to people who have bought in this market and done 203k’s, that nobody we knew were able to give us any advice that was relevant. So, here’s some info that I wish I had known:

        1) Even though everyone at the bank probably told you that the role of the HUD inspector is to make sure all the work is done properly, it really isn’t. He’s just going to sign off on anything your contractor does. Check everything yourself and do not rely on the HUD inspector to find problems. We were literally told by our HUD inspector that it wasn’t his job to verify that the work was done correctly. When he does his inspections with your GC, insist on being there so you can point out anything you think is questionable to your HUD consultant and have him look at it. The trick is that he actually knows how things are supposed to be done, he’s just not going to personally check and is going to take the GC’s word unless you push the issue.

        2) DO NOT let them close up the walls until you have verified that all plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc work is done properly. I know, right now you’re eager to move in, but you will have no way of proving whether or not the work was done properly, or at all, once the walls are in.

        3) The only leverage you have to make sure the work gets done right is witholding payments. Do not authorize any draws until you are 100% sure whatever work specified in them is done exactly to your specifications. Don’t let them pressure you into just paying now, and they’ll finish up those one or two little things later. They won’t.

        4) Sorry to say this, but you’re not moving in March 1 or April 1. Don’t kid yourself. We bought our home May 15, 2011, thinking we’d be in by July (ha). We didn’t even get the permits until July, and the home wasn’t habitable until March 2012. (That’s 9 months). This, despite the fact that 203k work “can’t” take longer than 6 months. Plan now so you don’t run out of money paying for both rent and mortgage for several more months.

        5) You know you’re going to use the entire contingency, right? Plan for that. (Your GC is already assuming he’s getting that.)

      • @SC (above) – This is SUCH good advice!! We actually closed on the house in August and are already beyond are 6-month time frame. It also took us 2 months to get just the permits, then another 2 months of delays to get April will be the 9-month mark. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we can at least move into one of the units while they finish the rest.

        GC definitely already earmarked the contingency – somehow didn’t plan for a house that was abandoned for 6 years would need new electrical and plumbing, hmmm 🙂

        Also will make sure at least one of us is at all the inspections, and will get another electrician’s opinion on what work has been done so far.

        Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your experience. You’re totally right, this process is so specific to itself and very few people are detailed about it.

      • Great advice from SC.
        I had a construction loan which turned into a mortgage. My GC let the builders risk policy (bank required) expire and I was charged $3680.00 by the bank. That became a big fight with GC. All disbursements from bank came to me, not to GC directly. And ie receipts: any items that have a manufacturer warranty will need purchase receipts etc. Demand those from your GC.

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