How Completing a Construction Project is Like Waiting on McDonald's Fries

Sometimes completing a construction project is like waiting on fries at McDonald's.

I’ve written before about the importance of the beginning of the project. I explained why I believe it is important to start with an Architect. Look it up. It’s good.

Ending a project strong is a little more difficult to discuss because there is so much "water under the bridge" at that point. Even the best projects have their issues. It may have cost more, taken longer, looked different than you expected – or – heaven forbid, all three. Even if it has been the smoothest, most enjoyable process, it is easy to screw up the finish.

The mistake I see most often:

Homeowners are in such a rush to get in the house, they take occupancy before the final work is complete.

You go on your final walk through with with your builder for final punch list creation. You come up with a punch list of 20 items. Seems like a lot, but everything is relatively minor and the substantial completion, final occupancy inspection has passed.

Owner: So, when can we move in?

Builder: I have to get three different subs in here to finish up this list. Give me three weeks just to be safe.

Owner: But we are in a cramped apartment and really want to get in here. Can we just move in early?

Builder: Sure. Our contract requires that you make the final payment prior to taking occupancy.

Owner: (Warning bells, warning bells.) Ok. That’s fine. (sinking feeling or oblivious…I’ve seen both)

I counsel that to start a project strong you must have control. Control of the drawings, control of the bidding process, etc. Well, surprise, surprise…to complete a project strong you must maintain control. You see, your money is your control at this point. When you make that final payment you are handing over your last bit of control.

Most contracts will require that payment in full is required prior to occupancy. I support this clause on behalf of the builders. Sure, you can move in after final inspection clears for substantial completion, however, you have to make the final payment prior to moving in. That’s the catch.

I believe in the builders I work with. I believe that most people have good intentions. However, we live in the real world and humans work for a prize. When you take away the incentive of finishing up for the final payment things invariably slow way down.

The second problem that is created is that you are IN THE WAY! Now you are moving in. Your kids have homework, you have friends over, you have your moving crap EVERYWHERE! The builder will do his best to accommodate you, but it is very hard and nobody is happy because he can’t get in and you can’t be done.

So, the McDonalds french fries…

You’re starving, you've been on the road a long time – with kids. The vacation was good. Not everything went as planned. It cost more than you budgeted and there was that flat tire that threw everything out of whack. You see the Golden Arches (move in day, get it?). All you want are those hot, crunchy, perfectly salted fries.

There aren’t enough in the hopper so they start a new batch. You want those fries so badly that, out of character, you stand at the stainless steel counter and tap your keys looking annoyed. Fry guy stops the fries because they have reached “substantial completion” and, frankly, he’s sick of you looking at him. You grab the keys – I mean the bag – and head for the highway. You reach into the bag and the fries are limp, soggy and they forgot the freakin’ salt!

Just wait the extra minute for the fries. And say Thank You!

- Sheri

Lisa Saldivar