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Question DetailsAsked on 1/26/2012

How do I get people to do repairs and renovations in my home when I work full time & live alone?...NY area

I work full time (40+ hours/ week-monday thru friday) and am the sole owner of a 2 family house in NY, which needs a lot of work before I can rent out the 2nd apartment. i.e. new kitchen, painting (both apts, some ceilings and walls need repairs from past water damage), wood floor refinishing, electrical updates, ceiling fan repairs or replacement, new windows, repair leaky radiators,....etc.
House was built in 1940's and needs major immprovements!!!
I also have a limited budget and I fear I could run out of money before the project is complete, but my main concern is getting someone in here to do all the work who I can trust, since I would not be home to supervise the work.
I hope I can get advise on how to do this because I feel like I am stuck and overwhelmed, and cannot even figure out where to begin!!!
Thank You.

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14 Answers


This is a classic example of why you want a licensed architect with construction administration services.

Step One: You need a program. Working with a licensed architect, they will go through your house with you and create a detailed list of work to be performed. Then they will prioritize this work by what must be done, what would be nice if done, and what must be done before another, etc.

Step Two: Set a budget. Many people think this is step one, but without knowing what you must do and what you can do without, you cannot set a realistic budget. The architect can also assist by providing sq/ft costs, average costs or actually helping you get bids.

At this point, you will have a rough idea of what this project is going to cost you. I'll also point out that your house may qualify for Historic Rehabilitative Tax Credits. Since you are planning on renting the property (income producing) there are Federal credits as well as State ones; if this is followed correclty, and the forms done well you can get more than 20% of your costs (including design, engineering & archtiecture services) back. You will need an architect and/or Tax advisor familiar with the program-it takes work, but here in VA you can get 45% of your costs back in credits-20% fed, 25% state; and the credits can be syndicated (sold) if you don't / can't use them over the next 20 years. (Don't do it by yourself; you won't get through the hoops and pitfalls.)

Step Three is to hire a General Contractor. Again your architect will prepare the drawings and designs to clearly explain what repairs and new work is to be done. This can be provided to contractors and they can bid the work. The Architect can also arrainge for Phase work, so you can keep your budget, etc. The Architect can also prepare bank proposal documents that will show the work needed, the suggested repairs and a cost anaylsis with repayment schedule that you can use to secure a construction loan.

The Architect will also have access to common AIA documents and contracts that spell out exactly how the contractor will perform. So the contract will be clear, common and protect both you and the G/C.

Step Four is the answer to your question. If the Architect has construction administration services; they will oversee the construction, arrange for keys and access to the building, arrange for securing the building (either through the G/C or themselves), etc. They will also be insuring the work is done correctly. You will just have to live with a messy (dust, torn down areas, etc) home for awhile if you plan to stay during construction. You can even designate start and stop times in the contract so no work occurs before you leave or after you return home. You will just come home and see halted work progress until it is done.

Step Five (or Four B), all invoices will be sent to the Architect: they will confirm the work on the invoice is complete, the items ordered are on the job site, etc. The architect will then recommend you pay all, partial or none of the invoice based upon their review. You only write the checks for what the architect says to. The builder deals with the archtiect, you deal with the architect. The architect ensures you get want you wanted and are paying for. They also will place liens for the sub-contractors to ensure they are paid and are not able to comeback later and ask for additional costs or claim the G/C didn't pay them.

The cost for this architectural service varies and can be a per-project percent or hourly. The fee is easily made up in peace-of-mind, you not having to worry about quality or costs, and in design improvements that you or the builder may not have considered. Plus, if you do go for the Tax Credits, all design fees are elligible in how much you will get back.

My firm does work in NY; we have a current project in Rochester. But we do not have staff to do construction supervision in NY (we are based in VA). But if you want more info on the Tax Credits or help with doing the programming and design, we can get you started, and even help you interveiw a local architect for the construction administration portions.

Best of luck on your project-it seems a fun one!


Answered 8 years ago by Kenny Johnson


If you have a limited budget having an architect will just add to the costs.Skip
this middleman and go directly to a qualified,licensed contractor.

Talk to neighbors,friends,or relative in your area and see if they had any
similar work done.Find what they liked or disliked about each company they used.If you can't do this,call several local contractors,schedule them to look
at your project when you have time ,and check any and all references,licensing and insurance certificates.

A lot of good points are presented to you in the first post,just use them as a guide.
Having a middle man only also adds more chances of miscommunication,which may put the scheduling and payment schedules at risk.
Taking the time to make the right decision,will save you time,money and headaches later on.

Answered 8 years ago by Laurel Remodeling


I agree with Laurel. You need a contractor that will be on site frequently and who conducts background checks on his workers. As for his documentation showing he's done this. An architect or project manager will likely go by the house once a day if at all and leave the workers to do their work the rest of the time. A contractor can not be there all the time and run a successful business but will check in frequently to make sure things are done right and the workers are not goofing off. Check for any complaints on any perspective contractor with the BBB, Angie's List, and your local municipality. having complaints isn't necessarily bad in and of itself but how they were handled by the contractor is the important thing.

When I'm working in a customer's home who will not be on site I ask that all personal items are put away as an extra precaution. Also, I don't send anyone in a customer's home that I would not leave alone in my own. you need a contractor that will do the same. Take your time interviewing contractors until you find one you can trust. Ultimately, that's what you are buying from him: trust and faith in his abilities to get the job done correctly and in your best interests.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services

Answered 8 years ago by Todd's Home Services


A middleman vs an expert.

For a small or quick project, asking friends and hiring a contractor with a good reputation is typically alright. But you are going to be living with your design / build team for several months to a year by the sound of your project scope. That requires solid planning and safeguards of your home and funds.

Since you do not know where to start or how to handle this type of project, get an expert (a third party project manager) to protect your interests. Working directly with a Contractor, especially with a tight budget and little experience doing this type of work, can lead to much more problems or miscommunications than having an expert on your side. You don't want a 1/2 finished project because the funds ran out. You don't want your contractor to walk out 1/2 way through after you change your mind again or ask for addition work for the umpteenth time, either. You don't want a dozen change orders at the end of your project catching you off guard and increasing your bill beyond your budget.

You wouldn't go into a courtroom without a lawyer, don't go into a large construction project without counsel either. You have to look after your interests and the Contractor has to look after his-this is a conflict of interest for both of you when a problem or cost issue arise. Having a third party, unbiased expert to protect both is well worth it.

Look at some of the other questions and topics posted here on Angie's List, and you will quickly see where the owner's lack of experience got them into trouble with poor or missing contracts, misunderstanding of simple terminology and poor assumptions on outcomes that are not standard in the construction industry.

It is easy to think that adding someone to the project increases the cost, which is why builders often advise against bringing one in. Architecturally designed projects often do not cost as much as builder design because the architect is aware of and able to control costs and make cost saving decisions early in the planning & design process. Those same savings found later in the project typically go to the builder as profit, not to the owner. Architect run projects also more often on time and on budget because there is someone who's sole job is to make sure it is. That equates to less interest on the loan, and more income from earlier rental occupancies.

Good contractors do not mind working with an architect; it protects them and ensures payments and timely decisions/answers. Less than good contractors do not like having to correct their work, justify their invoices, have an expert ready to testify in court or have the liability of the project put back on them for their subs, permits, etc.

I am not an architect, but I work with them and can tell you we have been called in many a time after a project is underway to save a project from failure. It generally comes to communication; the owner couldn't clearly communicate with the builder, who thought they were doing what the owner wanted and didn't understand why there was a problem.

Get expert, unbiased counsel to oversee the construction.


Answered 8 years ago by Kenny Johnson


There is nothing in your project that even remotely requires an archetect

Contractors have the availibility of using local suppliers to lay out and design your kitchen at no extra costs.They are also well aware of scheduling needs and have the knowlege for writing a clear and concise contract.Believe it or not we do communicate well with our clients. and want the project to come in on time and within budget.After all,it is our reputation on the line here.We count on these references for future projects.

Having actually done this type of work, contractors are also more aware of any potential problems that may arise and can give you an idea up front as to what the additional costs could be and what steps are needed to correct any unforseen problems.This will be a lot less time consuming that having to go from the contractor to the architect,from the archetect to you, and then the whole process in reverse.Thats where miscommunications happen,and can quickly eat away at your budget.

A lot of the work here is merely small repairs and aestetics.

I have had great success with a local yard who staff qualified personel for kitchen and bath layouts.I'm there from start to finish and handle all problems as they arise,without having to go through any time consuming, and work stopping third party.
Those contractors are out there,you just have to find the right one and ask the right questions.
Look for experienced local people that listen to your needs and are willing to
give a full written estimate on all associated costs.

Answered 8 years ago by Laurel Remodeling


Having experience in both fields I can understand both sides and the necessity for both. Any design work in the form of major remodeling needs an architect to lay out the plans and ensure codes will be met before the project begins. In residential cases I've never seen an Architect visit a job site multiple times a day to check on the project, including the architects I have worked for and with. Commercial generally demands more attention on the part of the architect but on residential projects you'll be lucky to see him/her a couple of times a week. You can hire an architect or other project manager to oversee the contractor but the contractor will charge more for the hassle if it's not a job that would normally require an architect (repairs and such). You really need someone you can trust. The bottom line is if you don't trust them, research them until you do or find someone else to oversee the project. That's the purpose of the contractor: to manage the project.

Answered 8 years ago by Todd's Home Services


I agree with Kenny, I HAVE had contractors walk out and leave in the middle of projects leaving the job incomplete when I left my Mom home to supervise.
My vision was not clear, they would get into arguements, and I would be left with the work half done!!!

Another reason why I am so fearful of starting any new projects again.

A lot of money was spent, but I did not get quality work, nor did I get any jobs completed.

But I must say, I am not in a position to spend big bucks!!!

Kenny, what kind of money are you talking about?

I know that once the second apartment is complete, it would generate at least $1500.00 of additional funds to help me pay expenses-mortgage, gas, electric, gardener, water, taxes, etc


Answered 8 years ago by cheryll


Sorry to hear about your past problems with contractors.It really is a hit or miss
game when chosing someone to get your projects done.We can't always trust ourselves to make the right decisions in these matters without prior experience.

Whichever way you go on this,try to get someone that has a regular list of subs that they have worked with in the past.This will go a long ways in getting what
you expect and keep things on schedule.
An archetect is only as good as the subs he/she hires.If they have an established relationship there will be less chance personality conflicts,and delays or
walk offs.
Since the kitchen remodel seems to be the biggest part of this project,I'd start with going to a local independent outlet.They could either handle the whole project or steer you in the right direction.A lot of them have in house installers and a list of subs they have used for electrical, plumbing and painting needs.
Good luck with your project

Answered 8 years ago by Laurel Remodeling



It is impossible to put a price without knowing the full scope of work. Luckily it doesn't cost you anything to find out, though.

Visit, at the very bottom of the website there is an option "Find an Architect". Put in your zip code and a list of licensed architects near you will appear.

You only need to contact them via phone; describe the work and see what their interest is. Some architects only do comercial, others do not do construction administration (but may still be able to recommend someone).

Once you get a few that are interested, have them come out and meet with you. They will be more than happy to provide a cost list and discuss the process they will use. They will be able to look around and explain where investigation should be done, and were simple fixes and design solutions will correct the area (IE a new kitchen is going to be added, so don't worry about cosmetic since new plumbing & eletrical may be easier (thus cheaper labor) if that area is just gutted down to studs).

You can then explain how much work you want; how often to visit, help with contract negotiation, etc. We will often agree to a set of work, total hours, etc. and have other services as optional-we don't do them unless you need them. (IE If the contractor is performing well, we'll reduce the number of visits, but if he fails an inspection, we'll pre-inspect before risking a fee from the inspector for repeat visits).

There is a big difference between an architect, who is trained in design and construction methods, and a salesperson in a supply house who is doing layout work to sell a product. The latter tries to fit you into their product where an architect is trained to design with you in mind.

One thing to remember, if an architect says "It will be 6 to 8% of the project", don't think "Okay, the project will cost me $50,000, so the total is $55,000." Part of the process is reducing redundancy and improving the design, so if it would have been $50,000, the architect reduces the cost through design or material selection to $46,000 and charges $3,700 (8%) you got a better solution for $49,700. It is not unusual for our fees to be lower than savings we find & incorporate.

You also should think "That means I won't have to take a day off from work every week to meet with the contractor, so I won't lose $X in my own paycheck having to problem solve."

And you get peace-of-mind of not having to interview all your friends, contractors and strangers the contractors supplied as references. And the peace of mind of knowing you have someone who knows what you don't watching your investment.

So it doesn't cost anything to you (and just the gas and time of the architect) to meet and discuss the project and fees. Then choose the architect you feel most comfortable with and who's fees seem the most reasonable.

Todd and Laurel are both correct; there are good contractors out there, and the longer they've been in business and the better their connections with the community and subs, the stronger the chance for success. Any experienced architect will know of these builders and be able to help recommend them.

Best of luck on your project.


Answered 8 years ago by Kenny Johnson


I went to the website you recomended & I must say it was very confusing. There were many architects listed, but I couldnt figure out how to find listings for the type of service you were suggesting.

It would help if you could give me a little more guidance, if I may be so bold as to request that of you.

Thank you for your suggestions and your input as all that info has put my project in a whole new light.


Answered 8 years ago by cheryll


I have a concierge service - - I do this kind of service, look concierge services in you area - hope you find someone!

Go on the internet to find this kind of service, good luck!


Answered 8 years ago by Guest_9218750


If you are in NY, NY - your project will require an architect by the city and so you may not have a choice with that but you can determine what services they are responsible for and which you hire directly on your own.

My two cents - invest the time and research in finding a GREAT General Contractor you can trust to quote everything accurately up front AND who will take control of the job site and be responsible for everyone he or she brings into your home.



Answered 8 years ago by HMDhome


hire a house sitter.take vacation time.move a relitive in rent free..good luck.

Answered 8 years ago by crystal484



Any NY licensed architect can be used anywhere in NY.

On the website, under 'Find an Architect' (at the very bottom), you can put in NY for your state. It will come up with 800 registered AIA firms.

On the far right, under services, you can select "Construction Management", and you will see there are 10 AIA firms listed, with their addresses. There is also 1 "Facilities Management" firm and 8 "Project Management" firms. Contact the three closest firms, and explain what you are dealing with, ask if they are interested. Ask them for recommendations for a Project Manager or Construction Manager if they do not show interest.

Contact my office if you are still having any troubles; while we do work in NY, we do not have an office that would allow us to do the construction adminstration services you need. We might be able to answer questions and help you find or work with a local architect.

Best of luck,

(540) 899-9898


Answered 8 years ago by Kenny Johnson

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