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Construction/Design projects are a big deal: The time, money and effort that goes into them are huuuge-big.  Projects become so invasive and life-altering that they have a “milestone” quality to them that clients will refer to, when trying to remember a date, like, “I think that was just before the renovation”…..

This means you must have the right people doing the right things in the right sequence or it gets ugly fast. So here’s some advice, culled from years of WTF experiences and common sense:

It may seem a little mysterious if you have not been through it before. But we have-and here’s the skinny in 8 sequential steps:

1. Talk to lots of people who have been through it before from different vantage points: builders, architects, neighbors, friends, colleagues, building inspectors. Ask them lots of questions. Develop a budget-ask folks what there projects cost or what yours might be likely to cost.

2. Choose your architect and possibly your builder. Some work in teams called “design-build”, and some do not-which allows you to bid the project among different builders. Interview and vet your designer-do they have experience with the project you might hire them for? in the locality?

3.Design: get your goals and objectives written down and listed with factors like how it will be used, think about houses or buildings you like and ones you don’t. Start from general concept then drill down into the details.  Also check out

4. Get your approvals- you’ll want to find out if you need building permits from your municipality. Chances are you will. Yes it is time consuming but necessary.  Can you relate to waiting at the DMV for your Drivers License? The process is more fully explained here:

5. Bid the project (unless you thoroughly know and have chosen your builder) get multiple bids from qualified builders who have done similar work in the municipality that you are building in.

6. Take care of the practical stuff- do you have your ducks in a row: moving or staying? storage? Insurance in order? Mail? Utilities? Neighbors aware? Parking arrangements?

7. Build! Be proactive, use a written contract with your builder that addresses costs, scope, schedule, payments, etc. Over-communicate answer questions promptly, Pay promptly. Constantly monitor your builder- hold them accountable without being a nudge!

8. Move-in! take care of all the sign offs, punch-lists, warranties and final payments. Party!

If you have questions, please call me 914 980 5532-Steve

Article by Steven Secon