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Working with Professionals

So, you want to be your own General Contractor?

To determine whether you have what it takes to be an Owner-Builder Contractor, ask yourself these questions before you begin your project:


1.    Do I have the time to dedicate 10-20 hours to my project each week?

2.    Am I tenacious enough to communicate effectively with professionals when we disagree?

3.    Can I make decisions quickly and confidently when working with professionals?

4.    Am I a good planner who remains organized from the beginning to the end of a project?


If you’ve been honest with yourself and answered "Yes" to these questions, then you may have what it takes to be an Owner/Builder Contractor.


If not, then you may want to consider hiring a Professional for your project to act as your Construction Consultant under a Personal Service Agreement.   


Here are six of the most popular types of opportunities for owner builders to become more closely involved in their project:


1.    Study a guidebook or DVD

2.    Use a franchise service

3.    Attend a course or seminar

4.    Work with an owner builder supplier

5.    Make use of a free web site

6.    Hire a part-time Construction Consultant


The following list provides a quick, birds-eye-view of these six opportunities.


Study a guidebook or DVD, such as Tom's "Home Building Guide," McGuerty & Lester's "Guide to Contracting Your Own Home," or JLC's "Builders Encyclopedia."


Use a franchise service, such as UBuildit, Owner Builder Network, or Owner Builder Connection.


Attend a course or seminar, in such locations as the Building Education Center, Yestermorrow, or The Shelter Institute.


Work with an owner builder supplier, such as Barden Building Systems, Armstrong Building Components, or Redstone Home Systems.


Make use of a free web site, such as the,, or Tom's free web site at


Hire a part-time Construction Consultant, such as working with your local General Contractor.



Most important question to ask before you hire a Construction Consultant:

Has the Consultant ever done a project like mine?


One option is to hire a General Contractor (GC) as a Construction Consultant under a Personal Service Agreement if s/he has done a project like the one you are considering.  As an Owner Builder Contractor, you will perform the same duties as a GC so here is a list of the duties a GC normally performs so these duties will become your responsibility.



    1. GC understands overall project management and workflow.
    2. GC is a collaborator, creating a team effort in decision-making.
    3. GC articulates the work of architect, engineer, and designer into a plan of action for construction management.
    4. GC determines what work will be out-sourced to others and what work may be performed by contractor's own forces.


    1. GC is familiar with the loan approval process and may be of assistance in securing financing if a Builder of Record is required.
    2. GC understands the Construction Cost Breakdown.
    3. GC defines budget estimate and complete cost analysis.
    4. GC identifies how to avoid unnecessary overhead costs and when contractors are able to profit.
    5. GC realizes the importance of a personal construction checking account that owner controls for project.


    1. GC follows a traditional sequence of work activities and identifies what is critical in setting priorities.
    2. GC communicates with contractors and suppliers to create a detailed construction schedule.
    3. GC understands draw schedule so owner can manage costs during each month of project.
    4. GC knows what contractors and suppliers expect in terms of payment throughout each phase of work.
    5. GC is familiar with work-around solutions for scheduling glitches.


    1. GC recognizes "red flags" that may create roadblocks to site development or incur outrageous costs.
    2. GC plans for underground utility infrastructure for sewer, gas, power and water.
    3. GC verifies key items for site development, such as driveway access and construction material logistics.
    4. GC cares for environmental protection such as storm water drainage and sensitive area review.


    1. GC reviews different options available for building components in a three dimensional, graphic representation of a house.
    2. GC collaborates with architect for design integrity that follow efficient and effective building practices.
    3. GC refines choices based on cost/benefit tradeoffs.
    4. GC evaluates final design decisions based on product/service mix.
    5. GC checks working drawings for building consistency and accuracy.


    1. GC anticipates incomplete and deficient details that will be in need of repair or completion by the end of the project.
    2. GC realizes the importance of a storyboard for collecting product and material ideas.
    3. GC organizes project information, guides and proposals into a filing system for easy reference.
    4. GC utilizes an appointment book to keep track of workflow and project related activities.
    5. GC tracks expenditures in a check register/job cost journal.


    1. GC is familiar with local weather and geological conditions that affect product and material choices best suited for the locality.
    2. GC separates products into organized technical sections so contractors and suppliers are able to recognize scope of work.
    3. GC maintains relationships with local vendors who provide the greatest support for product and material choices.
    4. GC follows construction sequence so specified products are installed in proper sequence and location.


    1. GC understands local customs and standard practices for achieving best possible results for building construction.
    2. GC suggests work the owner is able to do when practical and economically feasible.
    3. GC integrates Drawings and Specifications for the Conditions under which the work will be performed.
    4. GC is accustom to communicating with architects, trade contractors and suppliers throughout construction process.
    5. GC recognizes money-saving practices during course of construction.
    6. GC knows "notice-and-opportunity-to repair" laws and "warranty of habitability" laws that have been enacted by your state legislature.
    7. GC documents work performance through the use of video, photo and digital recordings.


    1. GC follows your state's model energy code for design standards and choosing products to meet these standards.
    2. GC follows a value engineering approach that takes advantage of building components, such as panelized walls and modular units.
    3. GC makes sure job-site waste is reduced, recycled and reused before it becomes expensive refuse.
    4. GC thinks ahead to living green by following healthy house standards suggested by American Lung Association.
    5. GC purchases appliances, fixtures, windows and doors for the house that meet an Energy Star Rating.


    1. GC recognizes the standard building codes that have been adopted by state and any local regulations, which may also apply.
    2. GC understands the permit application process in locality, and the documentations you will provide the local building department.
    3. GC identifies additional permits required by sewer, water, plumbing, heating, gas and electrical contractors.
    4. GC follows standard inspection sequence so the project is ready for critical inspection points.
    5. GC realizes correction notices are necessary for code compliance and calls for work to be re-inspected prior to occupancy.


    1. GC is familiar with the myriad of contractual details an owner must juggle on a daily and monthly basis.
    2. GC knows that in construction contract law, the contract consists of drawings, specifications, conditions and an agreement.
    3. GC realizes the importance of stating all conditions in writing and using the services of a construction lawyer if necessary.
    4. GC recognizes that boilerplate contracts used by AIA, AGC or NAHB are written to protect the professional not the homeowner.
    5. GC understands that the conditions of performance need to be coordinated and controlled on a daily basis.


    1. GC qualifies trade contractors on their ability to perform the work required by drawings and specifications.
    2. GC follows a standard bidding process and utilizes a lien release or waiver when all payments are made.
    3. GC hires trade contractors who remain in budget and on schedule.
    4. GC requires trade contractors to be licensed, bonded and insured.
    5. GC verifies trade contractors remain in good standing with your state's licensing agency or contractor's board.
    6. GC knows procedures for managing change orders or additions to scope of work.
    7. GC communicates with trade contractors in making corrections or repairs to work.


    1. GC identifies suppliers who are not only familiar with product installation and warranties but provides a preferred contractor list.
    2. GC adheres to your project's specifications to locate suppliers who provide your preferred products and materials.
    3. GC initiates purchase orders that match the drawings, specifications and conditions of the work to be performed.
    4. GC manages the purchase, delivery, inspection and payment for materials, and utilizes a lien release or waiver when all payments are made.


    1. GC considers safety during the design phase so personal health and welfare are given priority during early planning.
    2. GC conforms job site safety plan to local, state, and federal regulations.
    3. GC provides first aid kits and signage for the job site.
    4. GC identifies unsafe conditions and actions that create hazardous conditions on the job site.



General Contractor as a Construction Consultant


If you decide to work with your local General Contractor as a Construction Consultant, presented below is a sample Personal Service Agreement to provide a better sense of the conditions you may want to incorporate into your Agreement.


Remember:  As an ownerbuilder, you are assuming the responsibilities of the GC.  You are hiring a consultant, but you will provide leadership to your project.  If this responsibility seems too overwhelming, then step aside.  You cannot expect the GC to be your consultant while also demanding that the GC assume the responsibilities of the project leader!  You cannot have it both ways. 


As an Owner Builder Contractor, you'll negotiate terms with your local General Contractor for personalized consulting service that fits your situation.  You will also consult with an attorney familiar with construction law in your locality.  Do not use this Agreement as-is.



Personal Service Agreement

Between Owner and Consultant


THIS AGREEMENT is made and entered into this date ___________________ by and between ___________________________________, referred to as the “Owner” and ______________________________________, referred to as the “Consultant,” to assist and advise the Owner in carrying out a building project, which is located at this (physical site address) location:




1. Purpose:  To design and build (or remodel or repair or refurbish) a high quality home that reflects a lifestyle centered on the Owner's family, while saving on construction costs using an Owner/Builder approach.  This home will be the Owner's residence.



2. Process:  In order to maximize cost savings, the Owner will act as the General Contractor.  To advise the Owner, a professional is utilized as Construction Consultant in key phases during the project cycle on a discretionary basis allowing the Owner the flexibility to utilize consulting services as little or as much as deemed necessary by the Owner. 


2.1. The Owner understands that the Consultant cannot be personally present for all installations at every segment of the work performed on the construction site.  Both Consultant and Owner will reasonably rely on the competence and skill of each individual contractor and supplier, including architect, engineer and inspectors, as is normal in the course of such construction planning, organizing and implementation of the work.



3. Roles and Responsibilities:


3.1. Owner


The Owner’s role is to act as the General Contractor for the project and be responsible for all decisions, finances, project management and the overall success of the project.


3.1.1. Owner Responsibilities

·         ASSEMBLE TEAM for overall project success.

·         HIRE architect and engineer for completion of drawings and specifications.

·         DEVELOP SITE by coordinating all work and permits required to make site buildable.

·         CREATE documents such as project schedule and permit documents including Building Permit Application and approved working drawings.

·         PRODUCE Bank Financing Application, in particular Construction Cost Breakdown and Description of Materials.

·         CONTROL Punch List through use of a Storyboard, Appointment Book and Job Diary.

·         PREPARE Construction Bid Packages for contractors and suppliers.

·         IDENTIFY trade contractors, and APPROVE their submitted bids, including cost breakdown analysis.

·         IDENTIFY suppliers of construction materials and negotiate best pricing.

·         SUPERVISE the construction site or HIRE a superintendent.

·         ACCEPT construction material delivery.

·         DIRECT trade contractor and supplier activity following drawings and specifications.

·         INSPECT trade contractor’s work and approve completed work.

·         COORDINATE inspection visits to comply with building codes and to be on site during inspections.

·         RESOLVE any construction quality problems.

·         ARRANGE for casual day-labor and equipment rentals

·         MAKE all progress payments and APPROVE change orders.

·         PREPARE a Safety Plan that includes contractor compliance, first-aid kits on site and project signage.

·         BE AVAILABLE prior to start of each task in the project schedule to determine and anticipate if any problems may occur in order to avoid them.

·         MAKE all cell phone calls promptly to Consultant during normal working hours.

·         UTILIZE internet email system to the greatest extent possible to communicate with Consultant.

·         ARRANGE jobsite meetings with Consultant in advance of anticipated need.


3.1.2. Insurance


Owner will provide all personal and property liability insurance required during course of construction, including coverage for fire, theft and vandalism at replacement cost.


Owner will ensure that architect, engineer, trade contractors, and suppliers provide their own license, liability insurance, workman's compensation coverage and bond according to State and Federal laws for all work performed on the home building project.


Owner will hold Consultant harmless from all claims by owner's forces, architect, engineer, trade contractors, suppliers and their personnel.



3.2. Construction Consultant


The Construction Consultant's role is to assist and advise the owner in achieving the home building project.  The Consultant is a professional, experienced General Contractor who has completed the type of project the Owner will be undertaking, and will provide consultation services only.


3.2.1. Consultant Responsibilities

·         ATTEND meetings with Owner and project team when requested by Owner to review drawings and specifications.

·         REVIEW project documents such as project schedule, and design documents including Building Permit Application as needed.

·         ASSIST Owner with Bank Financing Application, in particular assisting with the Construction Cost breakdown and Description of Materials.

·         ASSIST Owner with preparation of Construction Bid Package.

·         ASSIST Owner with identifying contractors, and reviewing their submitted bids, including cost breakdown analysis.

·         ASSIST Owner with identifying suppliers of construction materials and help negotiate best pricing for products.

·         VISIT the construction site, usually during key construction phases, such as excavation, foundation, and framing.

·         ADVISE Owner in accepting delivery of construction materials.

·         ADVISE Owner in directing contractors and suppliers.

·         ADVISE Owner in inspecting contractor’s work.

·         ADVISE Owner in setting up inspection visits to comply with building codes.

·         ADVISE Owner in resolving any construction quality problems.

·         ADVISE Owner at start of each major phase of the project schedule when requested by Owner to determine and anticipate if any problems may occur in order to avoid hidden pitfalls.

·         Since CONSULTANT IS NOT EXPECTED TO BE A SITE SUPERVISOR, he will respond quickly (return calls within 1 hour) to Owner requested contact.  Additionally, to minimize long distance telephone calls for either party, Consultant will utilize the Internet email and cell phone service as often as necessary for communications with Owner.


3.2.2. Qualifications

·         Communicate effectively with architect, engineer, and inspectors, trade contractors and suppliers.

·         Experience as a General Contractor (GC) in similar project.

·         Maintain an excellent previous and/or current GC relationship with trade contractors and suppliers.

·         Know the local building codes and what inspectors may require.

·         Knowledge of construction techniques, construction materials alternatives and cost tradeoffs.

·         Available to concentrate on project, and be very responsive to Owner’s requests regarding the home building project.


3.2.3. Limitations


·         The Consultant will not exercise any regulatory control over architect, engineer, inspectors, trade contractors or suppliers.

·         The Owner will be responsible for all coordination and control.

·         Should Consultant be required by Owner to assume responsibilities as the project's General Contractor or Superintendent, a new Agreement will be made in writing.



4. Independent Contractor Status


Nothing in this Agreement is intended or will be construed to create a partnership, joint venture, business ownership or employment between Owner and Consultant.  In providing services, Consultant will represent himself to third parties as an Independent Contractor to Owner and will not hold himself out as having any authority to obligate Owner.



5. Consideration


5.1. Consulting Fee


As fee for consulting services, the Owner agrees to pay the on an hourly basis at a rate of __________.


Consultant's hourly rate will be logged in a daily journal by Consultant.  All job site visits by Consultant will be paid portal to portal beginning at the Consultant's office and ending at the Consultant's office.


5.2. Travel Expenses


The Consultant will be paid NO travel expenses unless authorized by this paragraph as follows:






Travel expenses, if authorized beforehand, will be billed in the following manner:

The Consultant will submit original receipts to the Owner in a timely manner, who will reimburse Consultant immediately.


5.3. Other Expenses


The Contractor will be paid NO other expenses of any kind unless authorized by this paragraph as follows:





If the reimbursement of such expenses is authorized beforehand, the reimbursement will be paid immediately upon receipt from the Consultant of valid, itemized statements. The Contractor will maintain supporting documents that substantiate every claim for expenses and will furnish documents with itemized statements.


5.4. Drawings and Specifications


The Consultant will act in an advisory capacity and will not attempt in any manner to create drawings or specify products.  The Owner will be responsible for all final decisions concerning drawings and specifications.


The Owner will be responsible to authorize in writing any change orders to drawings and specifications or creating any additional work for the home building project by working directly with architect, engineer, trade contractors and suppliers.



6. Invoicing


The Consultant will be responsible for invoicing Owner for hourly consulting services on a monthly basis.  Invoices will be submitted in writing to the Owner for immediate payment at the end of each month.


The Consultant will include dates, times, and work performed as part of the consulting services provided to the Owner.


6.1. Social Security


Consultant is aware that the Owner is not liable for Social Security contributions relative to the compensation of the Consultant for this Agreement.



7. Effective Date


This agreement is not effective unless and until the Owner and the Consultant have approved and signed the Agreement.



8. Completion of Work


Consulting services will be complete when the home building project is substantially complete and may be occupied for its intended purpose whether or not a Certificate of Occupancy or Residential Use Permit is issued by the local Building Department.


Owner will receive all documents, notes, and information from Consultant related to home building project at substantial completion of work.



9. Termination of Agreement


Either Owner or Consultant will have the right to terminate and cancel this Agreement at any time on written notice served by registered or certified mail.


Consultant will be reimbursed for all consulting services and expenses prior to receipt of the notice of termination.


Owner will receive all documents, notes, and information from Consultant related to home building project at termination.



10. Disputes


Should Owner or Consultant be required to seek remedy of any disputes through legal proceedings, Owner and Consultant respectively agree to pay all costs and reasonable Attorneys and Courts' fees.



11. Choice of Law and Forum Provision


The laws of the State of _________ will govern all questions as to the execution, validity, interpretation, construction and performance of this Agreement.



12. Warranty and Service Provision


Owner agrees to hold harmless and indemnify Consultant in connection with services provided that would reasonably be associated with construction consultation, technical advice, financial counseling, inspections, and other related activities.


Owner will supervise and manage the home building project assuming full responsibility as General Contractor.


All State and Federal laws related to role and responsibility of General Contractor will apply to Owner.



Agreed to:


Name of Owner: _________________________________________________


Signature and Date: ______________________________________________



Name of Consultant: ______________________________________________


Signature and Date: _______________________________________________




Remember:  Do not use this Agreement as-is. 

Adapt it to fit your situation by negotiating terms tailored to your circumstances. 

Speak with an Attorney familiar with construction law before proceeding.


As an Owner Builder Contractor, you will plan and organize your project using every business—consultant, architect, engineer, trade contractor or supplier—as much or as little as you deem necessary.


This is your project.  You are the Boss!




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