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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, everyone.

I am a small house flipper that's been doing this for several years. I'm learning a lot but I've realized that I am just completely clueless on some basic things. For example, I have no clue how a basic electrical panel works.

As my projects get bigger and bigger, I am thinking maybe I should take some classes in construction management. That way I know what the contractors are saying when they talk to me. Because right now, a lot of times, I just nod my head when they explain what they are doing but in reality, I have no clue what they just said.

I was initially going to take a house inspection course but I'm starting to think that this doesn't go deep enough. So, was wondering if a construction management degree at a local college is the way to go. It's not only project management classes but it looks like they teach things like building materials, mechanical equipment, etc.

Any advice?
 

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I think furthering ones' education is always a good thing.

When I'm talking to someone I've hired, either personally or professionally, and don't understand what they are saying, I stop them and ask. Sometimes what is second nature, everyday lingo to a trades-person is Greek to me.

Also don't forget that everyone isn't a great communicator. They may be a great carpenter or electrician but that doesn't mean they are good at explaining something to others.

Establishing a good relationship with anyone you are hiring and will be wanting your money is important. The more comfortable you both feel about working together, the easier it is to ask questions.

When I'm spending my money, there are no stupid questions.
 

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As you may or may not know, being a GC can be a complex job drawing on at least a basic understanding of a lot of different disciplines. There are other implications an REI exposes themselves to (IRS, labor laws, insurance, legal structure, etc) many don’t understand. A good one can save an REI time and money, liabilities, so they can focus on REI. If you find a good one that is willing to help you with your renovation cost analysis, jobs, knowledge, etc, treat them and pay them well. If you have a good line of communication with one they will also walk you through the basic renovation process enough to formulate a deal.

A REI acting as a GC I always get a kick out of, most can’t or do a poor costly job of it. There is just no way an REI can keep up with the market and technology and be full time REI with all its complexities. It is well worth your time to delegate here and pay a pro. Use the money you would have spent on college to do so.

You don’t need a college degree to communicate with a GC you have a good relationship with. If it is small items (paint, stain, etc) you have knowledge of, you may be able to manage them yourself, but don’t forget about building that relationship with the GC and business they may be interested in may help you hold onto the good ones.

Other than that if there is something you don’t know like how an electrical panel works look it up on the internet then get with your GC or electrician for more in depth applicable knowledge.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Good point

Thanks, TP for your help. Very good points.

I definitely considered what you said. But, I just want to point out that that I don't want to replace my GC. I just want to be able to oversee what he does. Hopefully, I'll get big enough so that I'll have multiple projects going at once. If so, I want to be able to make sure the GC's are performing in the best possible manner.

Right now, I've been doing exactly what you've recommended - every time I am clueless by something, I look it up on the internet that night. But, it's a very time consuming and inefficient process. And, I still not sure I know what's right or wrong because so much on the internet is BS. For example, look at roofing materials. So many different people are peddling different type of stuff and so it's tiring to try to weed what's good and bad. All i want to know is what are the major brands. What are the pros and cons of each. Every company of course says their product is the best. I've been using these types of forums for help but it's a very slow process because it takes a long time for people to respond and a lot of clueless people also chime in. I guess that's the point of school. You could learn it on your own but school teaches you all at once in an efficient manner.

I was just wondering if a construction management degree is the way to go. Or maybe there is something that's more appropriate in my position since I'm not going to be directly doing construction management. In other words, a construction management degree might be overkill. On the other hand, a house inspection course might be underkill.
 

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I see what you are saying. First, be careful with “over seeing” what your GC’s are doing….Get familiar with Fed and your states labor laws with regard to subs (assuming your GC’s are subs). If you really want control I’d suggest, along with learning construction, to start building your own company as I have. Mine is a LLC with commercial and liability insurance. Hire in GC as employees on a salary exempt or, get a license and become one since much of what your need to know are codes. From there hire production and project managers as employees and let them manage other employees and subs, while you focus on managing the company’s and REI. I’m looking at getting my RE license and launching another separate REI-LLC to keep assets separate and protected. The construction company and REI company work well together and you can build a huge empire with passive income.

I guess it depends on your mechanical and electrical aptitude, some pick it up with little instructions, others need more help. The broad array of knowledge you are referring to I doubt will come out of a management course, building an enterprise like I described above might. You’ll learn though as you grow you won’t be able to keep up with it all (finance, REI, engineering, hvac, plumbing, electrical, investments, corporate structure, etc)… you’ll need surface knowledge of it all. Anyway, there is no speed course to learning all that is need to understanding in depth general construction, it takes time be patient, not only from text books but hands on experience. Other than that, if you want I’d suggest getting into a trade school for electrical, plumbing, HVAC, framing, but again I think for a person in your position it is unnecessary unless that is something you’d enjoy other than upper management and being a corporate officer/desk job.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Made me think

I haven't even thought about what you said - making my own company. I'm no where near that big enough so that I have enough work so that I can hire my own guys. But, I can dream, no? =)

I think taking trade school classes is a great idea that you mentioned. They are pretty brief (few months) but get detailed enough so you get a good idea of how things work.

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
what do you think?

jls, thanks for the input.

can i get your advice? so can you recommend a place where i can learn everything contractor related? Here's one example, how do i know that the roof was installed correctly. almost every roof looks good at first, but a few years down the line, things start leaking. then it becomes a tug of war to get the contractor back. and there is already damage caused by the leak. where could i learn how to determine that the roof was installed correctly in the first place?

Right now, I'm looking at these certificate classes for different trades. for example, they have classes to get a certificate of "HVAC system design". Maybe not all 4 classes but maybe the first class of the 4 ? Kinda get an intro on the subject?
 

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jls, thanks for the input.

can i get your advice? so can you recommend a place where i can learn everything contractor related? Here's one example, how do i know that the roof was installed correctly. almost every roof looks good at first, but a few years down the line, things start leaking. then it becomes a tug of war to get the contractor back. and there is already damage caused by the leak. where could i learn how to determine that the roof was installed correctly in the first place?

Right now, I'm looking at these certificate classes for different trades. for example, they have classes to get a certificate of "HVAC system design". Maybe not all 4 classes but maybe the first class of the 4 ? Kinda get an intro on the subject?
I went to trade school, but also took some construction management classes online (i should have taken more). Mostly I learned everything by reading and watching older tradesmen. The older ones usually don't mind teaching a little as they do their work.

Pretty much everything does have instructions, and I would recommend reading them for the specific manufacturer you are using.
 

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I think what you want to learn is just something that will just take time....keep doing what your doing if its working and try to keep learning....ask more questions of the subs to understand whats going on........I have some prime contractors who are smart enough to help me trouble shoot problems.....theres always tons of options of how to run the plumbing...if the prime contractor is knowledgeable they typically want to be involved with the process and sometimes come up with a different idea than I have...many times we use a combination of their idea and mine to get the perfect solution (for them).....

I don't think school is going to teach you the same as on the job experience
 

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I don't think school is going to teach you the same as on the job experience
I'll add a waste of time for business owner that wants to be financially independent. Unless you want list it as a credential on a resume to get a job...Many college grads can not find a job in corporate America these days it's so broken.

Your money and time may be better served doing work for min wage or free or pay for a seasoned pro in the field, if you can find one to take you under their wing.
 

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Hey man, be careful with the 'overseeing the GC' thing.

Through my old company, I've worked for a handful of people in your position(I don't mean that to be rude) and the ones that tried to 'oversee' my GC employer only made things worse. Much much worse.
They'd do things like try to order materials themselves to save money by cutting out our markup and the material they ordered was always wrong. They'd shop around other subs instead of using ours which led to a plumbing, electrical, and hvac errors that were largely preventable with better communication which led to us have to do a lot of costly wall patching, outlet moving, vent relocating, etc.
Lastly, and this is an important one for you if you fancy yourself a hands-on type of individual.
We had one guy who tried to save a little money by doing some of the final trim work himself instead of having us back after the kitchen was installed. He cut his thumb off.

Again, I'm not trying to be rude or imply that you'd do any of these things, but I've seen the tendency to oversee go awry before.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Point Taken

Trust me. Totally understand where you're coming from. Some owners really try to save money by tire kicking and screwing over their contractors. For example, they'll meet with the contractor, ask tons of questions, determine how it's done and then head over to the supply store and do it themselves. A lot of contractors get mad when they see this but I don't think they should. Those type of owners never get ahead. While they're penny pinching, the job usually turns out terrible. If you wanna get big in this business, you need to develop a strong reliable rolodex.

With that said, the reason I wanna do this is not so I can do it myself. I'm a little too big for that. I've got several projects going on and I really wanna assess whether a job is done right or not. I also wanna figure out what the "best" way to do a job, given all the possible methods. For example, I'm in the process of bidding out a multiple HVAC installation job ($150k). And, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure which one is the best. Actually, I'm kinda' clueless. And, it's not like I can trust the guys who are bidding to tell me the truth.

Long term, I want to know the pros and cons of each method, figure out whether the guys are doing it correctly, etc, etc.. Basically, I wanna make sure everything is perfect.
 

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I've learned much of what i know working for a contractor years ago. Nothing beats an apprentice relationship with a professional. Anything i don't know now how to do, i do a butt load of research and educate myself. And if i don't feel confident doing it, or know i need to watch someone do it a few times before i have a handle on it, i won't do it. I'd rather hire the guy who is an expert in it and learn and guarantee the application of the product won't fail prematurely.

A friend of mine started a construction company years ago and worked with all his subs as "free labor" and learned all the different trades he was unfamiliar with to give himself an education. Now he has a good grasp on every aspect of construction and how to do things properly.

I would echo what others have said and don't be afraid to ask questions. If you are fearful of looking uneducated, or stupid, that is your own insecurity and you need to get over that. If specifically you are looking to make sure a roof is installed properly, meet with 2-3 different roofing companies and ask them to walk you through each step of how they will install the roofing. Compare each company and my guess is you will see similarities. Ask them code questions like how far does ice and water shield go past the exterior wall?

Funny you should ask about roof install. I was just on a job today for a roof repair and the roofers nailed too high up the laminated shingle and missed the nail line completely. Because they nailed too high they also missed the top of the lower shingle. We had some wind a few weeks ago and it completely ripped up a few sections.

You can't always rely on an inspector, because they sometimes miss things. If you feel you are getting BS from a sub or GC, call the city building department and ask some questions, or call another sub or GC.

I applaud you for wanting to educate yourself. Far too many people out there doing things they have no business doing.
 

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I am going to try to save you a lot of time and wasted energy. Unless you have been in the trades for a long time it's impossible to have enough knowledge to know how things work and the most efficient way to get things done.

Your problem is instead of using" GC,s" it should be my GC. My right hand man. The guy I call Saturday and tell him I need him to meet me at 1 Elm St. Sunday morning to tell me what's wrong with the property I am going to be bidding on that day. You don't need to know construction, you need a guy, one guy, you can trust. He will fill in the blanks for you.
 

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Each time they tell you something that you don't understand, have them explain it... you're the customer... free education from money you are already spending...

You don't need to know how to wire a panel, just that it needs to be wired... learn as you go...

Something to consider.... if you had asked more times over the years you've been doing this instead of nodding your head, you probably wouldn't be asking this now...

Get additional education if you want to, but are you going into construction yourself or is your goal to flip houses?... keep your focus on where it needs to be...
 
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