Renovation Coach Manages Home Constructions and Additions

You’re thinking of putting an addition over your garage so you call your friend the architect for some free advice. That works fine, but friend or no, moving forward on a proposal that maps out construction can take quite a few meeting and run into the thousands of dollars. Engineer Gary Sapolin of Katonah has thrown his hat into an emerging niche that offers a far more efficient method to proceed, coming at a fraction of the cost.

“It’s a pretty new concept in this country as far as someone specializing in just being a middleman on a renovation project,” he says of his work as a renovation coach. Displaying the initial scenario above, he begins with a feasibility study, reviewing the homeowner’s needs to determine if it conforms to the home’s structural capability and budgetary limitations.

Taking a few hours, he says, “You’re talking about a hundred or hundred fifty dollars an hour, which works out to be quite a bit less expensive.” In addition, a renovation coach has no stake in the cost of the project so his or her recommendations do not come with the possible bias of an architect or a contractor.

Of course, if none of this is a financial concern, you might just go out and hire a project manager to oversee the entire process (as larger operations usually do). That hire comes in at about $100,000 a year. On the other hand, “The renovation coach is really a mini project manager,” he says, who’s coming around about once a week to oversee but is always available as a liaison between the contractor and the homeowner.

Certainly, a client of the homeowner, the coach can also serve as an asset to the contractor – rather than appearing as another person just putting in their two cents. “If a contractor is reputable, he’s not going to mind a homeowner having another opinion,” he says. The Renovation Coach facilitates communication between both sides – converting layman’s language to the technical for the contractor and visa versa in the other direction.

Again, the $100 an hour charge is far cheaper than both the full time project manager and the cost of rebuilding a miscommunication. I’ve seen this happen even when contractors delegate to subcontractors, he says, so you can imagine it when a homeowner is providing the only input.

As for recommending architects or contractors, he steers clear of that because it runs contrary to the whole idea of being objective. “I want them to come up with their own recommendations,” says the former Army Core of engineers’ engineer. Of course, afterwards, he’s there to offer his expertise on different bids.

At this for about a year, he’s happy to no longer be involved as a contractor on a daily basis. “You’re not dealing with the headaches of the day to day construction, you’re a consultant,” he says.

With the financial crisis, things have hit a bit of a slow down in the last few weeks but he’s not worried things won’t pick up again. “I think it’s going to be a stronger market for this kind of work,” he says, and even so, additions still are making more financial sense than selling at a devalued prices, he adds.

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