In addition to serving as a mediator between all parties, I use my decades of custom home building experience to make sure the critical steps of the process are managed correctly.

Sometimes I speak to clients who think, “I can do this myself, or I can count on my construction team to do it collectively.” Unfortunately, we often have these conversations much later, when they call for help after the project has entered hot water. So what can you expect from an owner’s representative?

Put simply, the crucial tasks of the Management Contract for an owner’s representative are to:

Keep budget in line

The owner’s representative is given the responsibility of monitoring and advising on design choices as design evolves. The owner’s representative will provide preliminary cost estimates for options being considered, looking at the repercussions of design and building choices.

Why this matters: Seeing into the future impact of changes requires cross-functional knowledge, because seemingly small changes in design or materials have long-term impact. This work supports designers and builders to work together and avoid surprises.

Ensure value engineered drawings

The owner’s representative works with outside consultants such as structural engineers, lighting designers, mechanical/heating designers, and interior designers to ensure that there is coordination and value engineering between these consultants and the architects.

Why this matters: In a word, communication! Things can get lost in emails between teams, or in the owner’s inbox. When there isn’t one clear point of communication, decisions can get lost, muddled, duplicated and override without anyone noticing until much later.

Ensure timely approvals

The owner’s representative manages the process of submittals and meeting dates for government agencies such as Planning and Building Departments. The schedule is set with the input and agreement of architects, and modified as needed to meet the client and architect’s design process.

Why this matters: Nobody wants to go through multiple review rounds to pass approval of Design Review Boards and government departments, yet it happens! This is a tremendous waste of time for everyone, and it can be heartbreaking for a client to fall in love with a design only to hear that it fails to meet local regulations. This is an important step not only to stay on budget and on time, but also for team morale. (I’ve spoken before about the importance of local knowledge when building in the Bay Area—here’s my recent article.)

Before starting a custom home project, gather your team together and ask who will be responsible for these three elements. If you see a lack of clarity or confusion, you know exactly what an owner’s representative can do for you.