# Cut Construction Costs: 20 Proven Techniques

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1 Cut Construction Costs: 20 Proven Techniques Presented by: Charles C. Shinn, Jr., PhD President Lee Evans Group / Shinn Consulting A. The importance of controlling and cutting construction costs 1. Largest cost classification a. Typically 55% to 62% of sales b. Too high to allow for superior profit c. Cost of sales (land and direct construction costs need to be 70% or less, to generate good profitability 2. Variable cost increasing the marginal rate of profitability a. If you can reduce construction costs by \$10 per cost code: 1) Typically about 100 cost codes per house 2) Creates \$1,000 of increased profit per house 3) If you sell 100 homes a year, then your profits increase by \$100, Need to continually monitor, control and reduce direct construction costs a. Attack on all fronts B. Change in the environment 1. From a sellers market to a buyers market 2. Ability to raise sales price, to needing to discount sales price 3. Discounts are 100% profit dollars 4. Controlling and reducing costs is critical C. Profit is generated by velocity and gross profit 1. Sales price needs to be set to generate velocity 2. Each house has to generate adequate gross profit (sales price cost of land and direct construction costs) 3. Contribution margin has to cover fixed costs and generate target profit 1

2 D. The dynamics of sales price and costs 1. Dynamics of sales price changes a. Decisions to increase the sales price increase the marginal rate of profitability 1) Increasing the sales price by \$5,000 for a 100-unit a year builder potentially increases profits by \$500,000 b. Increases in sales price tend to reduce sales velocity 2. Dynamics of operating expense changes a. Decisions to decrease operating expenses DO NOT increase the marginal rate of profit 1) A \$5,000 reduction in operating expenses will only increase the profit by \$5,000 b. This is typically the first action taken by builders in a softening market 3. Dynamics of direction cost change a. Decisions to reduce construction costs increase the marginal rate of profit 1) A reduction in direct construction costs of \$5,000 for a 100 unit a year builder will increase profits by \$500,000 b. Reductions in construction costs typically DO NOT impact sales velocity c. The sales price can be reduced dollar-for-dollar of construction cost reduction 1) Increases the percentage profit 2) Possibly increases sales velocity d. Many builders will increase operating expenses to reduce construction costs because of the dramatic impact reducing construction cost has on profit E. Direct construction costs are the only variable 1. The market sets the sales price 2. Target profit should not be negotiable 2

4 4. Analyze standard specifications a. Immediate impact on reducing direct construction costs b. Matching competition 1) Verify that it is truly standard 2) Determine quantity, quality, grade, and details c. Understand the customer s perceived value d. Develop practice of zero base specifications 1) Strip standard specification to basics 2) Conduct cost / benefit analysis 3) Add back items giving adequate returns 4) Create options and upgrades of the rest 5. Don t overdo the amount of a standard specification a. Extra amounts of standard features have: 1) Diminishing value 2) Eliminate potential upgrades 3) Probably are given away 6. Change the level of specification from the first floor to the second floor a. The first floor (public area) and the second floor (private area) do not need to have the same level of finish 1) Three-piece crown to one-piece crown 2) Large base to normal base 3) Window trim to drywall wrap 4) Nine foot ceiling to eight foot ceiling 5) Eight foot doors to 6 8 doors 7. Analyze low gross profit plans a. Conduct comparative job cost budget analysis b. Compare target job costs to actual 1) Highlights high cost areas c. Take action to reduce those job cost classifications 8. Implement a true purchase order system a. Release purchase orders for all direct construction costs b. Do not accept invoices 4

5 c. Pay only purchase order amounts d. Additional pay can occur only if a variance purchase order was approved prior to work or material delivery 9. Issue complete construction start package prior to start a. Customer selections complete before start of construction b. Minimize or eliminate late change orders c. Minimizes confusion, delays, mistakes, and rework 10. Improve estimating and purchasing a. Conduct in-house detailed quantity take-offs b. Don t leave it to the trades and vendors c. Qualify trades and vendors d. Document the agreements 1) Trade Contractor Agreements 2) Vendor Agreements 3) Scopes of Work 4) Checklists, to ensure complete prior to payment e. Bid on unit prices, not lump sum 1) Don t bid every job 2) Lock bid price for a period of time 3) Unit price locked, only unit quantity changes 11. Value engineer plans a. Analyze for construction efficiencies 1) Exhibit III b. Consider new and alternate materials c. Implement material and labor saving techniques 12. Work with the trades to eliminate inefficiencies a. Establish a trade council b. Become the builder of choice 1) Treat trades like part of your company 2) Eliminate dry runs 3) Reliable construction schedules 4) Well managed job sites 5

7 6) Model home product replacement 7) Design center displays 8) Design center display maintenance 9) Sales training for sales staff 10) Collateral product brochures 11) Installation training for superintendents and trade contractors 12) Repair training for warranty personnel 13) Warranty service supplies 14) Warranty coverage 15) Service commitment 16) Administrative assistance 17) Change draw percentages 18) Assume competitors service obligation 19) Delivery arrangements 20) Material protection 21) Backorder penalties 22) Schedule delay penalties 23) Conference facilities 24) Manufacturer rebates 25) Supply guarantee 18. Break up turnkey trades a. Buy material and labor separately b. Can save 15% to 25% c. Superintendents will complain 1) Will have to manage material d. Break up and re-bundle 19. Improve material inventory and control a. Inventory material deliveries b. Protect material upon delivery and installation 1) Entry doors 2) Countertops 7

8 3) Showers and tubs c. Monitor, and reduce, the dumpsters 1) Watch the waste and excess material d. Watch for diverted materials e. Return unused and damaged material for credit 20. Standardize construction processes a. Be consistent and reliable b. Efficient and effective c. Establish a culture of discipline G. Summary Controlling and reducing direct construction costs are critical to becoming a superior profit builder. In today s housing slump, with the need to reduce sales prices to maintain volume, it is extremely important to reduce direct cost to maintain profits. 8

9 EXHIBIT I MARKET BASE AVAILABLE CONSTRUCTION COST BUDGET Factor Budget Sales Price \$ 350,000 Profit ,000 Land ,000 Financing ,000 Marketing ,000 Indirect Construction Costs ,500 Warranty ,750 General & Administrative ,750 Historical Slippage ,000 Total Direct Construction Costs ,000 9

10 EXHIBIT II PRELIMINARY DIRECT CONSTRUCTION COST BUDGETS TOTAL DIRECT COST BUDGET \$ 175,000 PRELIMINARY Plans Permits ,585 PREPARATION Excavation ,415 Foundation ,318 Steel Waterproofing ROUGH STRUCTURE Lumber - frame and trim ,455 Trusses ,835 Stairs Windows, Sliding Doors ,355 Front Door Garage Doors ,208 Framing Labor ,903 Fireplace ,750 Gutters and Downspouts Roofing ,500 Masonry ,185 Utility Connections

11 FULL ENCLOSURE Plumbing \$ 14,945 Heating ,693 Electrical ,780 Telephone Insulation ,570 Drywall ,418 INTERIOR FINISH Interior Trim ,850 Painting ,812 Cabinets ,818 Countertops ,225 Wall Tile Shower Doors, Mirrors Hardware Appliances ,468 Electrical Fixtures ,085 Vinyl Flooring Carpet ,285 COMPLETION Finish Grade Final Clean Common Labor and Clean ,978 Miscellaneous

12 EXHIBIT III SPECIFIC THINGS YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE DIRECT CONSTRUCTION COSTS 1. Redesign HVAC system a. Reduce duct size b. Reduce A/C unit c. Reduce furnace unit 2. Change water heater to 40-gallon 3. Reduce carpet and / or pad grade 4. Reduce upper kitchen cabinets to 36, from No closer wall on kitchen cabinet wall 6. Eliminate cabinet fillers 7. Design kitchen for 24 cabinets 8. Eliminate 9 cabinets 9. Lower ceilings to 9 standard instead of Lower second floor ceiling height 11. Eliminate transom windows 12. Raise windows to minimum of 16 off floor, to eliminate tempered glass 13. Eliminate window at stair landing tempered glass 14. Eliminate or use clerestory window over tub tempered glass 15. Reduce the number of windows 16. Standardize window sizes for all plans 17. Lower pitch of roof to walkable roof - 7.5/12 or less 18. Eliminate crown molding in coffered ceilings 19. Crown molding only in dining room as standard 20. Drywall wrap or half-jamb bi-fold and bi-pass closet doors 21. Eliminate window trim on all, or at least second floor, windows 22. Reduce amount of handrail and pickets a. Half-walls are much cheaper 23. Eliminate rosettes install dead wood 24. Eliminate front door sidelight, kick plate and peephole 25. Minimize angled walls 26. Build over garage use attic truss 27. Use gable end truss over common wall between garage and house to eliminate need to drywall garage ceiling 28. Frame non-load bearing walls 24 on center 29. Use ladder T s for all wall intersections 30. Use California corner framing technique 31. Use pedestal sink in powder room instead of cabinet vanity 32. Standard round toilet instead of elongated 33. Switched outlet instead of ceiling light in bedrooms 34. Eliminate bath banjo tops and reduce mirror 35. Eliminate need to cut bath mirror for outlets or light fixture 12

13 Shinn Group of Companies Shinn Consulting Our mission is to improve the professionalism of the home building industry. Our services include: Business management and specialized consulting for all aspects of the builder s organization Best practice awareness and experience exchange through facilitation of builder groups and in-house seminars Ownership transitions and other exit strategies including sale of the business Facilitation and guidance of the strategic planning process and development of business plans Lee Evans Group The Lee Evans Group has been the premier organization in management education for the home building industry since Our seminars focus on management techniques to improve profitability, assist in controlled growth, survive during tough economic times and provide construction controls. All of our seminars are designed to help the builder: Satisfy customers by building the house right the first time, then giving superior customer service Manage capital and financial operations to achieve high profitability Build strong and integrated systems to make the management job easier and less stressful Train and educate personnel to work as a team to produce superior results Builder Partnerships Operating as an agent for over 35 builders constructing more than 10,000 units annually, Builder Partnerships fosters communication and cooperation between builders and manufacturers. Our focus is to create win-win relationships for both builder and manufacturer. Our program: Improves communication and interaction between builder and manufacturer Manages a comprehensive specification agreement and rebate program Streamlines the purchasing decision AND, much more

14 Our Clients Our primary clients include: Medium to large volume regional builders seeking to increase their profitability Other players in the home building industry, including manufacturers, financial entities, software companies and other suppliers Our builder clients, located across the United States and Canada, include top performers among regional homebuilders. Many of these companies have been recognized by home building professional magazines and local Home Builder Associations (HBAs) for their successful management styles; and are considered spheres of influence within their communities. Shinn Group of Companies 6793 W. Canyon Ave., Suite 13A Littleton, CO Fax:

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