Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Building Contractor Actually Finishes on Time, under Budget

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Racine, WI (Reuters) – In what housing experts are calling an unprecedented development, a construction and renovations contractor in West Park has completed a project a full two months before the scheduled deadline, and has done so for less money than the client had expected to pay.

In November 2010, Kevin and Stacey McWilliams of 54 Wisconsin Avenue signed a contract with Bianchini Brothers, Incorporated, for the latter to build them a two-story house on the empty lot next door. Company VP Joey Bianchini had agreed to a date of March 15, 2012 for handing over the keys to a completely functional, intact house. Last week the McWilliams family moved into their new home, having received the go-ahead from municipal inspectors the week before.

Additionally, Bianchini had estimated the cost of construction at $198,000, to be paid in installments commensurate with the progress of the construction project. The final $25,000 payment was made on January 2 of this year, after the Mcwilliamses received the OK from the inspectors, but that was a full $15,000 less than the total, bringing the actual cost of the project down to $183,000, a 7.5% reduction.

Kevin McWilliams did not initially understand. “I called Mr. Bianchini to ask him what happened, and it took him twenty minutes to explain to me that I didn’t owe him any more money. Here I was, expecting, like every other client of a building contractor in history, to have to fork over another fifty thousand dollars for a job not so well done, and I get blown away by this,” he recalled. “When I tried to explain it to Stacey, she refused to believe it, and insisted on calling Mr. Bianchini herself.”

Bianchini, for his part, downplayed the unprecedented events, pointing to a development he had never before encountered during his thirty years in the field: the McWilliamses maintained the same plans throughout the project, not once making a change that would cause a reworking of the schedule. “These clients must be from another planet,” he mused in a recent interview. “People who actually know what they want and express their desires clearly, in writing? Who ever heard of such a thing? And whenever they came to check out progress on the site, they called me first to make sure they weren’t interrupting something important. These folks are nice, don’t get me wrong, but they’re just plain unusual.”

Reports of contractors completing their jobs on time and under budget have made news before, but the McWilliams/Bianchini case appears to be the first confirmed one. According to Mildred Barth, Professor of Housing Studies at Texas A&M, at least three times in the last forty years there have been contractors that seemed to finish early and for less. In 1974, a couple in Richmond, VA, thought they had paid for renovations to their second floor, with the total cost $2,500 short of the contractor’s estimate. Further investigation revealed that the contractor had skimped on materials, necessitating repairs that took another six weeks, pushing the project past its deadline.

In another case, in 1998 a Denver school inked a deal for a new science and computer lab. The contractor indeed completed the job at cost and it took him less time than originally estimated, but nevertheless went past the completion date because the school itself had to delay the start date after discovering asbestos that required removal. “That was the one that almost made it, too,” says Barth. “The same contractor was actually in the asbestos removal business, but the school board insisted on a tender as a separate project, and a different company had the winning bid.”

In 2003, banking giant HSBC leased a facility in Midtown Manhattan, and engaged a contractor to convert the premises into a bank branch. The previous tenant had been a clothing store, and the renovations took a month less than estimated. However, the project ended up costing almost 50% more than the original estimate of $104,000, and the bank management felt compelled to foreclose on more mortgages than usual that year.

Caroline Temple, Associate Professor of Urban Studies at Northwestern University, predicts that other contractors might attempt this feat, but that the appeal of the achievement will not last. “At the end of the day, it’s about bilking the client for every last possible cent. That’s always been the name of the game.”

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Written by Thag

January 12, 2012 at 10:14 pm

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