Monday, November 17, 2008

Building Confidence, LLC

I stated when I started this blog that I would have been able to help prevent many of the problems that contractors and homeowners experience when going through a construction project. I am now making my services available to support the goal of having a stress-free process.

I am pleased to announce the launch of my new business, Building Confidence, LLC I am offering consulting services to homeowners and contractors who are about to embark on new construction or renovation projects. For a flat fee, I will write your contract and work with local lawyers to make sure it protects your interests and is in compliance with state law. I will then be available by telephone and e-mail to consult with you throughout your project and advise you regarding any issues that arise. I can be reached at 617-467-3073 or Please look at my website to learn more about my new construction consulting business.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Want to Sue my Builder/Contractor/the Homeowner

One of the interesting aspects of writing this blog is I get to see the keywords that people use to find me. My audience frequently searches the title above to land at my blog. I have posted previously ("Think Before You Sue"), but I think it is tremendously important in the current economy to re-visit this issue.

Lawsuits do not usually end well. I think the media has given us an unrealistic picture of the rare windfalls that can occur after going through a court proceeding. So many clients have told me they want "justice." I try to point out that a group of twelve strangers or a judge are not necessarily going to provide a just result. So many factors influence the behavior of the decision-makers that it is not realistic to think that one is going to achieve a storybook verdict.

At the end of a lawsuit, if the parties do not settle, one side receives a judgment. Frequently that is only the beginning. Enforcing the judgment and collecting on it is a whole other matter. Most people do not have readily accessible funds to pay a judgment. Even if they hold a valuable asset, one still has to force the sale of the asset if one hopes to collect.

So, rather than end this post on a discouraging note, I want to remind my readers of the following:

1. Start all construction projects with a good contract. This document spells out the understanding and intentions of the parties. A wonderful arbitrator I arbitrated with last week said ideally, the contract should sit on a shelf and collect dust once it has achieved its purpose.

2. Maintain good communication throughout the project. If problems arise, deal with them quickly and be honest. It is not surprising to me when I meet great contractors who tell me they have never been sued. Great contractors are usually great communicators as well.

3. Be realistic. Many of the disputes that I see occur because parties have unrealistic expectations. There are some people who simply expect perfection, and that just does not occur. When I was buying my house, my cousin said, "When you look at a house, you should keep one eye closed." I think there is a great deal of truth to that statement.

4. Try to resolve your disputes. Settlements are always better. Yes, I mean always. Statistics have shown that people tend to comply more with settlements than judgments. In addition, a settlement is something that you have control over.

After all, isn't justice when you have a say in the result?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Thoughts on Green Building

Although the concept of Green Construction has been around for quite some time, there seems to have been more discussion recently about using the technology to reduce heating costs, benefit the environment and as a marketing angle. I belong to a builder's association, and there have been more courses offered in green construction and LEEDS certification. I am not going to pretend to be an expert in this area, but I am trying to learn more about the "green" movement and how I can offer advice to my clients in this arena. For example, I recently learned about LEEDS-AP certification which a limited number of lawyers in Massachusetts have obtained. I am pursuing the possiblity of taking this class through the Green Builders Council

So, what does this mean for you?

For the contractor, it is important to stay state of the art.
  • Educate yourself about options and take continuing education classes.
  • Learn about the pros and cons of green products and determine which ones to offer to your clients.
  • Include clauses in your contracts when introducing green options and be wary of making claims or promises about results.
  • Familiarize yourself with government rebates that could benefit your clients.
  • Pay attention to what may happen with the next administration.
  • Distinguish yourself by marketing and taking advantage of the green movement by advertising real credentials, knowledge and experience.

For the homeowner:

  • Don't get caught up in green for green's sake.
  • Educate yourself about the true benefits of the green products and processes that you are considering.
  • Learn about government programs and rebates that may benefit you.
  • Consider the true costs of going green.
  • Allow your values to play a part in your decisions.
  • Carefully research contractor's or builder's claims and make sure they are accurate and valid.

The green movement is both exciting and daunting. It seems that everyone is hopping on the green train and none of us want to be left behind. At the same time, this area is ripe with the potential for fraud, false claims, and over-enthusiastic hype. It is important for both builders and homeowners to cut through the information that is being presented and determine which products and processes will provide real benefits in terms of cost savings and contributions to preserving our environment. I look forward to our learning together.