Part 5 – Rationale:
You get a phone call from a potential buyer or from a lender asking the question – Can you do a 203K Work Write Up? Normally the answer should be “Yes”. However, after getting the information on the details of the project, I ask this question, “Has the buyer selected a general contractor?”
This may sound absurd but the most important person on this process is not the lender (whom controls the loan and distributes the funds) nor the borrower (whom found the home and will be paying the mortgage) but you guess it, it’s the general contractor.
The role of a General Contractor
Most rehab lenders have a standard procedure to assess a contractor’s eligibility. A general contractor is required to submit cost estimates along with the license documentation, a copy of the commercial liability insurance policy needs to be submitted for approval. It does not hurt to have references, credentials and financial data at the ready, if asked from the lender.
Then an agreement is reached with the contractor to complete the work at the agreed price within the stipulated timeframe. An IRS w-9 form must also be collected for the general contractor and for any other vendors involved in the completion of the renovation work. This step is necessary prior to release of any fund advance to the contractor for initiation of the repair work.
A general contractor is expected to complete the proposed work in accordance with the details outlined in the written estimate, homeowner/contractor agreement and approved change orders. All the repair work and improvements should be completed under the applicable local codes and ordinances. Several permits are necessary and must be secured prior to beginning any concerned work. All payments required for permits will generally be listed in the 203k contractor’s bid sheet.
Contractors need to understand the following
The borrower is responsible for approving, selecting and hiring whichever contractor they want, however for a large construction project, I recommend at least three contractor’s bids, including the borrower’s contractor. Why? Because as the borrower, you will have to live with the results after the contractors collected their payments and the borrower will have to pay on the mortgage. During the construction process, there will be issues that we all have to agree on. In addition, each contractor bid will not come out the same price, but the scope of work will have to be the same as the Preliminary Work Write Up (Feasibility Study). The lowest bid does not mean the borrower will select that contractor. That contractor may have to explain how they got those numbers. My job as a consultant is to review each of proposed cost in thorough detail. It is my responsibility to ensure that the repair costs are acceptable and within reasonable estimates. Anything that is deemed to be excess or unnecessary is resolved on consultation with the borrower, contractor and the lender.
The compensation structure setup by these types of loans does not always permit contractors to receive pre-renovation deposits/start-up funds. This is very important, general contractors must be financially capable of affording the start-up costs and ongoing expenses with any rehab renovation project. Ample credit lines with suppliers and subs and/or sufficient capital/reserves will be verified as part of the certification process.
So, how do the general contractors get paid?
The contractors are paid in a series of draws by the borrower’s lender through escrowed funds. At closing, the lender places the rehab/improvement funds into an escrow account. The general contractors need to be as knowledgeable as possible regarding the rehab process. The exception that a general contractor will receive funds at startups is the FHA 203k Limited. The general contractor receives a maximum of two (2) payments. After closing on the home, contractors may receive a portion of the job cost (maximum 50%) as a pre-construction payment, subject to lender approval but may take weeks to arrive. Therefore, contractors must be financially capable of affording all the start-up costs and a portion of the ongoing expenses with the 203k project (ample credit lines with suppliers and subs and/or sufficient capital/reserves). Once all the work is complete, the contractors can request final payment of the remaining portion of the job cost according to the proposal that was submitted and approved by the borrower and the lender.