HP Construction
apartments to townhomes

Montecito Villa Townhomes - 26 unit renovation project, Dec. 2006 to Dec. 2007

Complete tearout down to the drywall, bring the electrical up to code, add cable, new can-lights and recessed exhaust fans, new light fixtures and ceiling fans, new kitchen floor plan with new cabinets, microwave hood, and dishwasher, new tile and carpet on the floors, new doors and jambs, new casing and baseboard, new texture and paint, new tile countertops, new sinks and faucets throughout.

In the spring of 2006 we were hired as a finish carpentry subcontractor to install cabinets, hang doors, and run baseboard on a townhome conversion project in East Bakersfield.  Although work progressed well, we soon began to experience problems with the general contractor's business and ethical practices.  For awhile we stayed on as the only subcontractor working directly for the owners, who requested we stay onboard despite our reluctance to work for their general contractor.

Eventually all the units were pre-sold, and in an attempt to streamline, the owners chose to put all subcontractors again under the fiscal oversight of the general contractor.  At that point, we walked away from the job, knowing that to stay would only be to invite trouble.  

Some time later, we received a phone call from the owners of the project: they finally had to fire the problematic contractor and needed help badly, and they needed it right away.  They were grateful for our quick response, and we were grateful for the opportunity to show them the difference we could bring to their project.  In December of 2006 we took over as the new general contractor.  The jobsite was in chaos.  We made it our first priority to get the project organized.

Early on, we set up a jobsite trailer, for the paper and phone work so vital to the construction process.  We set up a tools and materials station in the garage of one of the units.  We were preparing to hit our stride - and in no time at all, we did just that.

Project team workshirts were printed up, work tasks and sequences were analyzed to maximize efficiency, assignments were delineated, standards were clarified, goals were spelled out, and a team spirit began to materialize.  In due time our no-nonsense crew had the project on track, on schedule, and under budget.  High productivity and high standards were the order of the day.  Work progressed well, and much of the substandard work that had occurred before we took over was torn out and re-done. 

While near-impossible deadlines were being met by keeping to a dizzying pace, the owners responded with generous bonuses all around.  But soon it was discovered that work was progressing too well, things were moving too fast.  The owners requested a slowdown, so that funds tied up in escrow could be used to keep the project in motion.  In response, we began to pace the job, letting some of the recent hirees go, while retaining the cream of the crew.

All was well again…but in short order a new storm appeared on the horizon, one that would rock the real estate world to its core: the collapse of the sub-prime lending market.  It was a crisis with global implications, and yet there we were, building housing for a market that was imploding.

Many of the already-sold townhome units fell out of escrow.  Some of the loans went into default.  It seemed as if a dark cloud had descended on our project, as it had indeed on the whole nation.  Sales were continuing, but few buyers were able to get through the lending process, as banks tightened the screws on loans to sub-prime borrowers.   Workers were let go, money was tightened, bonuses evaporated, contract amounts were renegotiated down, business relations on the jobsite became somewhat strained.  The once cheerful salesgirl left, and the project owners took over sales themselves. 

And yet, we’re happy to say that our workers who were retained did not take any wage cuts, and morale stayed up, if not at the buoyant levels once enjoyed.  Creative ways of cutting costs (while keeping quality up) were found.  Payroll workers were given greater responsibilities, while subcontracting was scaled back.  A few subcontractors were regretfully but necessarily replaced with lower bidders.  Some of the completed units were rented, instead of sold. 

Despite the real estate market's problems, construction progressed.  City urban-renewal grant monies for first-time homebuyers infused some much-needed life back into the project.  As our work ran to its completion in Dec. 2007, the quality of our work was still being praised. 

We’re proud to have completed a difficult project in difficult times, to have kept up our morale and our standards, and to have had it end with a final paycheck and a handshake – that, for us, constitutes a success.  We will continue to strive to meet the needs of our clients whether in times of adversity or prosperity.

photos and a description of this job were posted on the internet, prompting the comments below

Very cool gig you got going.  I like your HVAC guy too. The van and the lab coat make him look interesting.  - Gunner

Thanks for sharing all the pics - makes me feel like I'm working there myself - feels like I just met the whole family.  Your jobsite trailer/office is a class act...Good work!  - JT

Quite the journey in 2007!  The project came out nice and I like your perspective on all the good that came out of it in spite of the challenges.  Best of luck in 2008. - dcarroll3000

Thanks for letting us follow along.  Good stuff.  - basswood

Clap! clap! clap! Thoroughly enjoyed reading every post. A very nice holiday present from you to us.  After a year of work and worry you should have come out with money in your pocket over and above what you have said. I guess a lot of us have had similar situations (though never wrote about it sooooooooooo well) and now is the time to reflect on the past year and try to turn it into a lot more money in future jobs.  Again, thank you  -  roger_g

The jobsite trailer I set up on this job is a story in itself.  Click here if you'd like to hear about the Montecito Villa Townhomes "Burrito Hut".

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