Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, Results
At Opus Vitae Construction of Portland, Oregon, we've created a culture that trains employees to think critically, take pride in their work, long for the betterment of themselves and the industry they represent, and inculcate fierce loyalty to the company.
We foster trust and build long-lasting relationship with subcontractors and design professionals in the Portland area. When we care for them through relational investment, listening to and leaning into their years of experience, honoring the contractual agreements we have in place, and guarding their profits, we care for a key engine that powers our success.
And finally, we will serve our clients from the first call onwards - striving, as industry professionals (and as time passes, friends) to care for them because their best interest allows us to thrive in our milieu.
Letter to Future Client
This letter is hard to write, but we want to be honest and direct. We find the courtship phase before a construction project, when a client looks for contractors (and then get bids) excruciating.
Years in the construction industry have taught us many things, but one, related to locking down realistic project costs, stands out: how challenging it can be to establish trust with potential clients because of bad experiences from their past.
We hear too many stories about promises broken, strung-out timelines, and contractors going AWOL. Over time, we’ve learned that caring for people and their financial resources with integrity means holding back from making vacuous guesses about the cost of a project without really doing our homework. There’s so much at stake!
Imagine, for a moment, that (after a 30 to 60-minute visit to your home) we provide a free estimate for your remodel based on verbal explanations and some photos from Pinterest. It comes in at $200K. You don’t say it aloud, but you really felt that $150K would be more than generous. You’re a bit floored by the dollars being discussed (“Can it really cost $200K for what we’re trying to do? Our whole house cost $500K…”) but you like us and, upon further discussion, feel willing to stretch your budget to $200K.
Because we insist, you hire a design professional. With them, you come up with a stunning plan you love for the space (even better than you imagined!). The process takes three months and you’re shocked how many decisions there are to be made - so many details to nail down and finishes to approve! Meanwhile, you also agree to sign a preconstruction services agreement with us.
We work with your design professional to make sure the project is best-practices buildable as designed, do our best to encourage the designer or architect to hold to your budget range, and walk all our subcontractors through the project so they’re intimately familiar with the as-built conditions and can see with their own eyes what it will take to execute their piece of the work. We then compile numbers, taking into account our subcontractors’ fixed price proposals, the house and its features, and the myriad design intricacies that always arise.
The number comes in at $250K.
You’ve now invested $20K in design fees with the architect, $2.5K with Opus Vitae for preconstruction services, and face construction numbers that are 25% higher than the initial guesstimate. You feel sad (angry?), misled (“You told us it would be $200K!”), and stuck.
You are not willing to stretch your budgets to accommodate a project that costs this much but now you’re out $22.5K before construction.
Your options are constricted: whittle the scope down so you can meet the original budget (which will mean design rework to something less than what you love… and cost more design dollars); or find a contractor who promises to finish the project for your original $150-200K.
There’s no denying there could be some value in the latter: a smaller or less-experienced contractor may be less expensive. On the other hand, the losses you will experience in the exchange are a combination of the following: professionalism, clear and consistent communication, commitment to (and knowledge of) best construction practices, attention to detail, project flow, and gross failure to meet the contracted budget. The gain may be a degree of dollar savings, but there’s no telling how much, if any.
While you’re rolling in these emotions, we’re quietly disappointed that we had to deliver the harsh reality about the actual cost of the project. Far and away our least favorite part of the preconstruction process is the blindfolded dart-throw budget we make before we have all the details in hand to provide an accurate proposal – but it’s unavoidable!
We understand that you need to have a sense of whether your budget can sustain the project you have in mind. And, while we feel bad that the final budget wasn’t what you’d hoped, we’re deeply thankful we didn’t just jump in blind and start a project you would not want, or be able to, afford. Our rigorous process sometimes exposes the reality that you will need to make sacrifices to meet your budget (best accomplished by reducing the scope of work), but it’s much better to know before you start than well into the project.
We have personally felt the pain of this merry-go-round too many times to count. So in the end, we now consistently put our foot down and stand on this: that while we will undoubtedly ‘lose’ a lot of work by demanding that people have solid design and work through a preconstruction services deep-dive, we’re steadfast and resolute. In the space we occupy, we feel valued for our work and expertise.
The clients who choose to work with us feel they’ve gotten maximum value at the end of the project. And we’ve built and firmly established the trust that we’d hoped for from the start. We love, and deeply desire to serve, people.
For us, construction is our venue. Relationships with people is the reward.
Opus Vitae Construction Co-Founder