Franchise helps do-it-yourselfers through construction quagmire

TRAVERSE CITY – Think about it-most major life decisions are an "either/or" proposition: Whether or not to go to college; whether or not to get married; whether or not to have kids; whether or not to become a homeowner. Now with the Traverse City opening of a residential construction consulting franchise, at least one of those decisions can be something of a compromise.

Ted and Beth Price, the husband and wife team who opened a UBuildIt franchise on Three Mile Road in February, won't venture to advise clients on their educational goals, romantic entanglements, or prospects as parents, but if you're thinking of building a new home or remodeling an existing one, they're full of good ideas. The compromise comes in when clients are trying to decide whether to hire a builder or be their own general contractor.

"Many people want to build their own homes, or take on a major remodel, but they are fearful of doing it by themselves," said Ted. "This way, they retain the control of the project so they get exactly what they want in a house, and end up with as much as 25 percent instant equity."

Founded in 1988, UBuildIt has 119 franchises in 33 states. In Michigan, there are also franchises in Okemos and Grand Rapids.

The goal of the company is to help owner-builders plan and build or remodel their home by using a process that incorporates a budget, local subcontractors and building codes, land purchase if necessary, and regular site visits. Owner-builders who use the UBuildIt service can take advantage of contractor pricing for supplies, contacts with reputable tradespeople, and a time-tested building schedule, while saving a portion of the money they would have spent on a general contractor.

"We are a guide for the homeowner, a resource," said Beth. "There are going to be so many questions during the construction process. Not all of those are apparent at the start, either. We can answer them. If not right on the spot, we know where to go to get the answers."

An initial meeting establishes the project plans and then Ted reviews the property to see if the site is compatible with the intended building project. A realistic budget is established and, if financing is required, they offer information and advice on that process. Then, Ted and Beth create an individualized manual for the client which includes accounting, planning, estimating, a calendar, subcontractor and supplier contact information, change order forms and a construction overview for their project.

During the duration of the project, the Prices make their office available for meetings between owners and subcontractors, if needed, and visit the site regularly to check on the project.

UBuildIt estimates that clients save up to 30 percent on materials and subcontractors by using their service instead of hiring a general contractor. "We're here to help people get the house they dream about, but do it on a real-life budget," Ted said. BN