In the midst of deciding on (and budgeting for) the kind of leadership needed for a real estate project, a question we often hear is:“What is the difference between a project manager and a construction manager?

A real estate project management firm deals in all aspects of the real estate development process from the initial assessment/conception phase, until the final move in, and beyond. A construction manager, on the other hand, is concerned solely with the construction aspect of the project.

 

Without interfering on any particular professional’s responsibilities, a true third party project manager leads and helps to integrate all vendors, elements and phases of a project from start to finish. Designers, contractors and real estate brokers are very capable within their specialties, but can fall short if entrusted with an independent project management firm’s responsibilities—and so can a construction manager.

A project manager will act as your advocate and representative throughout the project so that all of your goals from beginning to end are met. During the project’s life cycle [or] duration, a project manager will become the owner’s trusted advisor, go-to person and single point of contact for project performance and procedure. A project manager oversees procurement of specialty consultants such as Audio Visual, Food Service, Security, and IT, with direction from the client. The project manager will then act as liaison between the client and all vendors, designers, engineers and contractors to ensure smooth, constant communication across the various parties, so everyone stays on the same page for the full duration.

In simple terms, the project manager will make sure all activities are aligned with the client’s overall goals and objectives for the project. This means that the project manager will plan, manage, oversee and fine-tune all of the details of the project, not just its construction phase—and will even help to select and ultimately manage the construction manager.

A project manager will assist in the hiring of a general contractor and/or construction manager and will oversee their quality of work through site visits, punch-list walkthroughs, and reports at weekly project meetings. A project manager will also track and review the construction managers change orders, make sure all vendors are coordinated to and with the CM’s schedule and challenge the CM on lead times for products and delays. *It is important to note that there is a difference between a general contractor and a construction manager which we will cover in another blog.

A typical construction manager has a scope of work that is limited to the pre-construction/construction phase. A construction manager will supervise all construction aspects of a project and will typically participate in pre-construction meetings, provide onsite supervision during construction, and manage sub-contractors. They may also directly hold subcontractor contracts, and is therefore liable for all of the subcontractors’ work.

So, before you decide whether to hire a project manager or a construction manager for your next real estate project, know the difference. And if you can’t decide, do your project a favor: hire a project manager who will manage your full project scope not just construction.

Stephen Fean
Stephen Fean is the Vice President of Business Development at Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers, a real-estate consulting firm that provides owner’s representation and project management services. More about Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers as well as additional blog posts can be found here.
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