FAQ: Project Manager / Owner’s Representative

So you can better understand a Project Manager / Owner’s Representative role in your real estate project, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and our answers to them:

 When should I hire a project manager / owner’s representative?

The earlier, the better. An owner’s representative / project manager hired in the beginning stages of a projects conception can more efficiently save you time and money down the road. Your project manager / owner’s representative can also provide conflict-free advice to make sure you make the right decision, even if that decision is not to move forward with a project. No other vendor on your project team is designated to protect your interests and to make sure the decision to proceed with a project is in line with your organizations goals.

 How involved will the project manager (s) / owner’s representative (s) be?

That depends upon your internal resources and expertise, the project size, and the total amount of time available to dedicate to a project. For some projects we take a concept and implement it through Day 2 activities with little involvement from the owner. For others, we may act as an extension of an internal real estate / facilities division and work with the owner on every decision throughout the project.

Why would I need a project manager for a turnkey project when my landlord is handling the schedule and procurement of vendors?

Engaging a project manager / owner’s representative for a turnkey project ensures the landlord’s adherence to the project’s original budget and schedule. There is an economic conflict of interests in a turnkey deal because the landlord is trying to deliver the project as cost effective as possible to increase their own profits. However, poor workmanship or not delivering what is promised is at the tenant’s expense.   Hiring a project manager / owner’s representative ensures that the landlord is delivering what was promised during the lease negotiations and that the work is to the client’s satisfaction. A project manager also increases the level of accountability by verifying and monitoring the level of work to ensure corners are not cut at the client’s expense.

 By hiring a project manager, aren’t I simply incurring another cost on the project?

A professional project management company can save a client time and money on any real estate project. In some cases, project management firm can save up to ten times their service fee. Because we perform our tasks on a daily basis, we can help you avoid typical project pitfalls, share cost mitigation solutions, and find competent vendors who can complete their services at competitively bid prices.

 Is project management the same as construction management?

No. Project management deals in all aspects of the real estate process from assessment phase to closeout, whereas construction management pertains solely to the construction phase. A project manager / owner’s representative acts as your advocate and representative throughout the project so your goals are met every step of the way. A project manager assists clients in site selections, vendor procurement, budget and development schedule creation, and construction activity oversight, ensuring that every detail of your project is accounted for. A construction manager, on the other hand, simply manages the project’s construction, and may or may not be at risk, but in either case will be involved merely from pre-construction to the construction punch list. Your project manager will often hire the construction manager.

How can a project manager help save me time and energy?

A project manager / owner’s representative can save you time in many different ways. By helping you avoid time-consuming task and costly mistakes.  Your project manager keeps the project moving in the right direction from day one, a project manager can spare you project delays, cost overruns and headaches from start to finish. Also, as the single point of contact between the client and the project vendors, a project manager reduces miscommunication and increases each party’s liability.

Why should I use a third-party project manager rather than my real estate broker’s in-house PM?

 This has several advantages, including:

  1. Conflict-free advice. A third-party project management / owner’s representative firm has only one goal: to protect the client’s interests. A project manager at a brokerage firm cannot provide conflict-free advice, since that firm is more than likely also negotiating a lease transaction.
  2. Core Competency. A firm specializing in project management is 100% focused on these services, whereas a brokerage firm uses project management services simply to support lease transactions, which are the sources of most of their revenue. Thus they reinvest and train their brokers because brokerage services is their primary business function. A third-party project management firm, however, will give you best-in-class project oversight service, since it is 100% dependent upon project management for its revenue and will reinvest and train their Project Managers.
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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