Managing multifamily housing renovation projects
Ohio-based real estate development, property management, and general contracting business, The Millennia Companies, founded by Frank Sinito, CEO, has been specializing in the acquisition, rehabilitation and management of affordable multifamily housing projects for more than 20 years. With budgets ranging from $100,000 to $20 million, The Millennia Companies has vast experience with hiring and managing nearly every type of professional trade.
Stephen Chappuies, VP of construction for American Preservation Builders, LLC, the general contracting arm of The Millennia Companies, shares his knowledge about finding and hiring painting pros, setting expectations, and choosing the best product.
Q. The Millennia Companies manages 20,000 properties among 22 different states. How do you find painting crews in each individual market?
A. It can be tough to find good, reliable contractors. That’s why we value our relationship with national paint supplier Sherwin-Williams. We work with local sales reps who provide us with a list of four or five experienced, affordable contractors in the area so we don’t have to spend time making numerous calls. It not only eliminates that headache but helps narrow down the selections. We’re looking for painting pros who buy a fair amount of product, have a good reputation, and pay their bills on time.
Q. How do you determine the right painting contractor?
A. Because we renovate and restore properties of all sizes, our needs are always changing, and we ultimately base our decision on the individual project.
Our multifamily housing units are often occupied, so we need to be especially mindful of that when working around our residents, and be respectful of their lifestyle and schedules. We do not temporarily relocate our residents during a renovation, so at the end of each day, each unit must be back to a fully functioning facility. Therefore, I look for pros who can communicate effectively and interact well, not only with our business, but also with the residents.
In my experience, you can get an immediate feel for someone based on the initial interaction. Although we have direct, on-site supervision for every project and require all contractors to wear an ID badge, I want crews to walk into an individual’s unit and say hello, be polite and courteous, and explain what they are there to do.
After an initial conversation and time line, expectations are discussed with an interested contractor. I can direct him or her to our web site to review the project blueprints and get an idea of the overall scope of work so an appropriate bid can be made.
The next, and probably most important, step is to meet the contractor at the physical site. We’ll walk vacant units so expectations are not clouded. While most projects are typical, many apartment units are 30 to 40 years old and could be in poor condition. There could be issues that need special attention on an individual property basis. Our philosophy is to ultimately create an affordable, modern, well-maintained complex where residents can be proud of the community in which they live. Since our company owns every property, we are focused on utilizing the highest-quality, most durable products available.
I also want to know if a potential contractor has received any safety training and utilizes proper materials and equipment. We will offer educational seminars for all of our contractors to create a safe working environment.
Crew size is also very important. I need a team that can accommodate the project, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m looking for a contractor who can provide the most painters. I may hire a few small crews or even someone who doesn’t have experience with multifamily housing if it feels like a good fit.
Finally, we discuss the budget. I look for the best crew I can get and determine what I can afford. There are often negotiations involved but, at the end of the day, I am willing to spend the right amount of money for a qualified team.
We’ve made mistakes and had bad experiences with contractors along the way, which is bound to happen among every industry trade profession, and there is always inherit risk.
Q. What type of paint products do you prefer and why?
A. We use specific types of paint in our residential and commercial projects that offer high-quality finishes.
Since we maintain a national account with Sherwin- Williams and buy in large quantities, we can take advantage of higher-grade paint and products at lower pricing. Purchasing the paint this way allows us to meet budgets and provide the greatest value to our apartment communities.
We ultimately want durable, washable paint that offers good coverage and wearability. This is key because paint that is not high quality requires two or three coats and won’t look good. Our top pick is Sherwin-Williams ProMar 200. It’s a great line of paint for interior walls because it has many benefits, including containing agents that inhibit the growth of mold and mildew on the surface, as well as meets all our requirements for zero-VOC paint products.
Many of our renovation and restoration projects are funded through tax credit awards from the state or HUD financing. After each project is complete, inspectors walk and review the site. They often provide feedback, and regularly give compliments about how great the paint looks. At their completion, our properties often look like high-end hotels.
Stephen Chappuies is VP of construction with American Preservation Builders, LLC. He has thirty years of experience in direct management of affordable housing projects, new construction, rehabilitation, adaptive reuse, and tax credit projects.