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Features Industry Insight Ultimate Guide

The 101 on Lien Waivers in Construction

When a contractor agrees to take on a project for a set price, they expect to get paid for their work. If a project owner decides not to pay them, the contractor then has the right to file a lien against the property. While this does initially put the contractor in the driver’s seat, another document exists to protect project owners as well: lien waivers. 

So, what is a Lien Waiver?

A lien waiver is a document that a contractor or subcontractor can sign to give up their lien rights in exchange for payment. This form is exchanged during the payment process, and it states that for a certain amount of money, the contractor will agree not to file a lien against the owner’s property.

This is a powerful document.

If a contractor has lien rights, they can file a lien against the property if they don’t receive money for their work. If the owner still doesn’t make good on the payment, the contractor can act on the lien and force the sale of the property. Once the property sells, the contractor is able to take their cut from the proceeds.

This creates a lot of risk for the project owner. Although most owners want to pay their contractors to keep them happy, they also prefer a bit of reassurance that the contractor won’t file a lien against the property. That’s exactly what a lien waiver does. 

Two Types of Lien Waivers

There are two types of lien waivers: unconditional and conditional. If a contractor signs either one, they’ll give up their rights to a lien. However, exactly when they give up their rights changes based on the waiver type.

  • Unconditional waivers essentially state that the moment the contractor signs them, they give up their rights to a lien. These are excellent documents for project owners because they essentially wash their hands of risk. For contractors, they might be signing this document before receiving any money, meaning they’re shouldering all the risk. If the project owner doesn’t pay, there’s no recourse other than a long, drawn-out lawsuit process.
  • Conditional waivers are a bit more diplomatic. A signed conditional waiver states that a contractor will give up their right to a mechanics lien when they get paid for their work. These forms are essentially like receipts for the project owner and create very little risk for the contractor. If the contractor doesn’t get paid, they still retain their right to a lien. 

Nailing the Lien Waiver Process

These documents carry a lot of weight, so it’s important that they’re handled correctly. Project owners need to ensure they’re receiving lien waivers from the general contractor before or at the time they pay them. However, it’s also important that the GC get lien waivers from their subs as well.

One missed lien waiver throughout the payment chain can lead to a lien.

So how should a project owner or general contractor handle the lien waiver process? The best route is through automation. 

Automated Lien Waiver Generation

Tracking down lien waivers from every contractor, sub, trade, or material supplier can be a nightmare. And, it can drag the payment process out far longer than necessary. Instead of manually handling the process, lean on automatic waiver generation.

Premier Construction Software can be programmed to generate lien waivers automatically. Contractors and subs can generate them and send them when submitting invoices, or the system can require them before issuing payment. The system’s customizable workflows can send these documents to everyone who needs them, including internal and external personnel.

This automated process can provide a bit of relief for the GC or project owner. As the system automatically generates proper lien waivers (unconditional, conditional, or even final payment), they’ll know that money won’t switch bank accounts until the document is signed. This lessens the risk for these parties tremendously. 

Electronic Signatures

When a contractor or sub receives or submits a paper lien waiver, they have to sign in and include it in their payment application paperwork. This creates yet more risk, as the document could easily get misplaced, leading the project owner’s accounting staff to believe the contractor never submitted the document, so they withhold payment until they receive it. Since the contractor isn’t getting paid, they might consider filing a lien. 

It’s a nasty cycle caused by one misplaced document. 

Since Premier Construction Software allows for electronic signatures, the risk of losing a lien waiver is almost non-existent. Contractors are able to access documents on any mobile-enabled device. Once they review the form, they can sign it and submit it to the project owner. This happens in real-time.

Storage and Review

Keeping all those lien waivers organized in hard copy form can be challenging for office staff, and it allows more room for human error than is necessary. Poor file management can mean time wasted looking for a specific lien waiver, or not knowing who even submitted them.

Premier Construction Software puts secure storage at the users’ fingertips. Premier automatically stores signed agreements on its cloud, and then sends the contractor or sub a copy of the signed document. The project owner knows who’s submitted the doc, and the contractor knows their lien waiver is on file. 

And, once the waiver is in the system, it enters an approval inbox. Users can access this inbox to view approved documents (such as signed waivers) and drill down for important information like payment amount, dates, and who signed the document. 

Customizable and Repeatable Lien Waivers

Depending on the owner, GC, and sub, lien waivers can look very different between each party. The owner’s customary lien waiver they send with payment could look different than the version coming from the GC or subcontractor. While they all serve the same purpose, standardizing them into one document can streamline the payment process.

Premier Construction Software offers users the ability to configure and customize their forms. This gives the owner and GC a standardized form they can use across the payment tiers. Subs submitting invoices will be filling out the same document the project owner sends to the general contractor. This consistent language not only makes the form easier to produce and send but also ensures everyone understands the form, allowing better transparency and communication. 

Lien Waivers Require Careful Handling, and Premier Can Do It

Lien waivers are vital to both project owners trying to keep their properties clear from litigation and contractors and subs looking to speed up their payment. Both entities can benefit from a system like Premier, like automatic generation, real-time electronic approval, and cloud-based storage takes the guesswork out of lien waiver management.

To see how Premier Software can help you structure your business for success, schedule a demo today.

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice Trends & Technology Ultimate Guide

Why is Software Support Critical to the Success of Your Business?

We know that changing financial and project management software can be stressful. The transition is often bumpy and can take several weeks or months to implement. With Premier Software you get the help and support you need throughout the software implementation and use process.

We help ensure that you are getting the most out of your investment and that your team is working at its peak efficiency. Here’s how Premier Construction Software provides you with the support you need to improve your business success.

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice Trends & Technology Ultimate Guide

Demand VS Supply in the Construction Industry

The current state of the construction industry is one of challenge. Contractors are in incredibly high demand for renovations, new home builds, and other projects. They’re poised for serious growth, except for one thing: There aren’t any affordable materials.

 

Demand VS Supply: What happened?

The pandemic caused a wild amount of demand for contractors and a shortage of materials. In the past, whenever either condition existed, it has pushed the price of building up. In today’s construction industry, it’s pricing both contractors and prospective project owners past their affordability breaking point.

Contractors are in High Demand

Contractors are in such demand because people want change. With so many folks leaving large cities for greener spaces, or so many working from home and needing a new environment to look at, contractors can’t answer the phone fast enough. These customers want to build new homes, renovate fixer-uppers they purchased in the country, or simply spruce things up a bit. And most of them want to hire a contractor to do it for them (keep “most” in mind).

Building Materials are in Short Supply

But, with materials manufacturing taking a massive hit during the pandemic, there just aren’t enough affordable materials around. With government imparted shutdowns, social distancing requirements, and a general lack of staffing across all industries, the amount of lumber hitting the shelves isn’t what it used to be. And, for the contractors that are able to find materials, they’re extremely expensive.

Workforce Shortages

For materials that aren’t necessarily in short supply, such as stone in the domestic mountain used for building products, or materials waiting at sea to be unloaded, the issue is a workforce shortage. With so many people choosing to remain out of work, material production can’t ramp up. And, there’s a lack of qualified truck drivers to move the materials that are produced. 

DIYers Played a Part

Consider this interesting point: DIYers caused some of these headaches as well. With so many people staying home instead of taking expensive vacations, many decided to tackle renovations and fixer-upper projects on their own. They headed down to the local home center or lumber yard and strapped studs and joists to the roof of the family sedan. This one group may have been responsible for the apparent disappearance of pressure-treated lumber in 2020, as new deck builds are a favorite of DIYers.

Governmental Impacts

Let’s not discount the effect that the government has had on the situation. The Biden administration imparted an 18% tax increase on softwood lumber coming into the US from Canada. Also, tariffs on concrete shipments from Japan are making a challenging scenario even worse. 

Issues for the Construction Industry

This chain of uncanny events is doing one thing: Making construction of any sort more and more expensive. Materials that were once affordable and readily available are typically neither anymore. 

 

  • When it comes to wood, the cost of 1,000 board feet of lumber nearly quadrupled over the course of the pandemic. It’s since dropped, but it’s far above pre-pandemic pricing.
  • The availability of concrete hasn’t changed much, but the demand and suppliers’ ability to move it to the job site has: There are fewer qualified drivers yet more places to deliver it to, causing a rise in price.
  • The cost of steel has been steadily increasing, forcing the price of fabrication and commercial construction to increase accordingly. Some estimates have the increase of steel mill prices as high as 141%. 

 

How To Overcome (or Avoid) These Issues Moving Forward

For many contractors, the time or ability to avoid the supply chain issues caused by the pandemic has passed. However, there are some ways they can avoid the impact these issues can have on their bottom line. 

Job Forecasting

One way to plan for current expenses is to use effective job forecasting methods. By utilizing data compiled from past projects, contractors are able to predict how much a project will cost. While spikes in materials costs do minimize this methods’ effectiveness, the longer the heightened costs occur, the more accurate forecasting will be.

This method requires more than just reviewing old invoices. Utilizing software designed specifically for contractors allows for in-depth analysis of spending, materials costs, labor, and other costs associated with certain projects. The more data collected, the more accurate the report.

Establishing Credit with Multiple Materials Suppliers

A more effective way to mitigate the impact of skyrocketing materials pricing in establishing lines of credit with several suppliers. Many contractors prefer to work with a select few suppliers, but this limits their ability to shop prices and material availability. What the supplier has is what the contractor gets.

While it’s true that many suppliers work off the same supply chain, everyone has a trick or two up their sleeve. Consider a contractor who ordered materials but the job fell through. Potentially, those materials are sitting in one particular yard, which means only one supplier will have access. If a contractor who needs those materials doesn’t regularly deal with that supplier, they may never locate those materials. 

That’s a specific instance, but one that isn’t uncommon. Access to materials often depends on who a contractor knows, which can make establishing accounts with several companies critical. For contractors that worry too many accounts will make accounts payable a nightmare, a solid construction software solution can automate and streamline payments.

Contract Clauses

While no contractor wants to adjust the terms of their contract or back out on a deal, it’s sometimes necessary. Including clauses in a contract that put the onus on the customer might be the best way to protect their bottom line.

For instance, such a clause might state that once a material increases over a certain percentage (which must be established in the contract), the customer will be expected to pay the additional costs. The customer then has the opportunity to sign or pass on the contract. If they sign, the contractor has some reassurance that price increases won’t derail their project or their company’s profit margin.

Hard Times Call for Smarter Measures

Things are tough right now. Though contractors might not be able to take full advantage of the demand for their services, with a few smart moves, they can still grow. The cost of materials may never reach pre-pandemic prices again, but contractors that analyze their established data, diversify their supply chain, and create safer contracts have a better chance of making it through the worst of it. When materials do begin to drop again, they’ll be in the position to fake full advantage and grow. 

Premier construction software is a cloud-based accounting and project management construction software

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business.

Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes. 

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology Ultimate Guide

Enhancing Construction Roles With All-in-One Software

Successfully taking a construction project from an idea to a finished product requires the precision of an orchestra conductor. With so many moving parts required to make the job a reality, a single point of reference that everyone can look at to make sure they’re in rhythm. While a conductor’s baton works for the band, all-in-one software does the trick for a construction company.

But, what is all-in-one software, how does it work, and what are its benefits? We’ll discuss those points and how all-in-one construction software enhances the roles of construction personnel in this article.

What is an All-in-One Construction Software Solution?

Construction is somewhat of an old-school industry, though many contractors have adopted business and project management software over the years. These programs take a specific task (or set of tasks) and streamline or automate them for the contractor. The problem is that many contractors use several types of software, and they don’t always play nicely together. All-in-one software solves that very problem.

All-in-one construction software allows contractors to keep all of their most important tasks, documents, plans, and processes under one application. Instead of running three of four different types of software or apps, transferring and updating data, and creating separate spreadsheets to organize it all, an all-in-one software program can handle it all.

In practical use, all-in-one software allows construction personnel to stay organized and updated. For example, when an electronic change order is accepted, the job’s overall budget might change automatically. Or, when sending an electronic RFI, access to the drawings affected will accompany it. And, any change on the project will automatically update job costing reports, making sure that the project is still on course. 

For many contractors, those tasks fall under different software programs or even hard copy filing systems. Some companies aren’t even using software designed specifically for the construction industry, meaning they aren’t benefiting from tailor-made solutions to streamline their business and boost their profits. All-in-one software does it for them. 

How an All-in-One Software Solution Can Enhance Roles

With so many different facets to all-in-one software, the folks filling different job titles within a construction company can all benefit in different ways. The following are some specific examples of how this centralized software can enhance many roles within a business.

Owners/Executive Board

At the highest level, all-in-one construction software is all about information and transparency. For a smaller company, this solution provides the owner with real, hard numbers that they can take to a bank for financing a project or a potential partner looking to buy into the business. With an up-to-date outlook on the company’s current projects, profitability, and even assets, making big moves that will propel the business forward is much easier.

For an executive board, all-in-one software contains everything they need to make important decisions. Current data and job profitability on large projects can be challenging to collect, but with one program managing it all, the job becomes much easier. Should the board need to make important decisions, present information to shareholders, or make a decision regarding the company’s trajectory, the data is at the board members’ fingertips.

Project Management

Project management is a stressful role, and anything a company can do to streamline it for their PMs goes a long way toward enhancing the role. 

Collecting all of the reports a project management team might need under one solution has many benefits. First, since all of the data, values, and documents update automatically, they’re more likely to be looking at the latest, most accurate data. This allows them to make clear decisions in less time with more accuracy.

Also, the project management team can set up customized workflows that will automatically send data and documents to the folks who need to see them. This allows the PM team to shift their focus from distributing and collecting the latest documents and drawings and putting that focus on the job at hand.

Design Professionals

For design professionals, electronic approvals and drawing management can make a huge impact on their workflow. Without all-in-one software, changes in drawings can be challenging. While emailing a document isn’t so difficult, getting a signature required to move forward often requires hand delivery—a workflow annihilator.

With electronic approvals and drawing management, designers can send documents for review and instant approval. Decision-makers can open these documents from any mobile device, review them, and approve or reject them in real-time.

At the same time, RFIs sent to designers for changes in materials or layout are just as easy. The designer can open the request, review the document, pictures, or drawings, and quickly give the okay or offer another solution. This alone helps keep the project on track.  

Finance and Accounting

There is possibly no role in a construction company so inundated with reports and data than the finance and accounting department. These folks are constantly watching the line items, profitability, accounts, and more, and trying to keep them up to date. With all-in-one software, much of that data collection is automatic.

Consider this scenario: A change order occurs and the subcontractor is now submitting a payment application that’s significantly higher than expected. Without all-in-one construction software, this will throw the budget for a loop and leave the accounting staff scrambling to find where the money is going. 

For a team equipped with an all-in-one solution, that change order would have updated the budget automatically. This gives the accounting department the information they need to justify the budget and make decisions moving forward. And, for any decisions requiring approvals, automatic workflows can send these documents and retrieve electronic signatures in real-time.

Field Personnel and Subs

When it comes to building the product that the project owner will actually see, field personnel and subs are the folks for the job. To ensure they’re building exactly what’s expected, up-to-date drawings are an absolute must.

Centralized drawing management offered by an all-in-one solution enables them to instantly check that they’re working from the most updated drawings. Rather than someone driving to the office and grabbing a copy of the latest drawings, these documents are now available on any mobile device.

And, let’s not discount the savings in delays. Confusion, discrepancies, changes, and shortages all have their ways of bringing a project to a standstill. Rather than workers and subs sitting idly, instant RFIs, electronic approvals, and real-time change orders improve communication and keep the project on task. While delays are inevitable, these features lessen their impact and keep the budget intact.

Project Owners

Project owners rarely have access to management software of any kind, however, they do see the benefits. Working with a construction company that uses an all-in-one system means better communication, smarter decision-making, and a feeling of being more involved. Making the project owner part of the workflow or sending documents that require approval helps the owner feel involved, leading to a better overall experience.

The Benefits of an All-in-One Solution Spread Company-Wide

Regardless of the project participants’ role or function, all-in-one software can streamline and simplify their job. Between instant approvals, streamlined organization, and drastically improved communication, these applications can change the way a company runs. And, as a result, increased profitability is a reality.

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business.

Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes. 

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Pros and Cons of Working From Home

 

As pandemic restrictions are tightened again, and some areas go back into lockdown, workers are again being asked to work from home when possible. While construction companies are used to working from many sites, the office staff is generally located in a central office. Changing venues for office workers has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the benefits and challenges for construction company employers of having workers work from home.

Benefits to employers

1. Higher productivity

When working from home, employees are often more productive than they are at the office. There are fewer distractions from coworkers stopping by to chat or ask questions. It’s easier to shut out time-suckers like email notifications and unnecessary meetings. A FlexJobs 2020 survey found that workers who thought they were more productive at home, were. Respondents cited fewer interruptions and quiet working environments as part of the reason for their increased productivity.

2. Recruit from a larger pool of candidates

When location isn’t a factor when hiring, companies can expand the pool of possible candidates for open positions. This can lead to hiring more highly skilled workers for key roles. When companies hire the best of the best, their products and services improve in quality.

3. Reduce turnover

The flexibility inherent in a remote job allows workers to stay with them longer. For example, if an employee needs to relocate because of a spouse’s job change, instead of quitting they can easily continue working for the same company from another location. Companies can keep key talent when there are fewer constraints on where they perform the work.

4. Reduce overhead costs

For some companies, overhead costs like office rent and supplies can be significantly reduced or even eliminated by employing a remote workforce. With fewer overhead expenses, profits increase.

Employees also save money. Since they don’t have to commute anymore, they save on gas, car repairs, parking, and lunches. This savings translates into more of their hard-earned money staying in their pockets.

5. Fewer sick days

Spending less time around other people, coworkers, and the public, results in less sick time. Workers reduce their chances of catching viruses, colds, and the flu. With less downtime, workers are more productive and are able to get more accomplished over the long haul.

Challenges to employers

1. Collaboration and communication

As contractors know, when teams are spread out over long distances, it can be difficult to maintain communication and collaborate with team members. Impromptu meetings and discussions are more difficult to have when workers aren’t in the same physical location.

Luckily there are several tech applications that can assist teams in maintaining their connections. From online messaging apps, like Slack, to videoconferencing programs, like Zoom, it’s easier than ever for teams to keep in touch when working remotely.

When it comes to accessing collective data, online SaaS programs allow everyone to get the data they need from any device with an internet connection. This ensures that everyone has the info they need when they need it. Using SaaS software also allows office teams to stay productive from wherever they’re working, as well as ensuring everyone is working off the same real-time data.

2. Distractions

While there may be fewer distractions at home than in the office, they are still a struggle to deal with. Children, pets, and household chores can quickly steal employees’ concentration. Workers must do their best to set boundaries and structure their work environment and schedule to reduce distractions as much as possible.

3. Technology struggles

Technology can be difficult to deal with, whether it’s at home or in the office. Programs crash, computers die, and internet connections are lost. While these problems can’t all be eliminated, there are some things that can be done to help prevent them.

  • Ensure that employees have the latest in hardware and software installed on their work-provided devices.
  • Develop a schedule for regularly replacing hardware every 2 to 3 years.
  • Employ IT workers or hire a company to provide remote service to all employees.

4. Time Management

Without the structure of the office environment to keep them on task, some workers may struggle with managing their schedules when working from home. They may lose track of their work time and blur the lines between home and work life. This can lead to added stress and burnout.

Allow workers to set their own schedules when possible, so they can effectively manage their work and home life. Encourage them to stick to their schedule as much as possible, with only occasional changes under special circumstances.

5. Dress code

When working from home it can be tempting to dress more casually than when working in the office. While an occasional day spent working in your pajamas is acceptable, workers need to be dressed properly the majority of the time. Clothing can be both professional and comfortable, keeping workers in the correct mindset when they’re on the job.

As construction workers and companies continue to navigate the ever-changing pandemic restrictions, it’s best to remain flexible, as this helps reduce stress. Teams can function successfully when working remotely with the help of technology and a little patience.

 

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.