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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 Ultimate Guide

Why Embrace the Future of Automation in Construction

For construction companies, time is money. Both in the field and the office, time wasted is money lost. Using out-of-date processes and multiple software programs can quickly eat into slim profit margins. Construction companies must rely on technology to make their processes faster and avoid errors. If they don’t, they will continue to spend money and time fixing problems and repeating work.

Construction’s future?

Although no one has a crystal ball to tell exactly what the future holds, here’s where we think construction is headed:

Automation

Smart contracts will make the payment process faster. Technology will assess how much of the work has been completed, and payments will automatically be distributed to those contractors who have completed the work.

The software will analyze compliance documents, and automatically notify all pertinent parties when insurance or licenses have expired. Contractors will be able to submit compliance documents directly through a portal, where the software will analyze them and gather the required information.

All the documents that pertain to a specific project will be organized and searchable in one location. All team members will have access to these documents, and paper files will be a thing of the past.

Accounts payable invoices will be scanned by software, and the information will be automatically entered into the accounting system. The software will provide analysis and let operators know when contracts are overbilled or change orders are not updated.

Payments to subcontractors and suppliers will be processed automatically by the system, without the need for checks or other paper documents. Payments will be tied directly to the completion of the work.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Project software will be infused with artificial intelligence that allows the software to provide predictive analysis based on past project data. As contractors process projects through the software, they will learn what activities cause the most delay or create the most risk and remind users when these possibilities occur.

Using the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable technology, the software will be able to analyze the completion of work in the field. It will then compare that information to the project schedule to determine if there are any delays. Parties will be notified when the schedule slips, allowing the team to proactively respond.

Machine learning

Machine learning, a subset of AI, will assist estimators in project bid analysis, allowing them to select projects they will be the most successful on. AI will also identify the most common bidding errors and correct them before they bid goes out.

Photos will be taken of each worker as they arrive on-site and will be analyzed to determine if the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is being worn. If there are missing items, the system will notify the worker and their supervisor, allowing them to correct the problem.

Problems with the status quo

Currently, construction teams work with a hybrid of software and paper documents. While some contractors strive to go paperless, many still rely on paper documents for certain activities, like material takeoff. This dual approach leaves contractors open to the following problems:

Lost time

The process of entering and analyzing information by hand takes more time than an automated system. Systems are available that capture data automatically directly from documents and provide analysis, saving contractors time.

Lost information

Paper documents are often lost or misplaced when they are filed incorrectly, or not filed at all. Even teams that rely on software often use multiple systems for different purposes (estimating, project management, accounting). This confuses users who don’t know where to look for the information they need. This takes extra time to determine the correct system and find the data they need. If documents are lost or misplaced, more time is lost in searching for them or re-creating the documents.

Errors are more likely

An experiment in 2009 showed that data entry workers made up to 10.23 errors when entering data from thirty spreadsheets. Data entry errors can cost companies millions of dollars. Workers can spend more time searching for errors and correcting them than in the initial data entry.

Hidden costs of mistakes

Besides lost time finding and correcting mistakes, it has been shown that incorrect data can cost companies up to 30% or more of their revenue. A 2018 Goldman Sachs report stated that the direct and indirect costs of manual paper invoice processing are $2.7 trillion for businesses around the world. The hidden costs of manual data entry can be enough to make or break your business.

Benefits of new technology

Embracing automation and other technological improvements can save companies real money.

  • Work is performed faster.
  • When there is only one integrated source of information, less time is wasted searching.
  • Accuracy is improved with automatic data capture.
  • Time and costs are saved by limiting time wasted on rework, searching through data, and fixing errors.

In a nutshell?

If your construction company is wasting time on manual processes and paper documents, it’s time to embrace automation. Premier Construction Software can help you reduce errors, speed up data entry, and waste less time looking for information. We bring the power of automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to construction accounting and project management. For more information on how our software can save you time and money, contact us today.

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

Construction Software: Why Startup Businesses Should Invest

As a startup, one of the most important investments you will make is selecting the right type of software for your construction business. Instead of purchasing multiple systems that only offer partial solutions, it pays to invest in an all-in-one platform that will grow with your company. In this article, we’ll look at what kind of software construction companies need, which software is best for construction companies, and why you should invest in construction software. 

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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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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

What the Last Two Years Taught Us to Look Out for in Construction for 2022

The pandemic taught the world a lot of hard lessons over the last two years or so. Without getting into the grim details, a lot of folks lost everything at the hands of a virus. But lessons are designed to teach, and the construction industry was forced to learn. Let’s take a look at what the last two years operating in the construction industry have taught us.

What Happened Over the Last 22 Months in Construction

Realistically, the pandemic had an effect on every industry and it’s changed the way we operate as a global society. However, some of the effects it had on construction are very easy to point out.

A Screeching Halt to Materials Production

When the pandemic started to spread across the globe, one of the first ripples the construction industry felt was a halt in materials production. With people being mandated to stay home and only certain personnel deemed as essential in many countries, factories, quarries, lumber mills, and other links in the materials supply chain shut down. 

And, when materials were available, many shipping and trucking companies were simply unable to move them.

Increased Demand for Contractors

Despite the materials shortage, contractors were busier than ever. With so many folks staying home on vacation and tiring of their surroundings, they began shopping for contractors to undertake renovations. And, as people fled major cities for homes in the country, many of the affordable homes they were purchasing needed a refresh.

A Sharp Spike in Materials Costs

Between the increased demand for contractors and the materials shortage (some of which were brought on by homeowners performing their own renovations), materials prices spiked sharply. In May of 2021, the cost of lumber alone quadrupled. Since May, prices have risen and fallen, but futures are still roughly 2.5 times what they were pre-pandemic. 

A Shortage of People-power

During the pandemic, many folks had to choose between going to work or staying home where they were safer. This caused a shortage of people-power, worsening the construction industry’s already existing deficit of skilled workers. 

Significant Delays

Even with most construction personnel deemed as essential, many construction projects hit significant delays. Between the materials shortages and the added challenges of social distancing, proper PPE, and temperature taking, everything moved slower on site. Even when restrictions started to loosen up, the delays already compounded. These delays cost many contractors, developers, and project owners a lot of money.

No One Knew What to Expect

The last pandemic was a century ago, so no one was sure what to expect. Each day contractors would show up to the job site not knowing which employees would be homesick, which materials would be on time, or which jobs a government agency might shut down for two weeks at a time. This uncertainty caused a lot of anxiety, some of which will have long-lasting effects on the industry. 

What We’ve Learned Two Years Later

It’s not all doom and gloom. If contractors in the industry take the time to learn from these challenges and bolster themselves for the upcoming year, there is potential for a lot of growth. The following are some tips to consider for getting through the next year in construction.

You Need a Plan B.. or C. Maybe Even Plan D.

The pandemic taught us that staying loyal to one supplier is essentially a death sentence. Contractors looking to make the most of the upcoming year need to build relationships with several suppliers. Establishing a rapport and credit lines with new suppliers will pay dividends when materials get short.

Also, make sure the customer knows that there’s a chance their first choice of paint, tile, or other material might not work out. The same applies to their second choice. Maybe even their third. Take the time to line up 3 or 4 contingency products. This will prevent time-consuming change orders down the road.

Pay Attention to Your Contracts

Contractors who take a laid-back approach to their contracts should learn a very important lesson from the pandemic: That language matters.

This year, as contractors are drawing up contracts and signing on the dotted line, they better make sure there’s a clause protecting them from events outside of their control. Excessive materials delays, government-mandated shutdowns, or a general lack of labor because everyone is homesick should afford the contractor more time. 

Keep Employees Happy

In construction, it’s isn’t finding good help that’s hard, it’s keeping it. While competitive pay is still as important as ever, there are two other factors that employers need to consider. 

Employees today recognize the importance of healthcare and sick time, and contractors that want to hold onto the need to provide it. Whether it’s time off for when they’re sick, or time to stay home while their child is quarantined home from school, employees need to know their paychecks are secure. And, should they have to seek healthcare, they need to know it won’t break the bank.

Remember, everyone’s experiencing a shortage of able hands, so treating the ones you have poorly will send them down the street to the next contractor.

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

There are a lot of jobs on the market ripe for the taking. The problem is that many contractors focused on growth will grab too many at one time. While it’s great to have a banner hung on the fence of every job site in town, that type of approach requires a lot of resources.

First, be sure you have the labor to handle the job, which is a feat in and of itself. Next, watch cash flow. Taking too many jobs at once requires a lot of mobilization costs and floating materials, which means a bank account can go from flush to in the negative before a contractor receives their first paychecks. Yes, the jobs are out there, but it’s best to throttle back the go-get-’em attitude a bit for your resources’ sake.

Stay Flexible

The word “nimble” floats around the business world so often that it’s reached buzzword status, but it’s for a reason: a company that’s flexible and quick on its feet has a chance to survive anything. 

The next year is full of uncertainty, so it’s best to stay flexible. Provide office staff with the ability to work from home if needed. Be prepared if new social distancing or PPE guidelines come about. Find those 3 or 4 suppliers and build the relationships and credit necessary. Keep your funnel full but workload manageable.

It’s also important for contractors to know their company’s financials like the back of their hands. They should know how much is coming in, how much is going out, and how much they need to survive.

Having these points nailed down will allow a company to remain flexible. They’ll be able to make better-informed decisions in less time, which could be a key to surviving the next year. 

Automate Processes to Shift Your Focus

Contractors need to keep their eyes and ears open moving forward, else they could miss an opportunity for growth, or stumble upon a significant setback. Rather than spreading that attention with day-to-day office work, contractors should rely on construction management software. 

These programs automate mundane, everyday tasks, allowing the contractor and its office staff to be more creative and think outside the box for solving more complex solutions. Also, these programs lessen human error, giving contractors a better perception of how their company is running.

Prepare for an Endemic

There’s a chance that the pandemic will turn into an endemic, which sounds similar but means something very different. A pandemic means the disease is highly contagious and spreads rapidly. An endemic means that the virus will always be here in some shape or form, such as the flu.  

Changing to an endemic could mean a lot of things. First, it’s highly unlikely that government agencies will force people to stay home. Many folks might head back to cities, dumping their freshly renovated homes back on the market. Materials might even become affordable again.

While it’s hard to say what a categorical change to the virus will do for the construction, it’s likely to breathe some air back into the industry.  

The Next Year Will Be Exciting

The next year will be an exciting one for construction contractors. There still isn’t much certainty, and no one knows for sure when the pandemic will end. But, with the tips above in mind, contractors can fortify their businesses for the upcoming year.

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.