Tip: Better, Faster, Cheaper

November 30, 2008 · 1 comment

Back when I was in the technology industry, we had a popular saying: “Better, Faster, Cheaper — Pick 2“…

Basically, the idea was that you could build something at higher quality, in less time, or for less money, but not all three of those. At best, you could could optimize for two of them, in which case it was generally the third that would suffer. For example, building a new piece of software — you could build it better and faster, but it would cost more to do so; or you could build it fast and cheap, but the quality would likely suffer.

This principle applies to many aspects of business and life, and is certainly true when it comes to contractors and real estate renovation. While there are some contractors out there who churn out only high-quality work, and there are contractors who are tremendously efficient and always on-schedule, and there are some very reasonably priced contractors, you won’t normally find a contractor who is all three of these things. In fact, the “better, faster, cheaper — pick 2” principle is very alive and well when it comes to contractors.

That said, it’s important to determine up-front which two of these three aspects of your renovation you are most concerned with, and then expect that you might need to compromise on the third. In my case, I’m unwilling to compromise on quality, and with my margins being relatively small, I’m not willing to risk my budget on most projects. So, if I want to ensure that that I have contractors focused on quality and price (better and cheaper), I must be willing to compromise on schedule (faster).

My General Contractor for The Second Chance House has some amazing qualities — he knows construction and building codes in great detail; his workers produce high-quality results; and his prices are tremendously reasonable compared to other similarly-qualified GCs. But, I’ve found that — because he likely has many projects going on at once — he is not very good at keeping on schedule. While I’m not very good at pushing him to keep on schedule (that’s my fault), I’m willing to trade that aspect of my projects knowing that I’m going to hit my budgets and the results will be top-notch.

My suggestion to anyone getting into house flipping or renovation — decide up-front which two of these three things are most important to you, and optimize your contractor selection to those two things. Then be prepared to compromise on the third, as you’re unlikely to find contractors who can deliver all three.


One response to “Tip: Better, Faster, Cheaper”

  1. JACOB EVANS says:

    I agree with this wholeheartedly. Great post. I shoot for all three, but it has been more of a balancing act among the 3 of them. I usually only have 2 at any one time on any given project, but all 3 is rare. It’s a constant struggle…

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