UBuildIt Lends A Helping Hand


    COMSTOCK PARK — Even the best-laid plans can go awry if people aren’t on the same page.

    And when it comes to building a new home, miscommunication and misunderstandings generally lead to sizable cost overruns and delays, not to mention plenty of frustration and ill feelings.

    Bridging that communication gap between contractors and customers and avoiding those problems is one of the advantages David Tichelaar believes his business brings people who are building their new dream home on their own.

    Part of his role is to steer customers clear of problems resulting from misunderstandings or miscommunications with contractors, or to help them work through problems that do arise.

    “Clients and builders do not talk to one another on the basis they really should,” said Tichelaar, the president and a partner of the Comstock Park office of UBuildIt, a national franchise that provides construction management services to people building their own home.

    Communication, Tichelaar said, “is the number one issue” in do-it-yourself home construction, where even a good project still has its share of problems.

    Poor communication only makes them worse, he said.

    “Without communication you just pile on the problems,” Tichelaar said. “If they’re keeping an open line of communication, you’d be surprised how much better it can go.”

    UBuildIt represents those who want to build a home themselves, or “owner-builders.”

    Tichelaar’s firm will help customers decide on a design for a house, select a site, establish a budget, secure necessary permits, prepare bid specifications, bid out construction and materials contracts to vendors, review the bids, schedule construction crews and then supervise construction, and perform inspections during and after construction.

    UBuildIt, through contractual arrangements with contractors and building suppliers, also can command discounts and wholesale pricing for customers on labor and material costs.

    For its services, UBuildIt receives a commission of 7 percent to 10 percent, depending on the final size and scope of the home.

    Tichelaar estimates that about half of the homes built today are by owner-builders, many of whom “don’t know where or how to start.”

    He said UBuildIt guides them through the process from start to finish.

    “It’s totally a foreign process for them,” he said.

    Tichelaar and his partners — wife Amy Tichelaar, plus Martin and Francine Molnar — became UBuildIt franchisees last fall.

    A 12-year veteran of managing home construction projects, he was previously head of Tichelaar Enterprises, doing home-construction consulting.

    He said UbuildIt — a firm based in Kirkland, Wash. — provides the stronger support and organizational structure that comes with a national franchise.

    “We had to try to find a better way of doing what we were doing,” Tichelaar said. “We wanted to step it up a notch.”

    One of the things that UBuildIt offers franchisees is something Tichelaar didn’t previously have: financing — usually a problem area for people who set out to build their own homes.

    Because of the perceived risk involved when people build their own homes, he said, many banks shy away from owner-builder projects.

    He explained, however, that UbuildIt has a deal with Atlanta-based IndyMac Bank, the nation’s second-largest construction lender, to provide financing for customers for both new homes and remodeling projects.

    The financing arrangement allows the local franchise “to eliminate one more challenge in the building and remodeling process, and ensures that owner-builders will have adequate resources to see the project through to completion,” said Martin Molnar, the local franchisee’s CEO.

    The Comstock Park franchise is one of 93 UBuildIt offices in 33 states, including three in Michigan. The others state offices are in Lansing and Troy.

    The office can comfortably manage about 60 home projects a year and has a goal to grow to about 120 annually, Tichelaar aid.

    The partners in the local franchise are talking with a Muskegon contractor about opening a franchise in that market and have identified Kalamazoo in their business plan as a future market to explore, he said. 

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