Building Permit Expeditors: A Case Against and a Case for Them
In this article, I am going to build the case against building permit expeditors as well as answer point by point, why you might be working with the wrong permit expeditor. I often meet two types of construction professionals: the kind that tells me they aren’t sold on my services and the kind that wouldn’t do business without my services. The reason I want to build both cases is to help professionals tease out the good permit expediting services from the bad ones.
“That’s Why I Will Never Work with a Permit Expeditor Again.”
As someone who takes ownership on providing permit solutions (as well as train my team to do the same), I take a special interest in listening to folks that don’t see the value in what we do at Permit Advisors. Let me lay out the typical evidence laid out against using a permit expeditor.
Most of the folks who deem building permit expediting services unnecessary typically tell me a few stories of when they tried a service and the project ran over the time allocated for permits. Additionally, I’ve heard stories where clients need to chase down the said service and find the expeditor- who not only forgot to submit the plans, but also hasn’t paid the plan check fees! When time is of the essence with a project, this opportunity lost is costly to everyone involved (except, of course, the permit expeditor who will often upsell due to the project going over hours).
Let me tell you another common story of delayed timelines because of an incompetent building permit expeditor. This, if you’ve read any of my other articles, will sound familiar because it is a pet peeve of mine. It’s when permit expediting firms claim to “work the process” for you. They praise how well they know the process, know the city officials involved in the process, and how they can “expedite” the process. This may have worked before the housing bubble burst in 2008, but it is an out-dated method now. What normally happens with firms like this is, they sell you on the city process and send someone to do the same thing any person off the street could do. I mean the city process is a publicly available process! The people involved in the process are government officials who must pick up the phone when called! So, the story goes something like this: building permit expediting firm is hired, they charge line-item by line-item, “work the process”, and run over the timeline. The reason this “process” method doesn’t work is because the process is bogged with many projects.
Upselling and Fees
Let’s continue the story of the “process-method” permit expediting service: after the project goes over the timeline, the service will normally charge additional fees since-in their minds-they have completed their end of the service. In the firm’s eyes, they submitted the plans, waited for comments, received the comments, got the new plans, re-submitted the plans. Done and done, right? No, because it doesn’t matter to them how long that took. Additionally, they see an opportunity to sell you more pieces of the process. The client, at this point of the project, will get a call from their business development representative telling them there are additional comments and in order for them to “keep you on timeline” (never mind admitting they blew the timeline in the first place), and they will need you to pay for additional corrections and submittal hours. I’ve even heard horror stories that the firm will hold the plans until the invoice has been paid to them!
What could be worse than an expediting firm holding plans hostage? How about a service leaving you with large amount of city fees because they just left the process? Depending on the city, some governments charge different fee amounts based on the department examining the plans. I had a retailer explain that a service he worked with, that he felt he got stuck with because it was that or pay the invoice for an unapproved project, told him two weeks after getting the approval that he owed almost double the fees than what was quoted to him at the outset of the project. When I asked how that was possible he explained the firm submitted his plans to a special plan-check process, without asking him, where the fees were doubled in order to get the approval. Normally, he reasoned, he wouldn’t have been phased since programs like these are available at some jurisdictions. But, what burned him from ever using a service again was that he went nearly two months over timeline, wasn’t communicated with, and then charged nearly double the quote. Oh, and he got a nice call from that firm’s collections specialist.
“I Don’t Trust Anyone Else”
Now, I think I’ve pretty succinctly built a case against permit expediting services. But, let me clarify, I’ve built a case against lazy, greedy, and incompetent expediting services. Allow me to answer these two points with how I, and my Permit Advisors team, operates. Build the case not just for building permit expediters but for Permit Advisors.
Solution-based Approach: Timelines
Where other firms like to work the process-method of permits, Permit Advisors likes to look at a project in our area of expertise and plan out a solution. When we take on your project in a city I will introduce you to the project manager from my team that will be spearheading your project’s permits. From there you all can talk about any special programs the project qualifies for, the strategy, and estimated timeline. Additionally, our team mandates weekly updates provided to the client. In other words, we tell you what’s going on at any moment. This provides accountability for you and allows us to think outside the box of the process.
When forming our solutions-based strategy we look at the process, the contacts, locally adopted codes and the project itself. For example, if we know that racking within the retail space falls under 8 feet we can make the recommendation that racking should be built into the building permit rather than go through a separate racking permit. Expertise in the locally adopted codes allows us to take in the specifics of the project and find ways to get the approval. We also understand how projects will be assigned so we can reach out to our city contact more quickly and efficiently.
Solution-based Approach: Pricing and Fees
In addition to seizing opportunities with regard to time, having a solutions-based approach provides more efficient pricing and transparent fees. As we assess your project and provide on-going communication you will learn about new programs and their associated fees. In this way, you will have no surprises when the city tells you how much is owed to for the plan-check.
Additionally, we communicate how much we charge per action so that if you have questions along the way you can just give us a call and ask (our number is (310) 275-7774). Allowing for more reasonable and professional pricing gives us the opportunity to think outside the box. We can adjust strategy, try something new, and partner with city officials. Instead of seeing your project as a number they know our project manager and how we work with integrity and professionalism.
About Permit Advisors: Permit Advisors Inc. is a complete permit, entitlement consulting, and expediting firm based out of Beverly Hills, Ca. We go beyond just submitting plans, as you may have experienced with previous expediters. We have established strong relationships with officials of many municipalities and have numerous time and cost-saving strategies that we implement to efficiently complete projects. We aim to secure all permits as quickly as possible! We keep track of all the different aspects of the permitting process and make sure that the project is being given full attention by everyone on the team. We responsibly update clients and ensure that lines of communication are open between the Jurisdiction, the consultants and the client at all times. Contact us today for a consultation www.permitadvisors.com.