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I have been a general contractor for over 35 years. Against my wishes, my son wanted to follow in my footsteps. He started college after high school but was not happy. In 2005 he quit school and became my partner in a new home building business. Things were great!! We were building spec houses with the help home builders charlotte nc. Build a nice beautiful home and just before it’s finished, a buyer walks in and takes it!
Things started going sour in 2007. Soon, we had two homes on the market with no prospects. We lowered the prices of the homes FOUR times to no avail. We owned one home and used it as collateral on another. Now the payments to the bank were depleting our resourses faster than we could replenish. I asked my son if he still was glad he quit school to join me. His committment never waivered. “Don’t worry Dad, I’ll get a job waiting tables like I did in College.” he told me. I had the feeling that wouldn’t be quite enough.
I began to look for work elsewhere. My search led me to the mideast where they were still going strong. I landed a construction managers job in Qatar, which is in the U.A.E. I started in 2008 and was soon sending home $10,000 a month. We were able to pay off the suppliers and subs we still owed and made all the payments to the bank on time. Eventually, my son rented the vacant homes and they are still rented out today. We got the bank off our backs and actually created a positive cash flow from the two properties.
After a years contract work as construction manager in the mideast, I came home hoping things would be better. My son and I are still building homes, but no more “spec” homes. When we do get a chance to bid a new project, we have to sharpen our pencils and find the lowest costs to be able to bid competively. Here it is 2011 and we are building homes for LESS money per square foot, than I was charging in the 90’s. Fortunately, we have a great reputation for home improvements, so remodeling is keeping us somewhat busy when we are not building from the ground up.
As times get tougher, I have found more and more builders can’t cope with this slow economy and end up getting a job in a completely different field. I wonder if this is going to help us in the future, knowing so many builders have gone belly up. At least we don’t have as many bidders to compete with and I am sure things will turn around for the economy and subsequently, for my son and I as well.