Ok, this will surely be a fun topic for me to write about.
For those who don’t know me, apart from being the author of several websites I am an architect, and for a large part of my life, I have been involved in building and dealing directly with construction workers in the Dominican Republic.
One of the most sensitive issues of my work was when negotiating payment with builders or independent workers.
They have a particular way of charging for construction work that in my opinion and experience is not adequate.
That is, I am referring to independent contractors or informal construction workers, if you are going to make a deal with these people for any type of construction work it is best that you are prepared to avoid headaches.
How do independent construction workers in the DR get paid?
Ok, first you must understand that most people in the Dominican Republic manage construction and remodeling projects with freelancers because it is supposedly “cheaper”.
And in reality, these workers are very informal, they don’t pay taxes, they don’t pay rent for structures or offices, they don’t give you a receipt, anything, everything is a verbal commitment, and therein lies the danger of the matter.
Not to stray too far from the answer to the question of the topic, independent construction workers in the Dominican Republic charge for the work by adjustment, that is, they charge you for the work based on a certain amount of money that according to their experience dictates it will take to perform that work.
The builders (*master builder) do everything based on empirical knowledge, this also includes charging for the work, this has its negative points which I will explain in a moment.
*Master builder is called in the Dominican Republic to an independent contractor who is in charge of a work team, this person is in charge of all the management of the work.
Is not an engineer or architect, just a person with a lot of experience who is in charge of the execution and at the same time management of the project.
The master builder charges the work of execution of work by adjustment, an amount of money for a certain job, but in turn, this master builder gets workers or laborers who are paid per day, at the same time, the same master builder also executes the work.
Some master builders may also charge per M2, i.e. an amount of money for each M2 of construction, but this is also done empirically, and I remind you that each construction has different characteristics and materials according to the type of finish.
So you should definitely make a cost analysis of each project and do not rely on empirical data unless they are exactly identical construction works in a close time span.
No master builder will work for you on a daily pay basis
Don’t you dare ask a master builder in the Dominican Republic to do work for you in exchange for a day’s pay, that is offensive to them.
The same with their laborers, they will not accept that you pay them by the day, they only accept that deal with the master builder because it “guarantees” constant work and they have a certain sense of loyalty.
What happens is that the master builder makes a good profit on the deals he makes, for example, if the master builder charges you 8,000 pesos to build a wall, he will find 2 workers, pay them 1,000 a day, do the job in one day, and he will have earned 6,000 pesos in one day’s work (this is just a random example).
What is the danger of paying construction workers in this way?
For the first few jobs, I did, I agreed to pay the master builders by adjustment until I began to notice two things:
The first thing I noticed:
Some of the jobs paid by adjustment were exaggeratedly expensive, that is, they charge a lot of money and if you do not know you may be overpaying for the job.
Most of the time they overcharge because they are trying to “hedge”, to protect themselves from unforeseen events.
How do I know this? Well, because I am a construction cost analyst, and when I sat down to analyze the costs per footage and the man hours, I realized that the master builder was making more money than I was on construction work.
The second thing I noticed:
Some master builders will give you an excessively cheap fitting price for the job, I call this “the catch”.
They will give you a very cheap and attractive price for the job, you will accept the deal, and when the work is progressing they will simply tell you that the money they have been asked for will not be enough to finish.
At this point, the headaches and fights start, but you are already caught in the middle and just want to get it over with.
And because it is a totally informal deal, you will have no idea how expensive the job will be until it is finished.
How do I pay construction workers in the DR?
To avoid all those headaches and overpaying for jobs I simply pay per footage for the job, if the master builder wants to accept it or not is their problem, they always accept.
I organize a meeting with the master builder, I show him the plans of the project, I make a complete 3D of the house or job, I get all the footage, and I have a budget with the footage and costs per item of the project.
I get these measurements from the plans, and the payments per item I get from an updated document that most construction professionals in the DR handle, which establishes how much to pay the workers per item.
So I pay by footage and by units, and only some items are paid by adjustments, such as site cleaning and a few other things.
When the master builder realizes that you know how to handle costs and footage, there is no way you can fall into a trap.
They also do not lose money, and if something unforeseen happens on site, they should sit down and talk, the master builder should be seen as an ally.
In reality, they have no intention of stealing from you or cheating you, simply making a deal based on empirical knowledge leads to those two things.
Contracting a construction company in the DR?
This is the least problematic solution, you pay a construction company and they manage everything, of course, this entails a higher cost, these companies have to pay taxes, pay professionals, workers’ insurance and everything else that a company entails.
So obviously it will cost you more than an independent contractor.
Many people ask me for recommendations through this website, which I have tried to avoid, I know a lot of good master builders and construction companies in the country, but making recommendations carries a certain responsibility that I am not willing to simply accept lightly.
Honestly, I could receive a referral fee as well, but there is something about that that doesn’t seem quite right to me, and I think I would be stretching myself unnecessarily trying to explain it.