10 Must-Have Survival Items for Your Real Estate Project Manager Toolkit

Keeping the following items stocked in your Project Manager Survival Pack will help you keep your projects on track at every site visit!

A project manager at Sundae goes from site to site managing various elements of the home renovation process. Everything from walk-throughs to elements of design along with managing contractors falls to project managers. Needless to say, life as a project manager is busy. You’re always on the go and need to be ready to check on various properties on a regular basis. To stay prepared in any situation, we’ve compiled a list of essential items that every project manager should have.

1 . A Laser and traditional tape measure

A laser measurer is a wonderful piece of newer technology compared to your traditional tape measure. You can measure the entire square footage of a room, multiple rooms, or even an entire house rather quickly with this tool.However, you need a solid wall to use a laser measure. This tool has to be able to bounce off something solid to give you a measurement.

That’s why you should always keep a classic tape measure handy as well. It helps if you’re trying to measure something with no framing like a backsplash tile measurement, or something smaller like a window or door frame. Also, we all know technology can fail. You have to be prepared to go old fashioned and do things by hand. Keep both readily available and you’ll have the best of both worlds.

2. Blue tape and a sharpie

Blue tape is one of the first tools project managers learn to keep on-hand. You can make a punch list of items for your contractor to fix until you’re blue in the face (pun intended), but without visuals it can be difficult to get specific. When a contractor sees blue tape on a wall where touchup is needed, it serves as a guide.

Then there’s sharpies. Sometimes if a contractor just sees a piece of tape, they might not know what you’re trying to refer to. It helps if you write out exactly what you’re trying to point out. For example, if you put a piece of blue tape on an outlet that is not grounded, they might not know why you marked it. By writing it out, you create further clarity.

3. An Extra house key and a lockbox

Agents and vendors lose their keys all the time. Why leave it up to chance?

If you keep an extra copy of the key for each property you’re working on, you’ll never waste time trying to find another way in. When the key in the lockbox gets lost or accidentally “walks off site” with a vendor, you’ll have a spare in your handy dandy kit!

Typically, when you have multiple houses in construction, it’s easiest to have them all keyed to a master. Then, you’ll only need to keep one spare on you at all times. However, once you list a property, if you change the handle or lockset to unique, “pretty” hardware, you’ll most likely have a different key. As soon as the lock gets changed, take that key to a key copy machine and have copies made. A couple for your lockbox and at least one for yourself.

This is where your blue tape and sharpie can come in handy again! Label your keys right away. Here’s a life hack for you–full disclosure, Home Depot did not sponsor this:

Home Depot even has an app called KeyHero that ties to one of their key duplicating machines, where if they duplicate the key, it will remember your key. So if you ever lose your key, you can just log into the app and have them print you a new one.

And a lockbox you ask? As mentioned above, we always keep a key to the house in a lockbox so that any vendor who needs access can retrieve the key and enter the house. You never know when an existing lockbox will disappear or when a lockout will happen when you’re already close to a house, and having a spare lockbox on you will save the day!

4. An Outlet tester

Open ground, open neutral, open hot, hot/ground reverse. These might seem like foreign terms to some, but to those in construction, it’s pretty common. Especially those project managers that handle requests for repairs when a house goes into escrow and receives the “call-outs” from a home inspector.

This is very easily avoidable verbiage. All it requires is one simple tool in your survival kit– an outlet tester. Before you officially decide your house is ready to list, make sure you walk around and test every single outlet. If some don’t show grounded, alert your electrician. That way, they’ll be fixed before you even come close to a home inspection from escrow!

5. Toilet paper

You never know when you’re going to “need to go.” And houses in construction aren’t exactly known to be stocked with toilet paper. When your work is on the road, this is a must have.

6. Extra light bulbs and batteries

A major design play for many is to use a certain type of lightbulb in a certain type of fixture. This is done to always give off a seamless look that your design is aiming for. So, always carry extra bulbs in your kit.

“A bulb might burn out” seems like the obvious reason for this. Or “fixtures don’t come with bulbs” might be another reason given. More often than not, your contractor might try to help out by installing light bulbs for you. However, if it’s not the kind you had in mind, and your photographer is showing up in 10 minutes to take listing photos, this can cause stress.All because you forgot to bring spare light bulbs of your choosing!

Batteries are in this category too. A vendor installs a brand new HVAC system in the middle of summer and you list the property. What if it’s 90 degrees out and they kept the thermostat at 79?

Buyers start walking the house and sweating, then think the HVAC is broken and get turned off. It could be the reason they don’t make an offer.

It turns out that all those months of preparation on your rehab went flawlessly, but your HVAC tech simply forgot to put in the batteries in the thermostat. If you had those spare batteries, you could’ve saved the day. Batteries are one tiny detail that can change the whole picture.

7. A Calendar or planner

If “organization is key” isn’t already a staple in your vocabulary, it’s time to add it. Construction is notorious for running behind, mistakes getting made, and vendors not knowing exactly what a project manager wants. This is when having a calendar on hand at all times can really help.

You can create a calendar right off the bat for a new job with your contractor and set deadlines. No written deadline? Human nature is to get lax, people might think they can take their time, and all of a sudden, you’re behind. You can schedule vendors in the order you need them, ensuring that one job that impacts another gets done first. In doing so, you’ll avoid having to do or pay for things twice to fix a mistake that could’ve been easily prevented.

8. Window locks

Ever walk into a property that you just acquired and notice a broken window latch? Imagine that you’ve already done a lockout, and don’t want squatters gaining access. Well, luckily, you’ll have an extra window lock on you. Then, you can lock it up, eliminating that unwanted point of access right off the bat!

9. Sanitation and health materials

Construction is dirty. Vacant houses are dirty. COVID-19 is real.

Working around people in tight quarters in construction is a given. Having a mask around others in tight spaces is very much a product of today. When a house is gutted and has no sink, or a house is vacant and has no running water, let alone soap, having hand sanitizer will be a blessing in disguise.

Cleaning supplies are also key. Let’s say you check on a listing and it’s raining outside. You notice that a previous showing tracked in mud. With cleaning supplies, you can wipe up those footprints on the spot.

10. Devices to stay connected

We live in a digital world. To effectively do your job, you need to stay connected. These devices are crucial.

A Smartphone

Let’s take full advantage of smartphones, something we use every day. Save all your plans for a remodel on Google Drive or iCloud. Use Google Drive so that your contractors and vendors alike can always see exactly what you see in your design plan. When on site, you can use Google Drive to review plans right then and there with your vendors.

Floor plans, kitchen drawings, scope, and design plans are also all readily available in the Google Drive folder you have for each house.This allows you to check progress and make sure items are getting installed in the right spot. You’ll also notice if the tiniest of details gets missed.

Another asset your phone has is a camera. It’s so easy to see to take a photo of something you notice on site, and immediately text it to your vendor or contractor. In doing so, nothing goes unnoticed.

Laptop and charger

Sometimes it’s nice to just simply have a bigger screen and a bigger keyboard. Sure, you can make a punch list on your phone– but how much easier is it to type on a laptop? Since technology never lasts as long as you want it to, you’ll also want to pack a charger.

Be prepared for your next site visit

Keeping all of these items on hand will ensure that each site visit is as efficient as possible with no time wasted. Plus, it’ll save a few trips to the hardware store!

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Rob Marini

Rob Marini is a content writer for Sundae who also produces content for real estate agents, investors, and prop tech companies across the country. He works as a digital marketing specialist in Connecticut, where he resides. When he’s not designing content or learning about real estate, you can find him podcasting, playing the guitar, or watching the Philadelphia Eagles.