Do you need a Project Manager to run your renovation or building project? This is my advice: Get an Agent, or get ready to fight.
Several years ago, I help some friends with the renovation of their home. Before we’d met, they’d worked with an architect to renovate and extend their home. They’d got Council Approval, and then the quotes came in – 1.5 times what their budget was. Unfortunately, this is a consistent problem I see.
UA top tip
I always recommend getting an estimate done prior to lodging for ANY approvals. An estimate, with a builder. Or a Quantity Surveyor. Someone who is qualified to know the cost of construction.
Architects are not – we are specifically instructed by our licensing/registration body to only advise “an opinion of probable cost”. I talk in square metre rates, and overall budgetary ideas – and usually I’m not far off – but I still (with all my years of experience working with clients and doing renovations myself) do not let a client go ahead with lodging drawings for approval until we’ve got a formal estimate from someone who knows construction costs intimately – ie a Builder, Building Estimator or a Quantity Surveyor.
On with the story …
Anyway, long story short (I know I write long blogs!), after seeing this debacle, I offered to work with my friends on an alternate design of their home.
I had a day job at the time, and so prepared the initial concept sketches and teed them up with someone who could document it for Council Approval and construction – and then I provided the odd bit of advice along the way.
They managed the construction process and worked directly with the builder.
The building process went well for most of the time, until it didn’t.
One thing their builder wasn’t great at was finishing things off. They had made their final payment (as their contract required) and were just keeping their fingers crossed he would come back and finish off the defective work and missed items. Some he did, some he didn’t.
In the end, they just wanted him out. Out of their house. Out of their hair. Out of their lives.
You see, building and renovating a home is really exciting, but also really relentless.
It doesn’t matter how qualified you are, or your experience and expertise, it will still seem to go on forever.
You will feel like you’re haemorrhaging money. It will feel like it will never end, that you’ll never have your finished house. That there’s always something else to be finished, to be fixed, another problem, another issue.
Only one of two things will get you through this:
Get ready for a fight and don’t give up.
Get an agent to represent you.
Experience and expertise do not make you immune
My husband and I have renovated 3 houses. Each one has presented its wins and its challenges – and despite how prepared or knowledgeable we might be, things have still gone wrong unexpectedly.
Our third renovation (the most significant – we turned a 100m2 house into a 400m2 and left nothing untouched), we had quite a few things go poorly – and had to keep fighting to have tradespeople come back and finish work properly.
The internal staircase was built 3 times. Another small set of stairs were built twice. The plasterer had to fix cracks because they hadn’t included an expansion joint. The tiler laid the floor tiles incorrectly even though I had laid out 15 or so to demonstrate exactly how I wanted them laid (luckily they still looked ok). A room was re-carpeted. The driveway concrete had to be saw-cut to get the drainage to work properly.
Errors made by tradespeople who do this every day of the week, year in, year out. It is rare to find tradespeople who still take a lot of pride in what they do, and don’t need to have every detail explained to them as to how to do their job. When we find one, we hang onto them for dear life.
My hubby and I DO have high standards – but hey – this is a house! It’s around for a long time, and we care about what we create. It has to be great.
We work hard to do OUR work really well, to the highest standard of quality, and so we expect the same of others. Short of holding their hand and standing over them whilst they work though, it’s hard to make this happen. What we do have though, is tenacity – the ability to keep persisting on getting a great result, and the work we’ve paid for.
I know first hand how draining, exhausting and stressful this is though, and how much you just want to tell these people to get f*&$#d. But that doesn’t get your home finished. So you fight. You fight for your home, and the life you want to live in it.
Can you be a Suburban Gladiator?
Everything may go really smoothly. You may be fortunate, very well-organised and prepared, have a brilliant builder, or all-of-the-above.
However, with the thousands of decisions that need to be made when designing and building a home, the myriad of materials, fixtures, fittings, and the copious tradespeople who will cross your threshold, there is a high chance that, at some point, something will go haywire.
That’s the point – it’s better to be prepared for this GOING IN, than FLOUNDERING FROM it in the moment. Because ‘in the moment’ is when you’ll need to fight for your home.
So, do you have this fight in you? This ability to be persistent, determined, tenacious? Consistently?
Because if you DON’T think you do, or don’t have the inclination, motivation, desire, calling or time to, my belief is the only other option is to get an agent. Someone to fight on your behalf. Someone to represent you and YOUR interests. To be the one that fights for YOUR home – for YOU.
And this isn’t your builder. Because when push comes to shove – your builder ultimately represents themselves.
Getting an agent instead
Who can be your agent? It may be an architect or a project manager. It is ideally someone experienced in the building process, who knows what standard things should be finished to, and what is to be expected both in the progress and the quality of your construction.
Someone who is in your corner, who represents your interests and protects your investment. Someone impartial, and not tied to the builder.
How do you work with an agent?
- you pay them – the investment will be worth far more than it costs
- you give them authority to act on your behalf – they need to be empowered to be effective
- you communicate frequently and clearly with them, so everyone understands what is going on, and is on the same page
- you trust them, and don’t undermine them with other parties involved
- you get them involved prior to construction – their experience will be invaluable in helping you navigate contract negotiations
Which one are you?
So work out which one you are – the one in the ring getting into the thick of the action? Or the one in the change room, sending out the boxer?
There is no status in either position, and being honest with yourself about which one you are is ultimately what will help you get the house you paid for.
Remember what you’re trying to achieve and choose the best path to your dream goal.