Have you ever watched that great television series Grand Designs?
It follows the journeys of ordinary people with big ideas for their dream homes, from concept to incept and through to completion.
The developments are each unique in scale and style, but so many of these chronicled share a common trait. They run over schedule and well over budget, which creates all kinds of headaches for those taking them on.
In my last blog about the three stages of a construction, we tackled the first – planning and approvals. The foundations of a good development, if you like. This time, we talk about the second stage, which is bringing the project to life.
Even though you’ve got the plans and permissions, if you make a mistake during this part of the process, it can have catastrophic and expensive consequences.
You’re in charge
This is your idea, your project and your money. You’re the boss. But any boss is only as good as they people they employ. It’s critical that you surround yourself with the right project team – getting that right can go a significant way to ensuring its successful.
In stage one, you picked your builder based on thorough research and independent recommendations. You’ve got that key cog of your machine locked in. But that’s not the end of the story.
Even the very best and most capable employees need to be managed. And as the old saying goes, when the cat’s away…
How hands-on do you want to be with the project? Can you manage to be on-site every day or, at the very least, constantly available to answer questions or address issues when you’re not physically present?
Are you adequately prepared so that when a challenges arises – and they will – you’re able to come up with a contingency?
You’ve got a cabinetmaker booked in for a three-day stretch but the kitchen or wardrobe components haven’t arrived. What do you do? The tile you ordered turns up but it’s the wrong colour. How do you fix it? It rains for three weeks straight and work comes to a halt. How do you push forward?
The plumber doesn’t turn up and you need a new one. You find an old sewer main running through the front yard that wasn’t on any plans and that council didn’t know about. Your builder gets into a verbal brawl with a neighbour who’s making life hell.
Are you ready to deal with those kinds of scenarios and more?
If not, then get out of the way
In some cases, a really good builder will be able to make some of these decisions about contingencies and alternatives on your behalf.
But can you be absolutely 100 per cent confident in their choices? Are you available to be consulted on every little thing at any time of the day?
If not, it could be worth investing in the services of a project manager.
A really good project manager is someone with technical experience, exceptional communication skills, high self-discipline and a heavy dose of common sense who knows what you want and what you expect.
They’re worth their weight in gold when you’re on the same page with them and they’ve got the skills to make it happen.
They oversee all elements of the construction phase, from ensuring the quality of all tradespeople and contractors and staying on top of timeframes, to helping everyone work together harmoniously.
The last one is especially complex. There are lots of people coming and going from a building site. Lining them up is a delicate dance. You don’t want your kitchen installer turning up before the plumber and electrician have been to get the space ready, for example.
Mistakes like these, simple though they may be, are costly and time-consuming. You still get billed for someone’s time even if it’s not utilised.
Clear communication is key
If you enlist a project manager, it’s essential to have many thorough discussions about what you expect from them.
You should have a clear understanding about what your goals are with the development and how you want it to all come together. And you should be open to compromise if your expectations are unrealistic or unachievable.
If you’re not using a project manager, you should be ready to perfect your people management skills.
You’ll need to grow and maintain a relationship with your builder that’s almost akin to a marriage. Solid marriages take time and work. Like a garden, you’ve got to nourish them to help them grow. Be respectful. Be reasonable. Be clear and upfront. Be patient. And be resourceful.
Budget, deadline and finish
In property development, there’s a key concept called the ‘project triangle’, which is essentially the alignment of the priorities of cost, quality and time.
You want a construction outcome that’s on budget, on schedule and of a high standard. Balancing these three things can be tricky at times, especially when something unexpected pops up.
It’s why you need to prioritise one of them, because when push comes to shove, it can be difficult to achieve all three.
If you want a project delivered on the day you anticipated, you might have to sacrifice cost. If you’re on a strict budget with no wiggle room, you might have to settle for a lower standard of finish. And if you want something truly exceptional, you could find yourself learning the old adage that good things take time.
Perfecting the balance can be helped by good communication, an adequate buffer or rainy day fund in your budget to allow for any unforeseen circumstances, and a clear understanding of your expectations that’s written into the building contract in the form of compensation for time overruns or a part payment structure.
It’s a big job
As we reach the end of this overview, you’re probably left with the impression that stage two of the construction project process is a demanding one.
And it is.
If you’re managing the project yourself, set clear goals, communicate them well and stay on top of every aspect possible. Be ready with contingencies. Form a good relationship with your builder and contractors.
If you’re hiring someone to manage the project for you, make sure they’re qualified, experienced and capable of handling anything that’s thrown at them. And make sure you’re clear about what you expect from them and the development.
Next time, in the final instalment of this three-part series, we look at the last stage of the process. It’s time to complete the project and initiate your end goal.The information provided in this article is general in nature and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information you should consider the appropriateness of the information with regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs.