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Search for the Perfect Builder/Contractor and team

Is there such a thing?

I’m currently (with a small team of mentees) in the process of finding the right builder for a relatively small project in Croydon.  

Our mission is to secure planning permission to convert a large house into two flats – a two and a three-bedroom flat with a garden. 

Surely that can’t be difficult? Well, it certainly is when you don’t know how long the Council are going to take to grant you the permission. If at all. Croydon is also known for not wanting to split large houses into flats so we must tread with caution and offer something back which the Council will look favourably on. 

With that said – here lies our starting point for choosing the right builder/ building team.

The list below is by no means exhaustive or in any particular order. However, these eight points have been the focus for our Decision-Making Process:

1. Manage expectations – Planning permission is a waiting game. Therefore, how flexible is the builder whilst you wait for planning permission. Can the builder be stripping out in the meantime or starting the M&E? Are they prepared to stop the run of the job whilst awaiting for the planning permission?

Some might say, don’t instruct your builder until you have your planning permission, as then they know exactly what they are pricing you for, rather than on a drawing not approved.

2. Location, Location, Location – Does your builder want to travel every day to your job? Is his team local to be on site when he is not?

3. Materials – Included or NOT. Clarity is key. This could significantly change final costs. The obvious offenders are kitchens and bathrooms. For example with bathrooms, who’s supplying the sanitary ware, tiles and taps? If they are to supply them, exactly which ones? If you want to supply the tiles yourself, who’s supplying the adhesive and grout? Unless all such things are clear, there’s potential for misunderstandings and arguments over money once the work has already started.

Consider also, if you buy the materials, is that going to hold up the job? Will you be running around headless and eventually find there was little saving and you then get blamed for delaying progress?!

4. Availability and Timings – When can they start, but more importantly when will they finish? How confident are they that they CAN finish on time? This is by far one of the biggest problems with any works. Are your builders willing to enter into a JCT Minor Works Contract that includes penalties for late completion?

A little tip is to understand how many other jobs they have on the go and what size of team they have handling them. Some will offer the information freely and others will say – irrelevant if we finish on time. For me – RED FLAG!

5. Project Management – Let the builder project manage. There seems to be many different definitions of exactly what project management actually involves, but in my view, the most important manager of a project is the main building contractor. Without them leading the orchestra they often cannot play in tune.  

My tip here is to get the name of a foreperson. Who deputises when you can’t get hold of the main contractor? There is nothing more frustrating than turning up on site with no one to provide an update when you have concerns or simply want to ask a small question about your project.

6. Selection process : Money Money Money – Some would say this is where it starts. If the price is wrong then it’s all over. I would say differently. This is the beginning. Finding the perfect builder is much more than just the cost of the work. E.g. Can you work with them; can your team work with them; what is their set up? Are they going to offer more than just building skills; think outside of the box; offer solutions to problems or create bigger ones? 

Think value. What is that worth and then look at negotiation but with added value in the forefront of your mind alongside budget (and the all important contingency figure). 

Embrace tendering – Competitive tendering is the process of getting alternative prices from different builders for the same work. Clearly, it’s crucial the information against which they are pricing is absolutely clear and specific (otherwise how can two prices compare?) 

7.  Accreditation – Consider, does your builder need to be accredited or from a trading association? Is that important to you? Or is it more important that he/she has completed jobs like yours previously and has a track record of doing a good job; comes highly recommended/rated and has a good stable financial position?

8.  Don’t Rush- the Decision Making Process. Take your time as you could be working with the builder for a year or more and changing builders is costly both in time and money. No one wants to find themselves repenting at leisure!

Property with a purpose – not just brick slips and mortar

I’m proud to present my latest work in the video below. A pokey two bed unloved property in Croydon that we acquired at auction at the end of last year. A full gut out, additional back extension and a loft conversion in six months has produced somewhere liveable. The property now has three/four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a great kitchen lounge area and a nice garden. Today the first guests of this property will enjoy it instead of hotel accommodation. We have rented the property to a company that accommodates the families of young looked after adults when they travel from all over the UK to visit their children down south.

I cannot think of a better provider to rent it to. I hope all the families that will have short stays there will be comfortable. Let’s face it accommodation, I imagine is not going to be their primary concern for their visit but it may make things a little easier and that is the best I can hope for.

#EqualforEqual

Let’s all be #EachforEqual

Celebrations and flag waving for International Women’s Day 2020 are already underway. This year, more than ever, I am both seeing and feeling the poignancy of having a day that celebrates womanhood. Particularly in light of a recent episode in my property journey that could have had a major set back on my confidence and self-belief.

Swings and roundabouts

Instead, I’m accepting that I’ve chosen to follow a path that’s full of twists and turns. There’s no sugar coating it. The ups and downs as well as the highs and lows are all part of the tapestry of property development which is as much about people and personalities as it is bricks and mortar. 

@internationalwomensday_global

If you dip into the International Women’s Day instagram account @internationalwomensday_global you’ll find a sea of inspiration peppered with wise words of wisdom, inspiration and motivation. I’ve picked out 5 insta posts to be anchors and story props.

#IWD2020 instaquote : Each time a woman stands up for herself she stands up for all women

When my business partner and I bought a piece of land with a view to securing planning permission, developing it and building 9 homes we found the perfect team. Because no site can be developed without a set of contractors and independent experts. Choosing a team can make or break a project. Pulling a team together is a combination of intuition and thorough due diligence. I prided myself I’d listened to my little voice and left no stone unturned when it came to picking the best of the bunch. Not to mention being eagle-eyed when it came to costs and being unbelievably thorough briefing each member of the team. The property world can sometimes be considered as a ‘man’s world’. But there’s a new breed of property maverick. Mavens like me who are creating bonds with each other and looking out for each.

#IWD2020 instaquote: You never realise how strong you are until the only choice in life is to be strong which is why sometimes we are tested not to show our weaknesses but to discover our strengths

All of us have found we have to dig really deep to keep things on track. The behind the scenes life of a property developer is awash with blood, sweat and tears. It’s plagued with endless meetings and hours of checking and cross checking. Even then you can find yourself out of the loop at best or have the wool being pulled over your eyes at worst. There have been times when I’ve actually felt like I was having my entrails pulled out. One minute I’ve felt I’ve got this property business rumbled. The next I’m facing a mighty tumble, spiralling costs for no rational reason, being backed into a corner and the threat of downing tools. However, I’ve learnt is to turn each weakness into a strength and found every situation has a solution.

#IWD2020 instaquote : It is important to keep in mind that the rise of women is not about the fall of men

As the team working with Delores and I are almost all men, there’s a temptation to blame gender for the roller coaster. I could point the finger on gender inequality and the age old excuse of being a woman in a man’s world as the sole reason for a shocking email I received this week from one of my team. All because I asked for clarification about why his regular monthly fee appeared to have tripled. Which I’m perfectly entitled to do as the client. Because we’d developed a great rapport along the way, perhaps I’d given too much away. Which is why the response was more personal than strictly professional. With one too many incorrect assumptions and far too many opinions. Thankfully we got to the bottom of it and the overall fee had not changed at all just apportioned differently.

#IWD2020 instaquote : If there’s one thing women need to remember, it’s that the comeback is always stronger than the setback

The impact at the time shook me to the core. However, in the property game, instant reactions have to turn carefully considered actions. Which is where I find myself at the moment. Not the first episode that has shaken my world. Not the last.

#IWD2020 instaquote : A powerful woman is one who can create a solid foundation with the bricks other people have thrown at her

What bricks have you had thrown at you that you managed to turn to your advantage?

#iwd2020 #eachforequal #internationalwomensday #womenwhobuild

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