Where do I start when I want to build or renovate my house? I hear you say…
A great start would be to engage an experienced building and construction Project Manager such as Build Fresh. An expert project manager will ensure a smooth process and save you a lot of money, time and hassle by connecting you with the best fit for every consultant and contractor that you will require for the entire process. Even if you are not an owner builder, you will prosper more than you could ever imagine from having an experienced construction project manager on your side from the very beginning.
A proficient project manager will arrange the plans and permits in a much faster and more direct route than without experience and will save you all the hassle of navigating the minefield of the preliminary process yourself by compiling a complete set of tender documents for the building stage. This may all seem very straightforward and easily achievable to an everyday person to perform themselves however there are so many unforeseen traps along the way which are lurking at every corner of the building process.
Is an Architect or a Draftsman better for my project?
The first decision you will face is who is the best person to draw the design? The plethora of drawing options of professionals can include a draftsperson, architect, interior designer, builder including design or an established architectural firm. Above all, they must to be licensed. Yes, it is true that draftspeople are generally less expensive however their role is to convey your ideas and design to paper. This may be all you think you require however with a large spend ahead of you on the build, are you really more capable of spatial concepts than someone who has trained at university for many years for not much more money and you would need to supply your own construction specifications or and trust that your budget and your drawings are in line with your expectations without missing anything you may need along the way. There may be a lot more required than you initially may think. An architect will listen to your ideas and inspect the property to incorporate embellishments, concepts, tips and space saving tricks to into the design that you didn’t even know you needed. Quite often these will be at no further cost in the building scope than your own ideas however could be even better than you could ever imagine and much more liveable in the final result.
A good quality draftsperson also has a place in our industry. They are great at putting ideas to paper and are a good source for basic plans if you do not require detail or further design input. Yes, they may be cheaper but a graduate architect or smaller architect may be of similar price and higher education experience. This is a difficult decision which you project manager will guide you through.
With your new found knowledge that you need an appropriate level of design for your project, you may now be wondering why you shouldn’t go direct to an architect or Builder and not add the additional cost of another consultant being a project manager in the mix.
A highly experienced project manager such as Build Fresh will already have contacts for a great fit of reliable architects and will know their general fee structure as well as design capabilities and timeframes. These will be professionally negotiated by your project manager with several quotes from fantastic candidates with great cost savings to you. Yes, your Build Fresh project manager is the only professional working to get YOU the best outcome for the best price.
Architects are often considered to be design focused, Builders are in business to make their money and reputation whilst preserving their profit margin and you are wanting everything you can possibly get for your money. Are you getting the picture now? Build Fresh project managers are construction experienced as well as design experienced and have knowledge of other projects and costings to keep your bottom line under control every step of the way. They can also remove any scope such as planning applications, interior schedules and landscape design which can be performed in house at great savings to the owner. They will also have higher buying power from the consultants and contractors due to repeat business and your project will be organised and efficient to their benefit which will allow them every opportunity to prioritise your project.
Many builders supply design and build packages in Melbourne however once your design is in process, you may be committed emotionally or contractually to proceed with the same builder for the entire build process or worse, need to start again with another designer if you don’t use the initial design company to build the project. One quote! Thats a lot of eggs in your one basket. Especially if your extension comes out at triple your initial budget. What do you do? Start again losing time and money or regrettably cut out all the bells and whistles that you so loved about the design and end up with a plain property in comparison to your regret?
Another trap along the way is the omissions that you didn’t know about. Permit fees, council fees and bonds, service fees, demolition, boundary fences, fly screens, driveways, floor coverings, mirrors to powder rooms, low tile allowances, locks to windows, low quality fixtures and unexpected variations that you didn’t see coming or plan for. These happen all the time and are best avoided with professional `diligence and experience. A great project manager will assist to ensure your scope, specifications and schedules are as detailed and inclusive as possible prior to signing your building contract. All those unsuspecting omissions are much more palatable as inclusions in the contract before you pay 15-35% variation fees and time extensions during the build. You didn’t even know they were missing but they will cost you much more in the long run. Some builders even have sneaky clauses in their contracts to charge an administration fee of several thousand dollars on top of the variation charges. This is rarely appropriate and requires further advice. Every owner should get legal advice prior to signing a building contract. It will save you money and issues during the build as well as in the event of a dispute.
Once your plans and permits are ready, you will need to compile a tender package. The more detailed and inclusive your documents are, the firmer the builders quotes will be and more comparable agains each other. There is no point in getting three builders quotes when they are all quoting different scope. This will never allow you to realistically select the best builder for your building project.
Who are the best builders in Melbourne?
Let’s get to the nitty gritty. You are ready to go, your tender package is complete and you need a builder. How do I find a reputable builder in Melbourne? I hear you say. This is where an experienced project manager will greatly assist you. Any experienced project manager such as Build Fresh will have great contacts of reliable high quality builders as well as first hand experience of their quality of work and detail of finish. They will negotiate the contract price, timeframe for works and have experience of how the builder handles variations, extra requests and paper work. The builder with the nicest website or work car and a great smile is not necessarily the best builder for your project. Build Fresh find local builders to your area that work on similar projects. They are experienced builders and thorough with their documentation, paperwork and customer service. They don’t cut corners and they don’t try to add profit from extras along the way.
Sure there are plenty of free websites to find builders and tradespeople out there. Unfortunately these sites can provide unlicensed and unqualified trades posing as builders or even worse, terrible workmanship and lack of knowledge or skill despite their list of glowing reviews. Unless you know who is giving the review, how do you know their standard of quality or work that was performed? The twenty reviews may be for pergolas and your build is an extension. How do you really know? If the website is based overseas, there may be little to no assistance in the event of a contractor dispute and your works may be unsafe, not be to Australian Standards, illegal and a total waste of your hard earned money.
Another option is to ask your friends and family for referrals of builders they have used. This may be viable if your project is the same as theirs in scope and location. It may not be desirable if the builder has a high staff turnover or if your referrer’s experience and standards differ from your own. A referred builder may also charge you more as they expect to win your work.
The right builder for you must be experienced in your type of project. There is no benefit from a deck builder to build your extension or perhaps even a volume builder who specialises in low cost house and land packages to build a unique luxury property. Of course there are exceptions but it is difficult to know.
Architects and consultants can refer recommended builders. This is a great avenue to find a great builder however there may be an exchange of money between them and the builders and you will be the one inadvertently paying it. They may also charge an additional fee to oversee the build is to their design and standards. This is great however any cost saving changes along the way may not be raised to preserve the design and where do they stand in the event of a dispute wiht the builder or additional cost due to a design issue?
How much does a building project manager charge?
Your ideal project manager will aim to save you a lot more than their fees and will quote a fixed price upfront. There is no point in having another hourly rate ticking by with no known end price. This is against the point.
Charges vary depending on the services than a project manager charges. Projects that require only a certain stage of the scope will not charge as much as full end to end service however the best outcome is nearly always when a project manager has been involved from concept through the design and planning stages to completion of the build.
A reputable project manager should only receive payment from their client directly as this is who they are working for and will always be available to oversee works, negotiate variations and delays and identify cost saving adjustments or changes to the design if requested.
Benefits of engaging a project manager to oversee the construction.
A project manager’s role will be to document the project, identify items of concern and represent the Owner in communications and dispute resolution. They will negotiate and introduce consultants and professionals as required and ensure the project and processes are performed smoothly, legally and to a high standard.
Finally after overseeing the entire design and build process, a great project manager will oversee that all work is performed within Australian Standards and that all handover processes such as keys, remotes, manuals, completion of works and service connections are finalised so that you are ready to enjoy your new home as soon as you move in and not waiting for the painters to finish, the plumber to fit off the hot water or the list of defects to be addressed or your builder to return when they are already on their next project and booked out.
Emily Potter is a construction Project Manager with Build Fresh with over 18 years industry experience in the Melbourne building industry on and off site of renovations, new builds, townhouse developments and high end luxury house construction.