This is a refurbishment disaster story. These stories are shown as examples of how good people can get in financial trouble when hiring a builder.
A young professional earning a lot of money wanted to buy a plot of land and build her first home. She was very experienced in her finance job and was professional, competent, and not a push-over in any sense of the word. She was very confident about managing and driving the whole project to completion herself.
So, her approach would have been ‘I got this, I can manage this process’.
She paid for Architectural drawings and hired a quantity surveyor to prepare a construction cost plan. Then she obtained several estimates from local builders in the area. She compared the estimates versus her construction cost plan and met each of the builders. After a full year of research, she appointed one builder based on several variables including cost, expected program, experience and quality of previous projects.
The builder she chose had his own office and came across as professional and a decent person. This was one of the deciding factors in hiring him.
But one month before the construction was due to start, he requested a large sum of money (that was not mentioned in his quotation) for preliminaries, to get the project set up. This included hiring a temporary site shed, site toilet, temporary fencing and so forth.
Shocked that this sudden request for money upfront she decided not to forward with that builder and restarted her search. Eventually she appointed another builder and construction started onsite. She had a contract drawn up but decided for personal reasons that she did not want to lock herself into a contract so did not sign it. Instead, she figured that she would pay the builder as he performed and if he didn’t then she would just get another builder.
She had planned to be onsite almost every day or other day. And this is how she started off. However, a family tragedy led her to not being around the construction build as much as she would like, and she started missing her daily and weekly checks.
Soon the builder was in delay, and she also realised that she was not the best person to be checking whether his work was of sufficient quality. She checked around for help from consultants but realised that these services cost a lot of money. For example, no Architect or structural engineer was going to oversee the work and be responsible for quality unless they were getting well remunerated.
So, she ended up getting another builder to review the works and he immediately identified some mistakes across the build. Now these were not just a few minor mistakes, but a lot of mistakes.
The Client ended up scheduling a meeting and confronting the builder about these mistakes. He blamed the delays and any mistakes on his subcontractors not performing and taking advantage of his trust.
So, the Client stopped the works and got another builder. It turns out her original builder was constructing several other buildings which is why he was never onsite which led to delays and quality issues.
This is a typical story in construction. A Client likes to think that they can monitor progress onsite regularly but, life gets in the way.
Also, no matter how educated or competent a Client is in their business career, if you don’t know what you are looking for, every foundation looks like well, just another foundation.
In this case, the Client really should have hired the Architect or structural engineer to monitor the progress. There should have been a program that everyone could consult and when the program slips there should have been a meeting to determine how it could be put right. You must stay on top of a builder. Even if you are a professional or hire a professional if you do not stay on top of the process then the program will drift.
There should have been a signed contract. There was no contract so this made it difficult to enforce contractual rights regarding program, quality and so forth.
Ideally, a Clients needs to have full Architectural plans, full engineers plans, a construction cost-plan, several fixed quotes from builders, a detailed program, a detailed contract and never to pay money in advance. A client should pay for professional monitoring of the works because they are not qualified to do so. If you do not have these then you will fail somewhere.