Project managers for renovations

One option taken by a lot of people is to find a project manager or building contractor who will run the whole project from start to finish, and will deliver a completed building in due course. This project manager will sometimes be an architect who will also advise on the initial planning of the renovation.

After initial discussions the involvement of the client should be reasonably low during this kind of project. Costs, of course, will be higher. If there are language problems, it will be possible to find an English speaking project manager, although experience suggest that this also substantially increases the costs.

It is absolutely essential to only use a project manager approach based on personal recommendations of people who have been satisfied with the work of the individual, or to ask for references from existing clients. You or I or anyone else can call themselves a project manager, but it will not necessarily mean we are good at the job.

The Negatives

We considered this approach for our first renovation, a small 17th century cottage. When we obtained estimates this approach indicated a price of £600-700 (900 – 1000 euros) per square metre of final internal floor area. Why so high?

Although a project manager will only charge approximately 10% of the total project cost as their ‘charge’, they have little incentive to keep your costs down, and will often wish to use their relationships with existing builders, or even their own builders, to do the work.

Also there are a significant number of people who can afford to buy a ruin and throw large amounts of money at the restoration, almost regardless of the cost, since it may still appear relatively cheap. If you are the kind of person who can afford to do this, and is happy to do this, fine. There are plenty of companies and individuals who will be happy to separate you from your money. But you need to be aware that this is what you are doing.

The component charges of the build (the masonry, roofing etc) are also likely to be higher than if you deal directly with builders yourself, and since you are not getting separate quotes for all the individual parts of the job, it is hard to know if ‘new roof – £25,000’ is a competitive quote – separate estimates for each section of the work will enable you to get the best price / quality for each individual part of the work.

The Positives

But for all that, there is a good case for employing a manager or building firm to do the whole project. If you can find a good project manager, you will save yourself an enormous amount of grief by paying a bit extra. Note, it has to be a good project manager – if you are simply moving the stress of dealing with tradesmen to being the stress of dealing with a project manager, that serves little purpose.

The second advantage is that you don’t have to deal with the problems of delays in area of the project causing problems in the other areas. Delays will still perhaps happen, but it won’t be for you to tell everyone else.

There are good project managers, who will deal with local workers for you, and get devis in the same way you would yourself, from local French workers. This method is worth considering if you wish to avoid the challenges listed above and can find a good project manager.

The Footnote

I know of someone having a renovation done for them at the moment. It was supposed to start six months ago and be more or less finished by now. In fact it has not started yet. The person involved doesn’t like to ring the ‘project manager’, feeling sure it will start in due course and doesn’t want to annoy or trouble them.

If you are this kind of client, and many are, I would seriously suggest that you buy a property that is already renovated. We never had any significant problems ourselves in any of our projects (and no our French is not perfect) but we did need to pick up the phone from time to time…

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