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Wait for a large builder or go with small project manager friend

(21 Posts)
Madrads Wed 13-Apr-16 01:13:07

I have a large extended ion and remodelling work planned. It will give me my dream home. It had taken 6 years to get to this point. My architect put the job to tender and we have one major building firm interested. They cannot start until October. I know a project manager who said he can mac age the Project and get the trades in. It will cost me about 40% less and he can start now. I eat to get thevprojectvmoving but I am scared as the sums of money involved are great over 300,000. The major builder will work with the architect and there is a professional contract. The project manager will be paid a commission and I will pay the trades directly but I worry about if things go wrong then I don't have a main contractor to blame. I have seen work done by both and they look good . With the project manager I get to be in the house by the summer. With the main builder it will be next spring. I also know the project manager so feel that as he is a friend I will get good service. Help!

lalalonglegs Wed 13-Apr-16 08:30:38

I'd go with the PM (a) to get it started (b) possibly to save some money - but low quotes do tend to climb. Good luck.

Madrads Wed 13-Apr-16 21:06:28


OnePlanOnHouzz Wed 13-Apr-16 21:08:05

I agree with lala ! Good luck with it all !

AddToBasket Wed 13-Apr-16 21:14:58

Don't do it.

I have been professionally involved with clearing up the mess made by the type of arrangements you give in your second scenario. Honestly, it's understandable but it almost always goes wrong somehow.

You need to have the indemnity cover that using professional architects and one-point-of-contact contractors bring. This is too much money to risk on impatience and trying to cut corners. You need a proper contract.

(Oh, and you almost certainly won't be in the house by summer if you are doing £300k worth of work, whatever he tells you!)

florianblossom Wed 13-Apr-16 21:15:16

If you want to employ the project manager he needs references , professional and liability insurance and registering with trading standards or a guild of excellence
Otherwise he may as well be a friend of a friend or a guy down the pub who says he can
If you end up in court with him over disputes with tradesmen who are uninsured or unqualified that he has subcontracted that 40% discount will seem extremely expensive

florianblossom Wed 13-Apr-16 21:19:46

Agree with basket I've seen this exact thing happen recently and the costs escalate rapidly with unqualified project managers
There are no real savings to be had, it drags on and highly unlikely that costs will be anything like they quote
You can get a detailed breakdown of costs and a months work of paperwork beforehand if you really want to test his mettle but it will still likely double on site or require redoing by more competent tradesmen

OnePlanOnHouzz Wed 13-Apr-16 21:39:06

Surely he would be describing himself as a Project manager if he wasn't insured and qualified etc ?! Is he taking on the CDM role too ?

Ragusa Wed 13-Apr-16 23:09:48

Mmm, I would be inclined to say wait for the big firm. Small operators can be great, I have nothing against them at all, but it's the bringing in lots of separate subcontractors in this scenario that would freak me out. That sounds like a huge headache to me, especially with such a large sum involved. Have to admit I don't have reams of building work experience but I do have a bit of first hand and also horror stories/ info from friends' builds.

You still need to do your due diligence with big firms though, despite the involvement of an architect and their size. Check their registration with companies house, whether their accounts are up to date, whether any of their directors etc. have had notices served against them etc. All this info is there for free.

A discrepancy of 40 per cent between the two quotes sounds quite large, unless the majority of the project cost is labour and the PM/ trades are not charging VAT whereas the big building company is.

Ifailed Thu 14-Apr-16 09:12:00

I would expect a project manager to go away and come back with:
1. A full specification of the works to be completed.
2. A complete project plan, showing what will be done, when it will be done, who will do it, how long it will take/cost and what the pre and post tasks are. This should include tasks like 'order materials', 'take delivery' etc. It should cover everything required to meet item 1.
3. A detailed financial plan, including the dates and amounts of any stage payments.
4. Signed contracts with all sub-contractors, including dates when works will be started and completed (tied-in to 1,2 & 3).
5. Full insurance to cover all works
6. plenty of references!

most PMs would charge to produce this. Only once all of these, at a minimum, have be produced and you've signed them off, would I sign a contract with them to proceed.

whatsthatcomingoverthehill Thu 14-Apr-16 11:58:27

Working with a friend on something like this is a bit of a risk, as there are inevitably things that don't quite go to plan and it can end up being a strained relationship if you're not careful.

I do prefer the project manager role to using a main contractor though. I know the perception is that it is less risky to give it all to a main contractor, but there are still risks involved. If something isn't covered exactly in the contract or you want to change it at all they can sting you badly for it. Plus you lose control over the process. At least with a project manager if you have a problem with the work done by a sub-contractor they can be dealt with directly, whereas with a main contractor you don't have that same power. (Often have situations where the main contractor will try and force you to accept things you're not that happy about). I'm not surprised that a main contractor is significantly more than a project manager approach either.

It also doesn't matter so much if you don't know the full details of what you want. With a main contractor you need to have all the details tied down pretty precisely to avoid cost overruns whereas with a project manager a lot of these things can be decided as you progress.

Of course, it all depends on getting a good project manager.

(For what it's worth in my job we work on £50m+ construction projects, some where there is a main contractor, some with a project manager type approach. The project manager type ones have gone far more smoothly, with fewer claims.)

minipie Thu 14-Apr-16 12:29:54

I would be nervous about an arrangement where the PM intends to use an assortment of unconnected self employed tradespeople. Works ok for a minor refurb but not a big job. The tradespeople may not be available when he needs them, (so you'll get the tiler waiting because the plumber isn't available) they won't be used to working together (may even not share a language) and if his usual contacts are all busy then he'll end up using someone who may be no good.

however if he has a general building firm who he intends to use for most of the work, and it's just the specialist jobs which woudl require a separate contractor, then that would be much better - and probably better than the one stop shop.

whatsthatcomingoverthehill Thu 14-Apr-16 13:33:24

Main contractors often use lots of subcontractors for different elements too. Essentially the main contractor and PM are doing the same thing - planning and organising the people to do the work. The difference is that the MC is wanting to maximise the profit they are making, so their decisions are influenced by that.

I totally understand why people would prefer the MC route, and that is far and away the most common way it is done in construction generally. But there are definite benefits to the PM approach.

MyHovercraftIsFullOfEels Thu 14-Apr-16 13:50:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LumelaMme Thu 14-Apr-16 13:54:07

We had 20k of work done, with a friend of ours as project manager. This involved coordinating several different trades and though it was no quicker than using a single builder, it was definitely cheaper (well, we ended up paying the same, but for a higher-spec job).

He then managed another job for us, where he produced a detailed spec for a builder who produced an equally detailed quote, including prices for anything he was subcontracting, and also sorted out the sparky. We ended up with some unexpected extras, but that would have been the case whoever we'd used (new boiler), as well as some things being cheaper.

a) our friend is a project manager: that's his job. He has an excellent local reputation, works with English Heritage etc etc and knows a lot of really good tradesmen.
b) there were a few jobs that we agreed the builder wouldn't be responsible for and I'd find someone to do. This worked out well for us, and it's easier to have that kind of flexibility. If I hadn't been able to find someone, our friend would have done.

If your friend has a good reputation, as good as the main contractor, I don't really see what you have to lose.

Madrads Sun 17-Apr-16 15:34:28

Thank you , really helpful, don't know about his reputation. Will enquire

Madrads Sun 17-Apr-16 16:07:11

Thank you all for the advice . It is invaluable. This will say me money, heart ache and time.

Madrads Sun 17-Apr-16 16:09:28

Will go with the big building firm plus architect. His tax return every yr us in profit. The PM has had one failed company and one client is not entirely happy with him.

Ragusa Mon 18-Apr-16 20:06:14

One failed company as in, gone bankrupt and/ or been struck off?! Do not touch him with a bargepole.

Madrads Tue 19-Apr-16 00:07:04

I googled him and it stated that he was a director of one active company and two dissolved companies.

whatsthatcomingoverthehill Tue 19-Apr-16 00:15:28

That doesn't necessarily mean anything. If you go on companies house you can see whether thete have been administrators called in and the like.

However, it sounds like you're happy with thw builder anyway so I'd stick with that! Hope it goes really well.

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