Are you a first-time home builder or renovator? Need Help?? You should read this first.

Handling a building, or renovation, project on your own can make most people a little nervous, to say the least. The memories of extending and renovating my own home in Dartford Kent still makes me cringe to this day. Believe me when I say a lot of sleep was lost during that time! I was constantly swinging between excitement, frustration, anger and to even feeling sick at times with the worry of losing a large amount of money if things went wrong. The mental strain was exhausting. Like most people, I had put my life savings into this project and simply could not afford for it to fail.

My Home Renovation Story.

It really was an uphill struggle from the start!

After endless hours of searching I found the perfect property for me and my family. The property needed a complete overhaul as it hadn’t been touched in 30 years by the elderly sellers. This was just the kind of property I wanted as I could complete the renovations and instantly increase the value of the property when I moved in.

The Home Purchase. We exchanged contracts with the seller and then the first obstacle hit us…our confirmed mortgage offer from the Bank was suddenly pulled…eek! I contacted the Ombudsman for help but no reason was given as to why the Bank had decided this.  I couldn’t understand why this had happened as all my finances were in order. After rechecking my mortgage application form I noticed I had made a mistake, which I rectified (with evidence) but the bank stated once the mortgage was pulled that was the end – lesson learnt, be extra careful when filling out mortgage application forms as a little mistake could cost you dearly! I had no time to apply for another mortgage so frantically darted from one family member to another to raise the rest of the capital and complete the purchase, the alternative was to lose the £300,000 deposit I had paid on exchange! Like I said, not a good start…

Finding the Right Builder. Determined to get the next step right I employed a building company to help with the renovation and extension works. The company I chose sounded great and offered to complete the work for £5000 less than another company I was considering. Great! …Mistake number 2! I signed on the dotted line, put my furniture into storage and moved my family into a hotel for the predicted 2/3 months it would take to complete the project. However, I only met the builder (I use that term very loosely) twice in the 5 months his company was employed to carry out the work.

Project Management. To save on costs I decided to provide all materials for the project, friends and family had advised me that builders overcharge on materials to make their profit. Mistake 3… Rather than making a saving this arrangement increased my costs, as it appears bags of cement (amongst other building materials) can suddenly grow legs and walk off the site! This meant I had to replace materials a few times so work could continue, and copper piping is not cheap!

Three months into the project (although it should have been finished by then) I took a month’s leave from my job to be on site every day and make sure nothing went missing and the project was moved forward. Very bad move!! The main guy on the site knew I was eager to get the project finished and suggested I help out whilst there to move it along. Initially I was happy to be involved but then the penny dropped, I was now paying a building company to complete my project but had worked a month unpaid for them myself, not to mention the rising costs caused by the delay in completion, storage charges and hotel bills, but hey they did give me a cheaper quote! Mistake 4… are you seeing a pattern with this company yet??

The Crunch. Four months into the project the builder called to say the job had taken longer than anticipated and his team needed more money in order to complete the work. He reeled off a list of additional ‘unforeseen’ jobs they had completed, which could have been plausible, but in his absence, he had not known I was on site daily myself and knew exactly what the team had being doing. After a heated discussion, I agreed to pay an additional £5000 for the project, half to be paid straight away… Mistake 5! The guys on site worked to the end of that week and didn’t return. I called and left lots of messages on the builder’s phone and even went to his office to find out what was happening, the address on the contract was not correct so no joy there either.

The Drag. Five months after starting the project we were left with a half-finished house, no builders, a distressed family, extortionate bills, and no idea what to do next. We allowed three weeks to pass before it became obvious that the builders were not going to return. I knew I had to make a decision in order to get my family into our new home. The following week I decided to cut our losses with the original builder and employed a new building company. Thankfully they provided a Project Management service and completed the remainder of the works themselves and we were able to move in to our new home within a month.

Home Improvements Add Value. Did I add value to my property by undertaking the extension and renovation works? Yes, I did! However, due to my lack of knowledge (and trusting nature), a large chunk of the money was swallowed up by the expenses we incurred waiting to move in our new home, unfinished work by the first set of builders, storage and hotel bills piled up due to the delay in moving in to the house and the additional cost of employing the new builders to finish the project.

“Buy Cheap Pay Twice!” So, what have I learnt from this experience? Since speaking to many others about my misfortune I have come to realise my story is not exceptional. Unscrupulous builders have caused chaos in many people’s lives. If I was to advise someone now about building or renovating their property I would suggest they consider the following points:

  1. a)Make sure you do your due diligence!
  2. b)Speak to at least 2 or 3 building companies and ask for evidence of previous work.
  3. c)Make sure your contract is worth the paper it is written on! Check out the address and telephone number, make sure both parties have signed it, and it includes the following points:
  4. The payment terms
  5. The estimated finish date (give 2/3-week extension max unless you are given a good reason for the delay)
  6. What is and is not included in the cost
  7. d)Employ a company that is passionate about their work and pays attention to your needs throughout the project. Remember, they are working for you or you may find yourself in the same position I did.
  8. e)When employing a builder do NOT base your decision solely on the cheapest quote it can often become a lot more expensive in the long run, like me, you could be caught by the ‘Buy Cheap Pay Twice’ proverb!

Bishop Ltd provides complete Turnkey Management services, including the design and planning stage of your project. We will handle your project from start to finish so your free carry on with your everyday life. Sit back, relax and let us take the strain!

Call Bishop Ltd on 0208 926 2010 for a no obligation quote!