Project management - going it alone

Private Property South Africa
Cathy Nolan

Although a building project requires a certain degree of expertise and it is always advisable to utilise the services of a qualified builder, homeowners who oversee the management of a building project can not only save themselves a great deal of money, they can also ensure that the home improvements are completed to their exact specifications.

While most of us considering undertaking any alterations or improvements automatically assume that the builder that we use will inevitably have the right contacts and be able to save money on supplies and fittings, this, however, is not always the case. A young Brazilian man who recently arrived in South Africa found that by going it alone and project managing the renovations at his home, he could save thousands of Rand.

Although Romeu Santana started studying architecture in Brazil and will resume his studies at the University of Cape Town next year, he did have concerns about undertaking the project to transform what had been an office into a one bedroom flat on his property.

Romeu had a number of concerns before tackling the project. He was a little worried about communications, the fact that he was only 24 (a lot younger than the builders he employed) and that he was not familiar with any local suppliers. Romeu always knew that managing the project himself had the potential to save money, but he was shocked at the amount. Initial quotes came in at between R140 000 and R150 000, but excluded the cost of a new geyser as well as a couple of things he subsequently added. Even with the added expense, the final bill came in at staggeringly low R70 000.

In his opinion, anyone who takes the time to project-manage renovations, regardless of their lack of expertise can cut costs.

“I believe that the savings could have been obtained by anyone who really wanted to put some time and effort into the purchasing of materials and take responsibility for managing the initiative. It became clear to me when looking for a builder that Cape Town has many experienced builders who were keen to work. However, it also became increasingly evident, as is clear from the savings that we made, that the profit expectations of contractors are very high, this despite the fact that the builders whose services we used were well paid.”

Given the current economic situation in this country, many are opting to improve or enlarge their existing properties. Granny flats are becoming an increasingly popular choice for those who either want to save costs by housing a family member or want to earn some extra income renting out the additional space. Finding the right contractor who has the right qualifications and levels of expertise is essential and anyone considering building work of any kind should research the issue carefully before work commences.

If you do decide to manage your own project it is important to find a builder who you are comfortable working with. It is also vital to inform the builder what role you intend to play. It is worth noting that, as with most things, success is going to be determined by how much time you are willing to invest into the project. This is a full-time exercise and those who assume that they can oversee the project on a part-time basis may find the situation quickly turns into a nightmare.

While time is money, the cost of the overall project is always going to be important, but more so, if the homeowner is planning to capitalise on the deal by renting out the additional space. Santana makes a very good point when he notes that the savings he made on the project mean that he will have paid for the investment within 14 months. Not bad at all, considering that the total build only took 27 days to complete. As the Americans say, ‘do the math!’

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