Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Under Starters Orders

Those one or two people (ok, maybe one) who actually follow this blog may have wondered why I've failed to post anything for over a month.

Well, the tension here at Doer Upper Towers has been such over the last few weeks that my fingers became bitten so ragged it was simply too painful to type. (Alright, so that's a slight exaggeration.)

The reality was that there was N.O.T.H.I.N.G to report.

Until yesterday, when the initial strip-out of our first property finally got underway.

It's the start of an 8/9 week programme to gut and totally refurbish what is effectively ONE room.

Getting to this point has been extremely stressful, but not without its upside.

First, though, the stressy bit.

Two weeks ago I finally 'let go' our interior 'architect' and instead hired someone I hope will be more useful, a project manager recommended by my business partner (and stepson).

In other circumstances, I'm sure the interiors guy would be great. But it just didn't work for me. The ideas weren't very exciting, the detail wasn't there and the wasted time horrendous.

At Christmas he'd produced a 'spec' for the refurb that had as much detail as a politician's manifesto. In other words, none. The builders we'd chosen couldn't quote. The managing agents couldn't issue a license to alter. And I couldn't have been more embarrassed or irritated.

By mid-Jan the specifications had developed a bit. Not fully, but enough to start getting builders to quote. And make a little progress with the license.

I had set a very tight overall budget, knowing we'd go over it but hoping to limit the excess.

The first builder to quote went over budget by 225%! Totally ignoring the spec, he added all kinds of stuff I just didn't want (or wouldn't be allowed, such as new windows). It was unbelievably pointless.

The interiors guy was due to quote for all the 'bits' such as light fittings, kitchen cupboards etc etc. Part of his initial attraction was a supposed ability to buy quality stuff at exceptional prices.

They were exceptional prices. Exceptionally high. His quote was 200% over budget!

By now, I was tearing out one of the last two hairs on my head.

To add to the budget issues, we weren't doing terribly well with getting permission for the works either.

The downstairs neighbour refused, in effect, to allow an acoustic report (required if we are to lay a wood floor). The managing agents were asking for party wall agreements all over the place - even though nothing we planned could remotely affect anyone. And something called a Schedule of Condition was needed for the common parts.

That was two or three weeks ago. At which point I said enough is enough. And took over.

I brought in the project manager, started to deal with the managing agents myself and even went on to Twitter to find a builder.

This is when it starts to get more enjoyable, less stressful.

Two builders came in on budget. (One of whom I met via a recommendation on Twitter.)

A quick tour of the internet as well as real kitchen showrooms, electrical depots, flooring stores and plumbers merchants confirmed that everything else could be bought on budget (roughly).

And, with a little help from Twitter yet again, the managing agents upped their game and started calling me, answering emails and being helpful. (Basically I moaned about them on the social media platform and within hours they were a very different firm.)

We also made a few quick, pragmatic decisions about the scope of the refurb (basically threw out the old designs), negotiated a deal on a great kitchen and pushed through the License to Alter.

It wasn't that difficult. So why the (insert 4 letter word of your choice) weren't we in this position 4 or 5 weeks ago?

Because this is the world of  agents, builders, solicitors, consultants and designers - a world populated by a seemingly endless supply of the lazy, the slow, the expensive and the useless.

Fortunately there are also a few who are hardworking, good value, talented and conscientious. And hopefully we have now found some of them.

I'll let you know in about 8 weeks time!

No comments:

Post a Comment