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Good management is essential for a successful new home build, but who should take up the role?

Project management is an accessible yet demanding aspect of self-building, and it isn’t necessarily a role that just anyone can take on. You need to have fabulous juggling skills to order materials, prioritise workers and sort out finances concurrently. If this kind of level of organisation sounds like something you’d relish, then maybe you should give it a go – but if you shudder at the thought, then you’re better off getting in the professionals.

Good project management will look after the scheduling of labour and materials, and professionally supervise works. Responsibilities include recording who is on site, making decisions on what work to do under what weather conditions, overseeing health and safety, checking and signing for deliveries, monitoring workmanship and resolving any problems that arise. Crucially, the project management is responsible for ensuring all planning permissions, site insurances and warranties are in place before building commences – get this wrong and you’ll face serious issues. Obviously it’s a huge commitment for anyone to take on – professional or not – so how can you tell if project managing is for you?

Doing it yourself

The satisfaction and sense of achievement you’ll get from the hands-on role could offer exactly what you’re hoping to get out of your self-build. Another major benefit of project managing yourself is the money you’ll save. If you’re organised enough to run your build like a military operation, then you could save more than 10 per cent of the total construction costs.

If you are sure you want to take on the task, you’re in for daily site visits and can expect to liaise with service providers, site inspectors and sub-contractors and handle the local bureaucracy, all in Spanish. Be prepared to resolve any problems that occur; these will be solely your responsibility. Make a database to keep track of materials and schedules, and factor in the availability of sub-contractors. Also essential is making a log of everything that you do, from conversations you’ve had to keeping delivery notes, quotes and a list of inspection dates.

Properly executed the role will take over your life for the duration of the project, and will be impossible to handle if you can’t guarantee being able to visit the site everyday. You’ll need to rely on your Architect or the OCT company to pick up problems or issues as they develop. But their focus will be on fundamental structural issues, not the build quality and detail that is often so important to the self builder.

Drawing up thorough and clear contracts is vital, both to protect yourself and ensure you get what you pay for in terms of timings, payment terms and the scale of the work.

If you plan to buy the materials yourself remember to factor in the VAT, and get VAT receipts, if you plan to claim it back. It’s a good idea to set up a trade account with a reputable merchant, as bulk-buying materials will pay dividends in discounts.

The self builder is, from an insurance point of view, the main contractor.That means you’ll be responsible for arranging suitable Contractors All Risks Insurance,10 year structural insurance cover and equally it's important that somebody familiar with the building site environment at least offers guidance on all aspects of site safety and security.

Nothing can bring a build to a stop quite like a lack of cash. Make sure your finances are in place, stick to your budget and ensure funds are ready to be released when you need them. Have a contingency fund in place and don’t dip into it unless it’s really needed – it’s there for unexpected costs, not to up the spec.

Getting the professionals in

Hiring a Construction Management Company can save you heaps of stress, the accompanying sleepless nights, and a lot of time. Professional Construction Management Companies charge a set fee for their services, this can vary between 5 and 15 per cent of the build cost, although in the current climate you may be able to broker a better deal.

In many instances the specification is prepared by architects, they will refer to branded products with which they are familiar. An experienced Construction Managerment Company will be able to guide the self builder in the selection of suitable, readily-available alternative products which will do exactly the same job, but potentially cost significantly less.

Remember that however useful a project manager is, ultimate responsibility for the site still lies with you, so check they have all the necessary professional skills and insurances in place.

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