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The secret recipe for the perfect project

12 Sep 2022
How to make sure your property project runs like a dream? It all comes down to getting it right at the start. And the start comes much sooner than you think, advises Sandy Mitchell, RedBook’s founding director.
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Property projects are far from easy to get right, whether you are refurbishing a London flat or building a new country house. Anyone who has completed one will tell you they wished they knew at the start what they had learned by the end.

Having been at the heart of over 250 property projects in the past 12 years, my colleagues and I have dealt with every kind of challenge and so understand the essentials of what to do and—perhaps more importantly—what to avoid if you want your project to go well.

Here, then is our recipe for the perfect project.

“…getting answers you can trust and need for a big project is not simple: they are best sourced from a small team of professionals.”

 

Before you buy

The perfect project starts before you even buy the property.

You need to know how much the potential project will cost, how long it will take, and what you can change about a property with as much certainty as possible before you decide to take it on.  This is common sense.

But getting answers you can trust and need for a big project is not simple: they are best sourced from a small team of professionals. You need an architect or interior designer to visualise how the property might be improved or changed. Then you need a quantity surveyor to tell you broadly what the project might cost. You may need a planning consultant, too, to give you a clear sense of the potential to improve the property within the legal constraints.

 

What to do

  • Ensure all the professionals you ask for advice pre-purchase are true experts in exactly the type of project you are facing. In other words, projects involving the same kind of budgets, type of building and scale.

By the way, part of our job at RedBook is to pull exactly the right specialists together for clients to answer these critical questions pre-purchase.

 

“Taking this early step can cut a big chunk off the length of your project…”

After you buy

Again, the perfect project starts earlier than you think.

The moment you are confident that you are definitely going to get your hands on the home you want—usually after you ‘exchange contracts’—you can appoint the most important players in your project team and start design work, or at least commission preparatory surveys.

Taking this early step can cut a big chunk off the length of your project, because the wait between ‘exchange’ and completion of the purchase may be months.

“…appointing the ideal team members is akin to a movie director casting actors for a film.”

What to do

  • Do as much ‘due diligence’ on the candidates as you can to ensure each of them is the right kind of specialist with relevant experience.

Remember that appointing the ideal team members is akin to a movie director casting actors for a film: the chemistry between the ‘stars’, and with yourself, is as important to success as anything else.

“Veteran project managers confide that on a typical project a third of any overall delay is typically down to the amount of time clients take to make up their minds on key questions.”

  • if you need an interior designer and garden designer as well as an architect for a new build, get them all on board at the very outset—before the house is designed.
  • Once you have formally appointed your designers, be sure to spend generous amount of time getting your design just right. This stage is one of the most thrilling parts of any property project, so take time to enjoy it and try not to rush it.

Getting the design just right will pay off financially, too, as it reduces the risk of your wanting to make expensive changes to the design after the builders have started work.

If it sounds difficult or like a lot of heavy lifting to launch the perfect project, I am afraid the hard truth is that it can be. And that is why RedBook gets lots of calls asking for help.

What to avoid

  • Don’t take ages to decide every question that pops up during your building project. Veteran project managers confide that on a typical project a third of any overall delay is typically down to the amount of time clients take to make up their minds on key questions.
  • Above all, don’t go completely off radar for any length of time and make your project team wonder if you have abandoned them.A project goes well when a team has great confidence in its client.
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