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Old 17.05.2016, 18:55
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Architect issue

So I finally get multiple recommendations from the locals about an architect of quality.

I make an appointment for him to visit the house to see whether the scope of work is even of interest because my research shows that he focusses on new builds and modernising renovations. He ums and ahs, and tuts (because we want to keep the old timbers of the chalet) and scratches his head a lot (because we want to add on a series of balconies and move some windows about but stay sympathetic to the chalet style). He thinks maybe it can be done, maybe not, but a structural/woodworking specialist will need to be called in to see if the work is feasible.

He takes away our original house plans, but agrees that nothing will be done until the snow melts and we can get the specialist in to figure out feasibility and costs. I feel quite proud having conducted the 1 hour visit in my limited Deutsch as he has zero English.

Finally, the snow has melted outside, and their office is in contact to setup a second appointment. By now though, we've gone and bought another house, and the work is no longer required.

I advise their office, and all is well.

Until 3 weeks later, today, when a whopping bill arrives. For 8 hours of professional rate time.

Surprised, and disappointed, I call to query (in my limited Deutsch). I am told that the fees are not for that first meeting, which was complimentary, but for the office to open a file on the project, conduct a plan study and for the architect to meet with a wood engineer.

None of which was agreed or known to me. They kindly offered to credit me the work when I engaged their services formally. Which of course I am not in a mind to do now. I have made the firm (and the architect) very clear about my disappointment (very tactful in case children read this).

So, EF'ers. Your advice? Have I been taken for an Auslander sucker? Was I, a mere woman foolish to have undertaken this all without my OH present? Is this normal business practice for this kind of profession in this country? Is there a professional association for Planungsburo folk that I can escalate to? Should I even escalate, given he presumably has great relationships with the Germeinde, and we'll need building approvals for the new house we are now in?

The floor is open for your comments.....
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Old 17.05.2016, 19:21
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Re: Architect issue

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So I finally get multiple recommendations from the locals about an architect of quality.

I make an appointment for him to visit the house to see whether the scope of work is even of interest because my research shows that he focusses on new builds and modernising renovations. He ums and ahs, and tuts (because we want to keep the old timbers of the chalet) and scratches his head a lot (because we want to add on a series of balconies and move some windows about but stay sympathetic to the chalet style). He thinks maybe it can be done, maybe not, but a structural/woodworking specialist will need to be called in to see if the work is feasible.

He takes away our original house plans, but agrees that nothing will be done until the snow melts and we can get the specialist in to figure out feasibility and costs. I feel quite proud having conducted the 1 hour visit in my limited Deutsch as he has zero English.

Finally, the snow has melted outside, and their office is in contact to setup a second appointment. By now though, we've gone and bought another house, and the work is no longer required.

I advise their office, and all is well.

Until 3 weeks later, today, when a whopping bill arrives. For 8 hours of professional rate time.

Surprised, and disappointed, I call to query (in my limited Deutsch). I am told that the fees are not for that first meeting, which was complimentary, but for the office to open a file on the project, conduct a plan study and for the architect to meet with a wood engineer.

None of which was agreed or known to me. They kindly offered to credit me the work when I engaged their services formally. Which of course I am not in a mind to do now. I have made the firm (and the architect) very clear about my disappointment (very tactful in case children read this).

So, EF'ers. Your advice? Have I been taken for an Auslander sucker? Was I, a mere woman foolish to have undertaken this all without my OH present? Is this normal business practice for this kind of profession in this country? Is there a professional association for Planungsburo folk that I can escalate to? Should I even escalate, given he presumably has great relationships with the Germeinde, and we'll need building approvals for the new house we are now in?

The floor is open for your comments.....
Thats how it works, people don't do things for free.....
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Old 17.05.2016, 19:51
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Re: Architect issue

Architects are the next "best" thing after lawyers imho. i don't think this has anything to do with auslanders or women.
You gave him your house plans, so the work might actually be real.
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Old 17.05.2016, 20:02
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Re: Architect issue

If you didn't you should have advised the architect as soon as you bought somewhere else. Your post does not make this clear.

Also you should have agreed terms before the architect set foot in the chalet. As Fatmanfilms says, people don't work for nothing here. Me neither...
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Old 17.05.2016, 20:11
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Re: Architect issue

Sigh. I'm no rookie to Swiss life. We had a verbal agreement up front - no fee for the exploratory visit. Fees to be discussed after the specialists came to determine whether the work would even be feasible.

He wanted to peruse the plans in his offices because he didn't understand some of their contents. No work was to be done by him until after the specialists had been to visit the house.

No specialists came because we canned the project.

Sigh again. This isn't my first building project nor my first interaction with an architect. I have been pondering whether anything could have been lost in translation, but I don't think that's the cause...

We have had other work done to the house already, and each other tradesman has been very happy to come to the house for an exploratory visit, no charge. Installation of woodstove, rewiring, new kitchen, plumbing changes....etc.

Last edited by smileygreebins; 17.05.2016 at 20:15. Reason: additional info
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Old 18.05.2016, 01:00
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Re: Architect issue

I think it's too bad, that they went ahead with the project (opening a file, plan study as well as their meeting) when your post states that you had a verbal arrangement of no work to be done from the Architects side, before the specialist had visited.

Either way, I think it's a valid point not to step on his shoes, with regards to his affiliation with the Gemeinde. Even though they should treat building permits impartial , no?

Have you thought about using the same Architects for your new home, or have you lost faith with them? Maybe that could persuade them to drop the first, in my opinion, uncalled-for invoice.
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Old 18.05.2016, 09:24
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Re: Architect issue

I think that if you have limited German choosing an architect who does not speak English could very well be the source of the problem. Did either party understand the "verbal agreement?"

I really cannot understand why an architect would want to take on a client where communication was going to be a huge challenge, or why the OP would consider this as well.

Many architects I know will have the client agree in writing in advance to a fee to study the feasibility of the project.

Getting back to the OP's problem, my guess is that you did not buy a new house overnight. As soon as you decided to pursue this option, you should have contacted the architect so that no time was invested in something you were not going to pursue.

Even when the language is not an issue, there can be misunderstandings with architects. They run a business and want to bill hours and of course no one works for nothing. But they need to be sure they have understood the request from the client and explained their fees. We contacted the architects for our house to inquire about one important page of the plans which was missing from our set of plans. We asked them to tell us if they still have the plans (it is not a new house). They said they would get back to us. We heard nothing until weeks later a package came with photocopies of all the house plans and a hefty invoice. We never authorized them to go ahead with this and we were very clear that we were missing one page. The photocopies were not even full sheets of each plans so indeed someone had to stand at the copier and to copy a full sheet in 4 parts. Not a very professional format.

We refused to pay. Had someone called us back and explained that there is a fee to go to the archive room and retrieve the plans, etc, that would have been fine.
There was always the possibility that they did not have the plans anymore! No one could tell us this inintially. Bottom line is that we refused to pay the bill and they cancelled it. It was clear they had no authorization from us to go ahead.

In the OP's case, I would pay the bill. You gave the plans to the architect. I think they could chase you for the money. At some point you may need an architect. Not a good idea to get on the wrong side of a local architiect.

I have no idea how your disappointment could be made clear to them if you cannot communicate in German and they do not speak English.

This is not about gender. I authorize plenty of work in our house but many firms want signatures of both husband and wife if they own the house together, and this is absolutely a requirement at the Gemeinde level when applying for permits.
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Old 18.05.2016, 10:45
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Re: Architect issue

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This is not about gender. I authorize plenty of work in our house but many firms want signatures of both husband and wife if they own the house together, and this is absolutely a requirement at the Gemeinde level when applying for permits.
With the standard marriage regime, the spouse is responsible for the other spouses debts, so getting both signatures on large expenditure is required even if the property is not jointly owned.
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Old 18.05.2016, 11:36
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Re: Architect issue

We were charged chf 1,000 for what in the UK would be considered a basic survey. The architect was also given the plans, had a wander round for about 20 minutes & wrote his report saying nothing was wrong.
Bend over ...
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Old 18.05.2016, 11:44
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Re: Architect issue

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We were charged chf 1,000 for what in the UK would be considered a basic survey. The architect was also given the plans, had a wander round for about 20 minutes & wrote his report saying nothing was wrong.
Bend over ...
Survey or Valuation? A survey has legal implications for the surveyor far greater than just a valuation. The purchase cost factors in the fee.

A mortgage valuation survey in the UK generally costs in the range £150-£1500
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Old 18.05.2016, 12:00
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Re: Architect issue

As an aside to all those posters who have made comments about the language issue, I've completed other aspects of our house renovations successfully despite none of my tradesmen speaking English. So I had no qualms in talking to a local architect who has Swiss German language only.

But here's an interesting development this morning. Doorbell rings, and its the architect, with a bottle of schnapps in hand.

"Please ignore the bill, and take this gift of schnapps by way of apology. We started the planning work early, just to try and speed things along in readiness for spring arriving. Rip up the bill. We were just trying to be helpful. This is the way we usually operate - it is normal for us to start everything pro actively before we even discuss fees. We know we didn't get your permission. We really want you to be happy so you will use our firm when you're ready to proceed"

All explained in Schweizerdeutsch. I had my Swiss neighbour with me at the time, and he confirmed my interpretation.

So, what can I do, but shake the hand of the architect, invite him and his family to come drink the schnapps with me at a barbecue next month, and feel like faith is restored enough to engage him for the work when we're ready to recommence next year.

I am a happy Swiss resident again!

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Old 18.05.2016, 12:04
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Re: Architect issue

wake up, wake up!
You are day-dreaming!
Some good customer service (or care) in Switzerland and someone openly admitting doing wrong and apologizing?

Where did you get that schnapp drink, if true, I also need one!
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Old 18.05.2016, 12:05
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Re: Architect issue

Haha.. Great update to the story.
Anyway, this means that you'll probably use him for more work anyway - so crisis averted!
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Old 18.05.2016, 12:14
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Re: Architect issue

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wake up, wake up!
You are day-dreaming!
Some good customer service (or care) in Switzerland and someone openly admitting doing wrong and apologizing?

Where did you get that schnapp drink, if true, I also need one!
Yes. I'm sorry to report that you are dreaming... and very late for work. Wakey-wakey!
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Old 18.05.2016, 12:18
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Re: Architect issue

Free schnapps! I might give this method a try.
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Old 18.05.2016, 12:44
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Re: Architect issue

(quote isn't working) "Survey or Valuation? A survey has legal implications for the surveyor far greater than just a valuation. The purchase cost factors in the fee."

We just asked him to make sure nothing was wrong before we sold the house (Expertise Valeur Venale in French).
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Old 18.05.2016, 13:53
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Re: Architect issue

For what it's worth, we've actually experienced fantastic service in the majority of our interactions as private customers, since living in Switzerland. The customs guys at the airport who managed an expired passport issue, the tradesmen who've done work at the house and left it cleaner than when they arrived, the taxi drivers, shop keepers, Co-op staff etc etc.

OK. The Landrover dealership would "take the piss" when it came to what they charged me vs my OH, and there was a certain staff member at the Germeinde who wasn't too welcoming and wanted to deal with my OH and not me, and the one garden landscaping tradesmen who showed up to quote for some work and then literally yelled at me for not having my OH present; but otherwise the council staff overall, the Verkehrsamt staff, the local doctor's surgery, the banks, Swisscom, the marvellously accomodating local auto garage chaps (I switched us away from the Landrover dealership after the last lightbulb purchase of CHF 40 - just a £3.50 part afterall).......all have spoilt us really for quality of service. We have far more instances of raving about exceptional service than of average or poor service.

Probably why this episode with the architect came as a right shock!

Hurrah for him being a decent fellow after all....

Last edited by smileygreebins; 18.05.2016 at 14:01. Reason: missed info
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Old 18.05.2016, 14:13
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Re: Architect issue

Flipping heck! An EF thread with a happy ending in just one page!

Out of curiosity is your OH Swiss? Seems every other tradesman seems to only want to deal with him.
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Old 18.05.2016, 14:38
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Re: Architect issue

Nah, OH is a Brit. But we're in a particularly rural area where the lasses do the housework and shopping; and the fellas do the bread-winning and traditional men's work. In my first year of living here, nice chaps would pull over and offer to help and takeover the repairs I was doing to my truck; or scurry over to help me load my motorbikes onto the trailer; or to take over the lifting and moving of bulky and heavy garden furniture. And the older chaps still try and takeover the mowing of my lawn when they see me trundling along. I've learnt to live with it despite being a perfectly capable and accomplished company exec who is a whiz in the garage or workshop and who can muck in on the farm - there is no way I can be mistaken as a dainty or delicate lady! The delineation of gender roles here is all quite sweet. Rather how I imagine 1860's England to have been.... But I won't criticize them for it - I have on the whole only gained benefit and enjoyment from the whole gentleman routine!

Last edited by smileygreebins; 18.05.2016 at 14:43. Reason: spelling fix
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Old 18.05.2016, 14:49
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Re: Architect issue

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Nah, OH is a Brit. But we're in a particularly rural area where the lasses do the housework and shopping; and the fellas do the bread-winning and traditional men's work. In my first year of living here, nice chaps would pull over and offer to help and takeover the repairs I was doing to my truck; or scurry over to help me load my motorbikes onto the trailer; or to take over the lifting and moving of bulky and heavy garden furniture. And the older chaps still try and takeover the mowing of my lawn when they see me trundling along. I've learnt to live with it despite being a perfectly capable and accomplished company exec who is a whiz in the garage or workshop and who can muck in on the farm - there is no way I can be mistaken as a dainty or delicate lady! The delineation of gender roles here is all quite sweet. Rather how I imagine 1860's England to have been.... But I won't criticize them for it - I have on the whole only gained benefit and enjoyment from the whole gentleman routine!
Maybe you should put on a dainty floral dress, make some home-made lemonade and enjoy and put your feet up while the army of men run around mowing the lawn and doing all the odd-jobs about the house
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