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Old 10.10.2009, 08:33
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How Do You Choose Your Building Contractors?

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Hi

I'm in the home building and renovation trade. I'm wondering how people on here who need renovation work done choose their contractors.

I have been following this forum since 2007 and I've read all those complaints about bad customer service in Switzerland. So, my first resolution was to do it better than others once I became self-employed. My second resolution was to give expats priority treatment whenever possible.

So, if you house owners could all weigh in and tell me what I can do to make you my happy customers.

To the mods: this might read like an advertisement, but it is not. I'm genuinely seeking advise. So, I hope you don't move this thread to the commercial section.

Kind regards,
sk
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Last edited by btb; 26.11.2009 at 07:06.
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Old 10.10.2009, 09:16
Nev
 
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Re: How Do You Choose Your Building Contractors?

When I did my renovation, I appointed someone to oversee the work. That was somebody recommended to me by a neighbour who had done some renovations previously. I know some people who've used architects for this role and some who've used what's called a "directeur du travail", basically a project manager. If it's a small job (kitchen renovation) I guess you could do the project management yourself. I guess which way you go would depend on the size and complexity of the job, your time availability and your language skills.

In my case I used a project manager to supervise and coordinate the sub contractors, get the appropriate permissions, deal with the insurance and arrange the relevant inspections. He proposed three local firms for each of the trades involved (carpenters, electricians, plumbers, masons, scaffolders, roofers, painters etc) and we put the business out to tender. He had worked with each of the firms he proposed or knew of them by reputation and before we put the business out to tender, I ran each of those names past a few of my neighbours. So in my case, direct experience, reputation and word of mouth were all important factors. my project manager said it's best to use local firms because they care about their reputation in the commune/region. I have to say, when the quotes came in, some firms eliminated themselves on the basis of their price because the price range of the quotes we got were material in quite a few cases.

I didn't have any customer service problems - any niggles that came up after the work was finished were promptly attended to.
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Old 10.10.2009, 09:59
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Re: How Do You Choose Your Building Contractors?

Thank you, Nev, for your response. Just curious, how much did this project manager charge you?

If anyone else would like to chime in, please feel free to do so.
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Old 10.10.2009, 10:12
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Re: How Do You Choose Your Building Contractors?

We did exactly like Nev when we did a major renovation. Our project manager charged 5% for the project management part. I.e. 5% on the sum that the contractors charged. He was a builder himself and thus, also did a big part of the work which he charged as normal for.

We were very happy and had no real issues at all. The guy did a great job as a project manager and took a huge load of our shoulders in that he was the one running after the contractors, he was the one coordinating who should come when and he was there opening the door for them and checked their work. He also talked to the neighbours when there were complaints about noise or dust. An important task that shouldn't be underestimated.
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Old 10.10.2009, 11:05
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Re: How Do You Choose Your Building Contractors?

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Hi

I'm in the home building and renovation trade. I'm wondering how people on here who need renovation work done choose their contractors.

I have been following this forum since 2007 and I've read all those complaints about bad customer service in Switzerland. So, my first resolution was to do it better than others once I became self-employed. My second resolution was to give expats priority treatment whenever possible.

So, if you house owners could all weigh in and tell me what I can do to make you my happy customers.

To the mods: this might read like an advertisement, but it is not. I'm genuinely seeking advise. So, I hope you don't move this thread to the commercial section.

Kind regards,
sk
We had only a small renovation to do and I called an architect I know, who lives in the same village, and he gave me a quote and the management fee was exhorbitant so we decided to to manage the work ourselves. (Language is not an issue for us). We needed the following tradespersons: plasterer, electrician, floor installer, window company. We chose local tradespeople from our village, or a nearby village. Price was a consideration but it was also difficult to get tradespeople as they were all so busy. We went for local tradespeople who have a good reputation. All the tradespeople knew each other and while I set the schedule they coordinated things amongst themselves as well.

I gave the person who began the work a key since I could not be at the house by 7 am everyday or to lock up in the evening. We were working to a very tight deadline as we had to move in very quickly. We had already chosen the materials we wanted having done the research into the best solutions for the flooring and the ceiling that would meet our needs. I was at the house everyday to check on things.

I wasn't worried about the tradespeople respecting the noise bylaws - they are local and know the rules. I had one rule which was not a problem - no one could smoke in the house. But they wouldn't anyways, even when I wasn't there I knew this would not be an issue.

Some important points: payment terms. Standard was 30 days from the invoice date, most gave a discount for faster payment so we took advantage of that. We did have one tradesperson for another project who asked us for money up front (it was a very small project) and I sent him away. I also told every other tradesperson about it...figured I would give them something to talk about in the "bites". If I had special ordered something custom made (like the windows) for this we paid a deposit.

We also asked about guarantee on the work and the materials. One morning a manager from the floor company came to my house. I wondered why. He wanted to be sure the company was using the right adhesives. We have underfloor heating and the flooring is quite special and was not typically used in a private household. Work and materials should have a guarantee. A few months ago we discovered a problem around the window frames and I called the plasterer. He wanted money to fix it. I was furious and we threatened to use our legal insurance as when I called another plasterer he looked at it and said it was a mistake by the plasterer and work is guaranteed for two years so in the end we had it fixed.

If someone can't provide references, I am reluctant to use them. Also, I insist on everything in writing, even the disposal costs for the removal of old materials. It is difficult to quote this precisely but as long as the customer knows to expect it, then there are no surprises. Also, the schedule and the work completion should be in writing. Delays can be expected but customers are not often very tolerant. The weather can play a big factor. We had to bring in dehumidifiers to aid the drying process otherwise we were never goign to get finished.

Hope this was helpful and no, I didn't think this was an advert at all.
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Old 13.10.2009, 16:55
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Re: How Do You Choose Your Building Contractors?

Thanks everyone for their replies! Some really great advise their. We will sure heed it once we get some more work. Regarding references, we did complete one job. Some pictures can be found on our website at xxx. If anyone would like to check on this, I can forward them the guy's number.

Since we are quite eager to finally get started, we would also consider traveling a little farther than just Zurich and surroundings. Aargau is certainly feasible, maybe even Zug and Schaffhausen.

If anyone else has some advise for us, I would welcome your contribution.

Thanks again
sk
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Last edited by btb; 26.11.2009 at 07:00.
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Old 26.10.2009, 05:55
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Re: How Do You Choose Your Building Contractors?

Hi

Would you guys mind giving me an idea of how much those builders charged for their services? I would just like to get a better picture of our competition's pricing. Especially, since you suggested that the offers you received differed vastly.

Thanks
sk

Last edited by btb; 26.11.2009 at 07:05.
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Old 26.10.2009, 08:45
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Re: How Do You Choose Your Building Contractors?

We also found that offers differed significantly among contractors - it wasn't unusual to find that one firm's offer was 3 times the price of another's.

We didn't always go with the lowest bidder - we went with the one who seemed to best understand the full scope of the job.

One firm rule, though - any firm bidding out with an hourly basis clause, as opposed to a fixed price for the whole job, was immediately rejected no matter how good their price. Such a clause told me that we would be in for a big surprise at the end.

Also important was the discount contractors could get on materials. Some firms offered 3-5%, some around 15-20% - which made quite a difference in overall price.

Scheduling - I needed contractors who could guarantee when the job would be completed. Which was very hard to find.

And last - communication. Although my German is passable, I don't speak 'plumber-ese' very well, in any language. It was hard enough for me to deal with contractors when renovating in the US, it was even more so trying to do it in German. In retrospect, I should have looked for an english speaking general project manager - most of our mistakes came about because the project manager and I misunderstood one another.

Good luck with your venture!

Last edited by meloncollie; 26.10.2009 at 13:14.
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