Building a luxury Villa – going it alone

The risks involved in going it alone

We have recently started working with a couple who have been trying to navigate the ins and outs of building a villa in Spain alone. After a year of hitting road blocks and being let down by suppliers, they reached out to us and we are taking on their project in 2024. We asked them to share their story, to see where things can go wrong without expert help and guidance and they have kindly agreed. We hope this will help you understand where a professional project manager comes in.

A first-hand account of building a villa in Spain

“Our decision to build our own home in Spain came from the realisation that what we were looking for in a property did not exist. We started looking for a modern, multi-generational home for my parents, my husband and I and our teenage son to live in at the end of 2022.

It needed to be in Sotogrande, with a total of six bedrooms, with a separate kitchen, living and dining room for my parents and good accessibility to future proof against potential mobility issues. We also need a home office, good outdoor space and enough hangout spaces for a teen and two families to be able to retreat to, so we weren’t always living on top of each other. We also didn’t want it to cost a fortune to run, so were looking for something with decent windows, insulation and ideally solar panels for electricity generation and without crazy community fees. Once we started looking, it was clear that this property did not exist and certainly not within our budget, so with some trepidation, we started to explore the option of building ourselves.

Building a Villa – a dream or a nightmare?

My husband has always dreamed of building a house and set out on an exhaustive research exercise to find a good building method, which would be quick, efficient and eco-friendly. He found a team who offered a system which seemed to fit the bill and were very keen to get involved. They recommended an architect, who drew an initial concept and we thought we were sorted.

However, when we had our finances in place, the situation was rather more complicated than we thought. The partners of the building company had parted ways, with claims of fraudulent dealings being banded around on both sides and concerns over whether the system was working the way it should. The architect’s concept was shown to be way above the budget that we had available and not suitable for our plot. We were shaken and worried and so started to explore other options and people with better track records that could guide us through the process.

Searching for the right partners

We spoke to a so-called passive house builder, who had no interest in the project, told us we didn’t have enough money and passive houses were too difficult to do anyway. We consulted with a design and build company, with a team who brought together the project management, architecture and construction functions. This seemed like the ideal combination, until we reviewed the contract and realised that they would be holding all the cards and we would lose control of the process, because they could be scratching each other’s backs and we wouldn’t know.

Finally, we tried again with the eco building system that we liked, and were introduced to another architect by them. But we were worried about their ability to deliver at this stage and asked MDCI if they would come to the meeting with us and look at the contracts of both parties to see whether they felt it was a good option and that we would be sufficiently protected. Mark’s presence and his ability to ask the right questions meant that it was quickly apparent that neither the architects, nor the constructor was up to par. The constructor’s aggressive responses to Mark’s questioning and lack of knowledge of building in Spain left us in no doubt that this was not someone we wanted to deal with and the architects’ weak responses gave us no confidence that they could steer the ship for us.

Finding the solution

We left that meeting angry and disappointed that we had wasted time with these people, but feeling that MDCI had definitely helped us dodge a bullet. Having thought that we couldn’t afford a project manager, the issues we had already faced with bad contracts and poor professionals and the feeling that we were about to be ripped off at every turn, left us in no doubt that we couldn’t afford not to have one! Despite having lived in Spain for more than a decade, speaking good Spanish and being well-connected in the area, it had become very clear that we didn’t have a clue how to navigate this very complex process and we’d nearly made a ton of mistakes before we really got started. So before going any further we contracted MDCI as our project manager.

Moving forward at last

After speaking to Mark, he advised us to go back to the drawing board and approach the project in a more conventional way, starting with choosing an architect. He recommended two architects with excellent reputations and organised a visit to the plot and for them both to produce initial concepts and outline costings. On the back of these and with Mark’s guidance, we’ve now selected our architect and are feeling confident that with MDCI by our side, our dream of a multi-generational home which will tick all our boxes is within reach. As our project managers, MDCI will manage the tender process, review all the contracts and reduce costs as much as is possible during that tender process. They will also be on site and on hand to answer questions, check that everything is progressing as it should and protect us from unscrupulous people and legal issues along the way.

We are looking forward to getting the project started in the right way now and thank Mark and his team for all their support so far.”

Guiding our clients to project success

Many thanks to our clients for sharing their story and showing just a few ways that things can potentially go wrong before you even break ground. As you can see, the role of Project Manager starts from the concept stage and we can work with our clients through choosing a plot, selecting suppliers, reviewing contracts and questioning costs and quotes.

Having a project manager involved in the tendering process, allows us to save you significant money through value engineering and gives you the confidence that you’re choosing the right people to build your dream home in Spain.

MDCI – the value of 25+ years of experience!

Once the build starts, we then take care of everything for you, making sure that decisions are made correctly and quickly, producing cost forecasts and cash flow plans to make sure there are no nasty surprises when it comes to costs and of course checking that everything is on time and on budget. We take on the stress for the project and keep you informed through detailed monthly reports and meetings, helping you to make decisions when needed and ensuring everything is running smoothly.

If you are building a property in 2024, we wish you all the luck in the world. If you hit any road blocks, or have any concerns, we want you to know we are here to help you. Even if your budget is tight, we hope our clients’ story will make you ask yourself – can you afford NOT to have a Project Manager involved in your build?

Contact us today and find out how we can help you.

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