What Happens When You Hire a Project Manager for Your Renovation?
If you’re planning a home renovation, a project manager can help things run smoothly and save you money to boot
These planning professionals can make a huge difference to the running of your project, could save you a lot of stress, and will ensure you stay on (or under) budget. Here, three experts explain what’s involved.
Professional advice from: Eamonn Agha of Huntsmore; Jennifer Chong of Feioi; Oliver Rhodes of Maltwood
“A project manager should take ownership of a project and ultimately be responsible for its successful completion,” Eamonn Agha explains. “This includes monitoring the day-to-day progress of the build, budgeting, overseeing contracts, quality and time management, and making sure the scope that was agreed is understood and executed.”
Jennifer Chong says, “A project manager acts as the point person between the client and all the services, contractors and suppliers involved. They will plan the project with you, then organise and implement the work based on the specifications agreed between them and the client.”
Oliver Rhodes lists three stages in the process: design, tender and managing the build. Similarly, Eamonn says, “We typically split our project management service into two phases – the design and the construction.”
“Everyone works differently and quotes are always provided on a project-by-project basis,” Jennifer says. “As a guide, I usually suggest around 10 to 15% of the overall project.”
Eamonn says, “We operate under a fixed fee, based on the anticipated project length, but there are various payment structures, ranging from a percentage of the build cost to an hourly or daily rate.
“The fees also depend on a variety of factors,” he adds, “such as the scope of the works, estimated length of the project, and complexity of the build.”
Oliver adds, “Project managers can help clients with sourcing materials at a discount. They manage the costs of the project and can bring in tried and tested contractors, so a client should notice they get a lot of the fee back in savings.”
Eamonn agrees: “A project manager should be a value-adding service. They should ultimately be saving you time and money as well as introducing their expertise and know-how to help facilitate the project.”
Eamonn recommends you look at customer reviews and images of the project manager’s work beforehand, and also seek out personal recommendations to gain “an insight into their methods of working and their value add.
“Meet your proposed project manager a couple of times before you formally engage them, so you know you’re comfortable working with them on a personal, as well as professional, level,” he says. “You could be talking with this person every day, so getting on with them is very important.”
Jennifer agrees and adds, “I use the first meeting as an introduction, to give the client a chance to get to know me and ask any questions they might have about the service.
“Renovation work in the home can be quite stressful, even with someone handling the main bulk of the organisation, and since the project manager will become the client’s point of contact, it’s important they get on well and understand each other.”
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“The first meeting should be used to establish how much input and communication the client is going to have,” Eamonn says. “Having these discussions early on will help both parties understand how much input is to be expected.
“For example,” he continues, “we’ve undertaken projects where the client is abroad for the entirety of the build and only able to make site visits twice in the whole length of the project. In this type of scenario, it’s important to clarify how the client will be updated and how they’ll be approached if decisions have to be made.”
“Some clients are happy to pass everything over, while I provide regular updates on the progress with any decisions that need to be made,” says Jennifer. “Others want to be more involved and are present on site most days, but I would still need to be included in any discussions that change the course of the work.”
“If a client has already gone through the first two stages, we can still help,” Oliver says. “We don’t have to be involved from day one. However, we would offer best value if we came in at the first stage.”
Jennifer agrees and says, “The earlier in the planning process you engage a project manager, the more you’ll be able to get out of them and the more they’ll be able to help ensure the project runs smoothly.
“Their input is as valuable in the planning stage as it is on site once work begins,” she adds, “and it’s much easier for them to prevent problems rather than trying to fix existing issues after work has begun.”
Eamonn adds that if the project manager is included from day one, they “can ensure there are no gaps or communication hurdles”.
“After the first meeting, the project manager usually provides a quote for their service based on the brief discussed,” Jennifer explains. “If the client’s happy to go ahead, the process can begin.
“This usually starts with putting together a specification of works with as much detail as possible. This should include every element of the project on one document (with accompanying plans and drawings), so that everyone understands what needs to be achieved. Once this has been agreed, the project manager will start scheduling and planning the work.”
Oliver adds, “I’ll take a design brief and, from that, I’ll decide which professionals the client needs. At the end of this stage, we’ll have detailed drawings and a brief of what the client wants to achieve on a design basis.
“From those drawings (and after planning), we’ll put together a schedule of works,” he says. “This will itemise in great detail exactly what’s required of a contractor, which allows us to then get accurate, detailed quotes. It also ensures contractors have all the information on site to facilitate the build.”
How to find photos on Houzz to help you plan your project.
“We’ll approach three or four tried-and-tested contractors,” Oliver says. “A detailed schedule of works should ensure we get accurate costs – and we should find we get less of a range of quotes from the contractors, as they’ll all be pricing on a like-for-like basis.
“Then we do a tender analysis and see if there are any holes in the quotes. We go back to the contractors to give them a chance to revise and make sure they’re happy with their quotes,” he adds. “We also keep a documented trail of quotes, to ensure there’s no disparity later on.”
Eamonn says, “In the majority of scenarios, we’ll put forward a main contractor who can undertake and be responsible for the majority of the works. Then if there are specialist contractors or trades that are required for the project, such as glazing or restoration specialists, we’ll suggest several relevant, high-quality parties.”
“It’s the project manager’s responsibility to run the schedule and ensure everyone knows what they need to be doing,” Jennifer says. “Any changes or problems that arise are dealt with by them directly, and they will present decisions and options to the client as and when required to ensure the project continues as smoothly as possible.”
“A project manager will monitor and report on the weekly progress of the project, oversee the programme, and manage the budget,” Oliver says. “A key job is to ensure the contractor is charging a fair price and only for the work they’ve done. We also try to deal with unforeseen problems without having to bother the client.”
Jennifer adds, “A lot of time goes into planning and troubleshooting, and often problems can be solved without having to involve the client. When it all goes to plan, it appears smooth and easy – and the client is completely unaware of the work involved.”
“Every client and every project is different, so the level of involvement can be adjusted to suit each client and budget to a degree,” Jennifer says.
“I offer a consultancy service for clients who want to run a project themselves and need some guidance,” she says, “but this does mean the responsibility for running it lies with the client, so this needs to be made clear from the start.”
“One option is to hire a project manager to come to the site once a month and sign off the valuations on a monthly basis,” Oliver says. “It’s worth calling a project manager to see if they can work around your budget. They can always say no.”
“Don’t project manage your project manager,” Oliver laughs. “Let them do their job and have faith in how they approach the project, because they do it every day.”
Eamonn concurs, “If you’re confident you’ve done your research, you should let the project manager fulfil their role to get the result you want to achieve.”
Communication is also key, Oliver says. “Give them as much information as possible up front, and be honest about your budget.”
Jennifer adds, “A good project manager will help a client create a specification of works that’s as accurate as possible. It can be tempting to leave small decisions to nearer the time, but sometimes these can have a knock-on effect, so it’s best to confirm these details from the start. It makes the whole process smoother.”
Oliver also highlights the benefit of ongoing communication, and says, “Take an interest in the project and be involved through the whole process.”
Problems can come up when decisions aren’t communicated to the project manager, Jennifer says. “For example, it’s tricky if a client has a discussion with suppliers and contractors directly, and they make a decision or change without my knowledge,” she explains.
“They might think it’s minor and don’t want to bother me with it, but it’s important that I’m aware of every tiny detail of the project if I’m to be responsible for managing it,” she says.
Eamonn points to unforeseen issues that fall out of the original plan, and says, “It’s important for a good project manager to be able to mitigate as many of these as possible and try to anticipate what could go wrong.
“If this can’t be done, then it’s key for a successful project manager to be solution-led and put forward sensible and pragmatic ideas to deal with these issues.”
Are you planning to use a project manager for your renovation? Have you had a positive experience of using one in the past? Share your thoughts and know-how in the Comments section.