Pots of Money

Following the late August departure of the lovely ladies in my last Phoenix Quest post, I left you pondering the question of budget, or rather its pots of money definition. You may be suspecting some kind of overspend or major unforeseen issue, requiring us to dip into our contingency fund, but no, the contention arises months before a single brick has been touched. Let me take you back to September 2014 to share the moment when the budget became our first hurdle. Before I begin, I feel compelled to check that my comprehension of the word is accurate and not some outlandish or obscure version.

The Collins English Dictionary states: Budget (n): the total amount of money allocated for a specific purpose during a specified period.

Good. Just as I suspected; a clear and uncomplicated meaning, or least you would think so…

A handful of days prior to our summer holiday, the tender process, initiated by the architect, comes to its conclusion. The builder’s quotes trickle through. Understandably, due to the complexity of the tender document, several of them decline to submit a response within the agreed timescales; some inflate their estimates, presumably to price themselves out of consideration. These practices are not unexpected; our project will not appeal to all comers. Instead, the shock occurs with the lowest submissions. Of the seven businesses participating we are left with two very similar bids. The good news is, based on fit, these are our preferred options; the bad news is, the quotes are a hundred percent greater than our stated budget!

How is that possible?! Having communicated our likely available funds to the architect, arranged mortgages based on the current value of the house and obtained estimated valuations of the property once complete, we can’t see how the numbers can be so far adrift. In a frank discussion with the architect, I reiterate the need to get as close to our original total as possible. We debate the budget which had been clearly set out in our first meetings. Somehow its importance had been forgotten. I believe we made our position clear; he believes “it was never about the money.” We are not building a mansion, we are not millionaires, and we do not have pots of money. It is always about the money. His scheme, now our dream scheme is not feasible. He has designed an unaffordable dream.

Picking ourselves up, we regroup and request a modified scheme, on the proviso that the two sets of builders confirm its affordability. Reassured by the architect there is some hope of a positive outcome, we head away to the sun, nervously awaiting new estimates.
Some weeks later when the sound of the waves hitting the beach is a faded memory, scheme two is born. The quotes are more reasonable but not quite affordable. Unfortunately we have lost the slot with our preferred builders. The mortgage facility is too small and lapses in early November. The decision is made. We instruct the architect to draft full drawings for the new scheme and tie up all the loose ends in order that we can take back control of the project. We defer the build until the spring.

Disappointed yet philosophical, we try to see the positives in the set-back. Having originally planned to commence work in June 2014, we ought to have moved back into the house by Christmas. Now we are so far behind, some factors have shifted in our favour: The fixed period on our current fixed mortgage ends before the end of 2014 – no penalty for switching elsewhere! The house has increased in value – we have the potential to borrow more against the extra equity. Good builders are always in demand – we can plan ahead and secure our chosen builders without compromise. Latterly facing the prospect of a winter build, we are now able to earmark a spring start – in theory the warmer weather should make for a more predictable schedule. Even the additional expense of commissioning a second set of building drawings from the architect has helped us determine which of his services are essential and which are nice-to-have’s.

On reflection, an end to end service with full project management would always have been too costly and left us too far removed from the project. Certainly, for those fortunate souls with pots of money, or even those nervous of embarking on such a project without the protection of expert supervision, I can appreciate the benefits. For us picking up the reigns at this point was the right decision, made easier, in large part, by confidence in our builders. From initial recommendation, through outstanding, independent references, to their professional, straightforward and honest communication, we have complete faith in our selection.

Very soon you will be able to follow the Phoenix Quest in real-time. To bring you bang up to date in my next post, I will recount a few tedious yet necessary, activities undertaken over the winter months in my new role as Project Manager. Meanwhile, I will leave you with an answer to the unanswered question, posed by a good friend yesterday: Why the Phoenix Quest? ‘Phoenix’ because our house is called Phoenix Lodge, named by the previous owners; ‘Quest’ because the renovation is a long time in the making, a journey with many hurdles, twists and turns. Apt also for the new home must rise out of the ashes of the old. Until the build…..