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Tuesday May 13, 2014

Rawson warns property owners about 'bakkie builders'

The horror stories that the Rawson Property Group's clients relay to him and his colleagues regarding the shortcomings of South Africa's less experienced and less reliable 'bakkie builders' come through so frequently and can involve such large sums of money that he feels a further warning on this subject is again necessary, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group.

Rawson stressed that there are many good ethical builders with sound working systems and good staff performing daily out there - often also putting in considerable overtime. His remarks, he said, apply only to the bottom 10% who regrettably are letting down the reputation of the others.

'At the moment,' said Rawson, 'we are witnessing a revival in the home extensions and improvements industry. Whereas prior to 2008 the big demand from home owners was to upgrade and to buy a bigger and better home, today there is a good chance that the owner is unable to afford a bond of the size they require and will instead opt for a smaller bond - or make use of their existing access bond - to add to or upgrade his existing home.'

This, said Rawson, is sound thinking because such improvements, in most cases, add more to the value of the home than the initial outlay has involved.

So far, so good, but the owner then, having taken this decision, has to appoint a draughtsman or architect to get his plans and to appoint a builder.

'This is where the pitfalls lie,' said Rawson, 'because informal builders time and again come in with low quotes and unachievable delivery dates which they use to persuade the inexperienced home owner to appoint them. These terms and conditions may well be put in writing, but once the contract is underway the home owner finds that it becomes harder and harder to enforce them and, as the only way out of the impasse is to go to court, thereby further delaying the building process, the owner has to resort to doing all they can to make the builder keep his promises. This will often require their being on site two or three times each day, becoming involved in exhausting arguments and acrimony which may well leave them weary and out of pocket.'

Should the owner be a working person, away at work all day, the control of the site under such conditions becomes even harder to achieve, said Rawson.

In the typical scenario, he said, the irresponsible builder, one of the bottom 10% who regularly lets the side down:

1. Will be on the site only for a few hours a day because they are visiting other contracts or pursuing their own interests elsewhere - but will leave no one with sufficient skill or ability to run the contract in his absence.

2. Will be found to lack the skill to handle certain aspects of the job and has no one on his staff that can do these things, e.g. to build an arch.

3. Will employ half or quarter skilled site staff who can never be described as artisans, who work painfully slowly, producing work of appalling quality. Such site staff also seem to spend a great deal of time in arguments with their boss and will probably produce walls that are not 100% straight and plaster that is uneven, will install light fittings at unspecified points, will be unable to hang a door so that it swings properly and will lay tiles so that the pattern is irregular and displeasing to the eye. They are also quite likely to damage the work they have already installed because they have not been taught how to protect it.

4. Will substitute cheap materials and fittings for those actually specified and will produce 101 reasons why this became essential at a certain phase in the contract.

5. Will over-claim (if not carefully monitored throughout the contract) for work done and then begin demanding 'extra' for work which in fact was part of the original contract.

6. Finally, will quit the job before it is completed and refuse to return to deal with snag lists.

Regrettably, said Rawson, such inefficient builders may be registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council. However, this is no guarantee of their reliability and resorting to such bodies to achieve redress and discipline is, for most home owners, far too time consuming and irksome because all they want is for the job to be completed and to have their home to themselves again as quickly as possible.

'The only way to achieve complete satisfaction in these matters is to find a truly reliable builder recommended by several people who have used them - not just by one - and then to be prepared to pay the extra 10% or 15% which they will probably charge over and above the poor builder's quote. If the appointment of such a person eliminates the trauma and stress of dealing with the inefficient builder it will be worthwhile - and the completed job itself will be that much better.'

Rawson Press Relase


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