Property Development

Building a house is a lot harder than writing software?!

A Home is without doubt one of those important things that effects our lives. We will all own or rent one at some point in our lives. Housing is everywhere. Very similar to software, it’s an integral part of what we do. I created an Archimate model of the business functions and services that must be managed during a major property build project.

Our Homes are also a major investment for us where we tie up huge amounts of capital and wealth. So, it’s not surprising that TV programmes on all aspects of property are so popular.

Buying a holday home or renovating a second property to rent out present enticing investment ideas for people. A 60 minute episode of Grand Design will get us excited and reaching for the power tools. Knock down a wall, build an extension and refresh the kitchen! Property development looks easy and much more enjoyable than the 9-5 in the office?

Well that’s kind of true! The reality is never that simple. The horror stories surface very quickly and the pitfalls are endless. Enthusiasm and money will take you so far. Take a look at the business model above and you will observe the multitude of roles and interactions that must be managed to the tightest of schedules and payroll funded from your savings!

My personal experience was an ambitious one out of necessity. No doubt about it, the end result was amazing, however, it was  very painful and traumatic as the complexity, expense and people challenges during the renovation unravelled and tested me well beyond my limits. The unpredictable and frequent issues that surfaced will test you physically, mentally and emotionally. The compounding effect of pressure due to time, budget and quality is uncompromising. Whether you play a small management and financing role or a more hands on involvement, the pressures will be severe.

For me, the timing of this renovation was shortly after a very challenging consultancy engagement that completed and I was looking forward to some relaxation with a property renovation project for our new home. Due to personal circumstances I set myself an unbelievably difficult challenge: to complete the entirety of this personal project in 2 months from start to finish.

Rear shots taken when we viewed the house.

Rear view after completion.

We had listed our current home for sale and this had completed within days of us putting in the offer and purchasing our new home (see above). Our buyers had insisted on an aggressive entry date which meant that we had 2 months. Two months – to complete the purchase of the new house, submit designs and plans for council planning and building warrant approval, engage contractors, demolish / remove and rebuild. The property had to be habitable for a young family and our furniture in 2 months! I simply could not afford the more relaxed and expensive option of renting for 6 months and completing the work in a sane timeframe. Cost!!

The business model depicted in the diagram above came to life with a vengeance and I was the fodder fueling the monster.

During this time I made some new friends – me and my orange cement mixer!

With the benefit of hindsight, I would have never started such a project. However, being enthusiastic and reasonably pragmatic, I rolled up my sleeves and jumped in. How wrong I was! This was tough. Not a sprint or a marathon. This was an ultra marathon with shackles tied to your ankles. This was the kind of character building that you wish on others.

I worked with some great contractors and some not so great. With perseverance and blood, sweat and tears – the results were amazing. We moved in after 2 months into two working rooms and spent a final month finishing off a significant list of work items. Have a look at the before and after pictures above. Would I do it again? Yes, but I would not put myself under such time pressure and the very real risk of ending up homeless if the project did not complete on time.

For me at least, I see that IT projects and programmes are equally complex, expensive and face huge time pressures. Success in these projects requires that all important ingredient – putting skin in the game! It is vitally important to work with the very best people who care about the end result and will help to navigate that pitfall ridden journey with you.