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Did the Building Shrink?
Physics, Architects, Engineers and Money
We traveled to the Algarve last week. We planned to spend time with friends and had scheduled a lot of meetings with architects, property managers, engineers, etc. We picked up the key to our future home on Monday morning. When Denise and I re-entered the building, after four months, we warily said, “Does it look smaller to you?”
I did not study physics. However, after we cautiously said the above nearly in unison, I felt compelled to assert that the laws of physics made our comment impossible. The building could not have shrunk. Of course, having caddied a few times I felt compelled to pace off the space. Yep, it was as expected. As we have not turned on the utilities to the building we turned on our iPhone flashlights and explored. We found a small narrow winding room behind the former bathrooms. Interesting…I don’t remember that on the plans…yet it is definitely there.
Finding the Right People
When you are in a new country finding the right people to work with, on a project such as this, seems particularly daunting. My research had started back in July. Our realtor had a builder he could recommend, but over more than three months, he had been unable to get him to confirm an appointment with us. That wasn’t going to work. I did a lot of Google searches and read dozens of reviews. There was a builder, V Build1, based in Tavira that had lots of 5-star ratings. I emailed him and he actually called me the next morning. During a visit to Tavira in September, he met us at his office on time (hallelujah) and allowed us to tour four renovations he had recently completed. We even had an opportunity to speak with some of the homeowners. He was our guy.
He asked if we had an architect, and we admitted we did not. He recommended a woman, also in Tavira, and provided her number. We met with her, Ana, later that same week and the three of us instantly clicked. However, about 10 days before our most recent trip I had sent a copy of the paperwork from the camará (city council) to her and told her we were ready to start.
Proposals and Misunderstandings
She responded that we needed a proposal from the engineer and herself. I wasn’t sure what that meant but, she said I would receive both in the next few days. A week went by. Of course, after only a few days, I was already my crazy American self. I texted her. I emailed her. I called her…no response. I even left what I thought was a heartfelt, pleading voicemail. When I played it for Denise, she didn’t hear the heartfelt or pleading. She said I sounded demanding … bordering on rude.
I immediately started contacting other architects in Tavira and VRSA. We made appointments with two.
Two days after the voicemail I got a phone call and an email from Ana. She apologized, explaining that her sister had given birth to her first nephew. That she had left her work phone2 in the office and spent the week in Lisbon with family. Yep, she is definitely Portuguese. I also received two proposals from her. One for her services and the other for the engineer. We had a good chat, and both proposals seemed in order but I still had concerns. We would meet with the other architects just in case one blew our socks off.
I also called the engineer. His proposal was in Portuguese and I wasn’t certain I understood what everything was even after I put it through my translation app. He, Vitor, was a gem. He explained every item in detail in perfect English. He arranged for the seismic engineer within one hour of our call, as he was not licensed to provide this service. He even called me back with the number of a solar/PV energy consultant as I had mentioned our interest in such during our call.
So What Does all this Cost
So far everyone we have met has been lovely and very professional. All three architects happened to be women. Their proposals ranged from 2500-3500 euros. Essentially that fee is for the design and gets you through the process with the city that results in a building license. We ended up going with Ana, who was right in the middle of the range. In part because of her relationship with the builder. In part because we liked her “energy”3 the best. We also contracted with a seismic engineer and Vitor. The grand total to date is:
Architect: €3150 + IVA (Tax)
Seismic Engineer: €695 + IVA (Tax)
Engineer: €1920.50 +IVA (Tax)
Vitor and Ana met us at the building on Wednesday. We discussed flipping the guest bedroom and master bedroom with Ana. This will require relocating an existing 1’ thick wall about 3 feet. We also discussed removing the annoying pillar in the middle of the room. She enthusiastically endorsed both ideas. Vitor on the other hand shook his head and exclaimed, “No, no!”
I mentioned the use of a steel I-beam.
Denise said, “It’s just money.”
He agreed it was possible.
The fees above do not include submission and permitting fees to the city. We have heard differing estimates on exactly what they are so we will withhold sharing those until we know for sure.
In case you are not up to speed on IVA (i.e. the value-added tax4) in Portugal..permit me to give you a heads up. The IVA on professional services in Portugal is 23%. Yep, not a typo…23%. (So €3195 is actually over €3900.) Not complaining, just letting you know.
We had been told that we would be offered a lower, 6%, tax on building materials since we are restoring a home in the historic zone. We are trying to confirm that and determine if it applies to professional services as well. Stay tuned…
Why we Love Vitor
Throughout the visit, Vitor walked around the building with a small claw hammer in his hand. I would hear him hammering and look his way. He would then sheepishly ask, “Can I make a hole here? It is information for the seismic engineer.” In all, he made about 8 holes in the walls.
He kicked it up a notch when we mentioned the skylights and the jacuzzi on the roof. He jumped on top of the counter having found a broom in the corner. He started pounding into the ceiling 12-14’ above. As a foot square piece of cement and debris fell to the ground he said, “You don’t mind if I put a hole here? Do you?… Ahh, it is not a slab.”
We learned what he meant by that is what we call the roof, is not a solid slab of concrete. There are instead rebar and cement “trusses” with hollow blocks between them. To get exactly what we want, we will need to remove part of the roof and pour a concrete slab. Again Denise said, “It’s just money.”
Did you ever notice when you buy a new car, you start seeing that car on every street corner? That was our experience with V Build. After finding positive reviews online we seemed to see their trucks and vans parked in front of construction sites on every street in Tavira.
Have you heard about the new Portuguese law that prevents employers from calling their employees after hours?
And, she gets my sense of humor…
“The Value-Added tax is an indirect tax levied on the supply of goods and services rendered for remuneration. The framework of the Value Added Tax provides for a deduction of Value Added Tax based on the acquisition of goods and services. Each economic agent reverts the difference between Value Added Tax paid and Value Added Tax undertaken to the state. Hence the Value Added Tax goes all the way around the economic circuit to the end consumer, who undertakes the total tax.” — Newco