If you’re planning to renovate, repair or rebuild your property in Italy then it’s essential that you find a top quality construction company to work with. Without the help of a reliable, trustworthy and qualified team of construction professionals your project won’t be able to realize its full potential.
Mistakes in real estate, especially with renovation or rebuilding projects, can end up being extremely expensive so it’s vital to find a good construction company to work with. However, locating the right construction company in Italy can be difficult; and these difficulties are often compounded for Expats.
The Italian Construction Industry.
In Italy, a construction company is referred to as either an ‘Impresa di Costruzioni’ or an ‘Impresa Edile’.
When you are working with multiple construction companies in one project the overall manager of the project is referred to as an ‘Impresa Appaltante’. They will be responsible for streamlining the work of the different contractors and ensure that the project is completed in a timely manner.
Many construction companies are called ‘S.R.L.’ companies, which stands for ‘Societa a Responsibilita Limita’. This means that they are an officially registered Limited Liability Company. The company name will be advertised in the following way : ‘Company Name slr’.
Larger companies are referred to as ‘S.P.A.’ which means that they are joint stock companies. These are generally very trustworthy and able to take on projects of almost any scale.
When selecting a construction company you should always ensure that they are legally registered with the government, so you should look out for the ‘S.L.R.’ or ‘S.P.A’ acronym after the company name.
For a comprehensive list of the major Italian construction companies you can check the Dun and Bradstreet website. All of the companies listed on the site are established and legally registered entities. Dun and Bradstreet also lists the companies annual turnover which can be useful to gauge their experience and the amount of work they take on each year. However, you can also work with smaller, local construction companies, particularly for minor renovations or rebuilds.
Challenges When Hiring A Construction Company.
There are several challenges that you will be facing when you are looking for a construction company to renovate your property in Italy.
Understanding The Italian Construction Industry.
As a foreigner you may not have much understanding of the Italian construction industry. The real estate markets and construction industry in Italy are heavily regulated which can make navigating your way through a building project much harder than you might have expected. Most construction companies, particularly the small ones, do not have websites or online reviews. Unlike in the United States, you will have great difficulty when it comes to assessing their strengths and weaknesses. You will not be able to see their portfolio of work or know their area of specialization within their industry.
One of the main problems that you will face while trying to find a construction company in Italy is the language barrier. Unless you speak Italian to a fairly advanced level, you will struggle to understand the technical language surrounding construction, municipal regulations, local taxes and environmental requirements; all of which can be quite complicated.
Lack Of Local Knowledge.
As an Expat you’re unlikely to have a great deal of local knowledge. This can make hiring the right construction much harder for you. This problem can also be compounded by construction companies that don’t always provide a high level of customer service and communication with their clients.
This is often the case if you choose to work with a company that has little industry experience in working with foreign clients. However, it can also be the case if you employ the services of a new construction company which doesn’t have the type of extensive industry experience that you should be looking for.
Construction Companies Are Generally Unreliable.
Smaller construction companies that take on large renovation or rebuild projects which involve articulated work and heavy machinery often expose themselves to unaffordable financial liabilities.
For example, if something goes wrong in the course of a demolition, the costs of the mistake can be such that a small construction company will choose to abandon the job rather than try to absorb the costs.
This means that, as a general rule, you will be better served by working with a well established construction company. Otherwise, you can find yourself left in the lurch with your building project left uncompleted.
Key Steps In Hiring A Great Construction Company In Italy.
The sections below highlight the important things you should keep in mind when you go about contracting with the construction company.
Step 1: A Geometra, Architect Or Property Management Professional Should Manage The Project.
In my experience, expats like me taking on the role of the property manager is not a good idea. You should definitely not do it if you do not know the Italian language. You should seriously consider hiring a geometra, an architect or a property management company to oversee the project.
They will oversee the building works, hire the necessary contractors and engage the services of a trusted local construction company on your behalf. This is absolutely essential to help you manage your building project.
Having an experienced local professional working with you to manage your building project will make the difference between a successful outcome and a potentially costly disaster!
For large scale projects you should work with an architect who has completed a 5 year formal university architecture course. They should also have done an internship as well as extensive on the job training. You should always check that they are fully qualified because in some cases people may present themselves as architects even if they do not have the full training and qualifications!
For smaller scale projects you can choose to hire a geometra instead of an architect. A geometra can manage the contractors, develop the designs and handle the municipal paperwork on your behalf.
It’s worth noting that you should only rely on a geometra for smaller projects because they do have the extensive formal training that an architect has. However, for a basic renovation project, such as installing a new bathroom, they can oversee the work at lower cost than an architect would charge.
The other option that’s available to you is to hire a property management professional or firm. If you can find an established company that frequently works with foreign clients you should get a fully bilingual service which can be very helpful for Expats. The property management professional will arrange the necessary construction work to be done as well as recommend a local geometra or architect for the project.
Step 2: Use Your Geometra, Architect Or Property Management Professional To Hire The Construction Company.
Once you have made an arrangement with a geometra, architect or property management professional they instantly become an essential resource in your building project.
They will recommend and locate trusted construction companies and contractors that you can rely on to deliver the work you need for your project. As an Expat you are very unlikely to have detailed knowledge of the Italian construction industry so having the help of local experts working by your side is invaluable.
I hired a property management company first. This property management company also manages renovations and new builds. I leveraged the property management company to hire the geometra and the architect. Together we were able to hire the rest of the contractors (plumbing, electrical, painting etc.) and the construction company (demolition, rebuild, roof and floor work).
Do not hire a construction company strait off of the internet.
Step 3: Make Sure That You Clearly Understand What The Construction Company Does.
Each construction company will have its own unique track record and specializations. When you’re selecting one to work with, even with the help of a geometra or an architect, you need to clearly establish precisely what they do.
For instance, a construction company may claim to have expertise in certain types of project even when they don’t in order to get more work! So, it’s very important that you understand exactly what they can do and have a track record of successfully completing.
Some construction companies will focus on demolitions and rebuilds while others are more focused on plumbing or electrical work. Your geometra or architect should be able to help you to learn exactly what a particular company is specialized in. They will also be able to streamline your project so that representatives from a number of different construction companies can coordinate their work on your property.
Step 4: Always Check The Construction Company’s References And Certifications.
It’s very important that you take the time to carefully check and research a construction company’s track record before you employ them. You should look for any references or customer reviews online so you can get a first hand idea of their service and the quality of their work.
As an Expat, one of your best resources is the rest of the Expat community. You can ask around your friends, or on Expat social media groups, for recommendations. If one of your Expat friends can give you a recommendation for a similar building project to what you are undertaking this advice is worth taking note of!
Any good construction company should have a website that you can use to find out more about the work they specialize in and the details of their track record to date. If you are considering employing a company that either does not have a website or has a weak online presence you may want to go elsewhere.
You should also check that a construction company is registered in the Italian Chamber of Commerce, which is called the ‘Visura Camera di Commercio’. The company should be listed as an ‘Ogetto Sociale’. This will assure you that the company is legitimate and is operating as an officially registered legal entity.
On the Chamber of Commerce website you’ll be able to see what they are officially registered to do. For instance, they may be listed as plumbers, or electricians, or construction workers. If you find that they are registered as plumbers but are offering you demolition services then this could be cause for concern!
You’ll also need to ensure that the construction company has the correct legal certifications. This can be quite complex and so you may need to ask your geometra or architect to confirm this on your behalf because different types of projects require different certification to operate in a legal capacity. As well as a company’s legal certifications they should have the right environmental and safety documents in order to work on your project.
Step 5: Get An Estimate Before You Sign A Contract.
After you’ve found a construction company that fits your requirements then you need to ask them for an estimate. The estimate should include a fully itemized list of the work that you want completed with a quote for the cost of each item.
The estimate should be very detailed and it should include the cost of materials and labor. The estimate should also include the time it takes to perform the work and the payment schedule. For example, we paid a small deposit for the construction company to start working on the roof. Once the work was completed, we inspected the roof and then made the rest of the payment for the roof.
Prices will either be listed on a per hour basis or as a total cost for a specific job. If you agree to the suggested costs that they are offering you can sign a contract with the company so that work can begin.
If you find that you are unsure whether the costs are realistic or fair then you should seek the advice of your geometra, architect or a property management firm. You can also ask for a quote from several different construction companies to see how they compare to one another.
Remember though, that you should be looking for quality, reliability and good references above the prices that a company offers. A cheap construction company might save you money in the short term but if the work is done badly then it will cost you more in the end when you have to repair or replace things later on.
Summary – Patience And Due Diligence Will Pay Off In The End.
Building a new house or renovating an existing house in Italy is a big decision. Take your time. Initially, the key focus should be on identifying who will manage the project. If the renovation is very small and minor, a geometra may be able to manage the project for you. But I strongly recommend hiring a good architect. The architect can be the project manager. In my case, I decided to let the property management company manage oversee the renovation. I had prior relationship with the owner of the property management company. The property management company had worked with the architect and the main contractor before. So it all worked out.
You also have to be patient. Nothing will happen quickly in Italy. Getting the necessary permits and permissions alone will typically take a couple of months or more. You can use this time to work on the little details.