Parcela construction woes

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papelchica
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Parcela construction woes

Post by papelchica » Sun Oct 04, 2015 8:36 pm

As requested by Britkid, I will share a thorny experience we had here in Chile about 4 years ago. Hopefully, the newbies to the country can pick up something good and make people cautious if I share our story.

In the beginning, husband and I were debating on getting a pre-fab house vs a custom-built one "on the cheap". Decided to go with the latter. Got someone we saw out of a newspaper ad. Terms were good and references checked out. He even brought his father in one meeting and dad had nothing but great things to say about son. Money due was 20% downpayment at onset, then a certain amount in installments according to jobs finished. We would check on the status regularly, going to the parcela in Melipilla almost every weekend. After awhile, we noticed no progress was being made until work had come to a halt (days they should be working, we would drive out there and no one was onsite, they would then say they had just left, etc.). Then the guy started dodging our calls. Until one day the maestros working on the job said the "contractor" was planning to abandon us. The maestros were offering to take over but we refused. After a few weeks, we filed an incident report with the police but they said we didn't have a case.

We decided to go on with the project since the foundation was already half-built and we were intent on having a house (we considered moving out of the city since husband is able to work remotely). Now, we decided to get an Architect to be sure. Told him our story and said we decided to go with a licensed architect to avoid any more problems. We interviewed him and he gave us a photocopy of his license. Upon close examination, we realized it wasn't him in the picture! We confronted him and after awhile he admitted that he was using his brother's license. We couldn't believe it! :shock:

Trauma ensues so it was hard to even imagine moving forward with the project at that time. Then life got busy. We still daydream from time to time about building there someday but for now, we are shelving the project. We still visit the parcela, and have done mini-projects there (a dock, a multi-level patio) but building a house and moving there seems like such a hard thing to think of right now.

(... and that is why all those things for sale in the classified need to go. More recently, we moved to another departamento and have no storage for the things I listed.)

Anyway, I hope no one else will experience something like it. Makes one weak in the knees.

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fraggle092
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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by fraggle092 » Sun Oct 04, 2015 9:24 pm

Its probably no consolation to know that many Chileans go through similar experiences. Seems like everyone you talk to has a construction horror story. Re the police, they wouldn't be interested in a civil matter, you would have to pursue it through the courts, but as Chilean justice is another crock, its probably cheaper to drop the whole thing, as you seem to be doing.
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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by ocum_et_temuco » Sun Oct 04, 2015 10:20 pm

Yes this sort of thing happens too often in Chile (although you can find similar in Europe and USA). It also happens to native Chileans. I have done several construction projects in the south of Chile around Temuco. I don't have any horror stories but I have spent some time correcting the mistakes of maestros. It's too common for contractors to abscond especially when you front them the money. Admin will confirm that it is possible to find responsible and accurate contractors but you have to be selective which implies having good contacts and information. I was mostly happy with my first construction project except for the well which dried up in late summer and eventually had to be deepened at some expense. On another house build we found floors and walls out of true but dismissed the contractors and finished it ourselves. From then on it was do it your self with reliable recommended maestros on a daily wage - in other words we became our own contractor, doing some stuff ourselves and using maestros for some. It has worked very well and is cost effective but we find we have to supply many of the tools as some workers arrive on site without even a hammer. That and the fact that everything has to be micro-managed is quite time consuming but at least we don't lose money.

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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by ExpatBob » Mon Oct 05, 2015 6:01 am

Par for the course in SouthAm, not just in Chile.

If you want it done at all, let alone right, DIY.

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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by admin » Mon Oct 05, 2015 9:31 am

well, par for the course. makes you feel any better, the first construction job I ever had in my life was in Las Vegas. Super upscale house owned by a airline pilot. The first day I worked demolition and clean-up. A couple years later, several hundreds of thousands of dollars on, on my last day working for that company I was running that crew on site. We were still doing demolition. The boss would come in and say, we put the wall in the wrong place. The architect would come in and say, no it was suppose to be 2 inches to the left. The owner would come in and decide he did not want a wall there at all. The prime bonded contractor would come in and say we had to put the wall back so he would not risk loosing his bond. Never did find out if they finished that job.

Rent the movie the "money pit". It will make you feel better.

You got to evaluate construction companies and builders carefully, and carefully draft the contracts to capture all the contingencies.

Also, why were you talking to an architect toward the end. They or an engineer is needed to submit the building permits to start. Do you have building permits at this point?

A "licensed" architect, is someone with a university degree in Chile. There is no "license". Super common error that foreigners and Chileans make because of the word in Spanish and English are similar when talking about a lot of professions. There is nothing like a committee with the power to revoke their license.

Also, you need to be there. Biggest trouble in construction, happens when the owners are not there. Dropping in every few weeks or months to see how things are going does not count.

Never, ever, pay everything upfront, or even a substantial amount of the construction costs. It can be placed in escrow at a notary or whatever, but don't just hand the money over. If you go to a bank for construction loans in Chile, they will only release the money as certain phases are completed. They do that for a reason.
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papelchica
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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by papelchica » Mon Oct 05, 2015 10:31 am

Hola Admin, tanto tiempo!

Now I have to re-live the trauma, squirting limon on an old wound! huhuhu!

Let's see, we got a licensed architect towards the end since we were hoping to do things right after the first bad experience - but no dice, he was a fake as I mentioned. 2 in a row for us, what are the chances - almost felt like we had a bullseye in the forehead.

There were no building permits since the first guy was supposed to be working on that but nothing was ever produced. Apparently dropping by at least once a week to check on construction was not good enough.

Anyway, thanks all for sharing your experiences. Always good to put these things out in the open for other forum members to be reminded that these kinds of people exist in the world. Hopefully those of us who shared their story here can save a few souls by talking about these things. The Admin put out some good advise - it should be on a general board as a warning to others. How I wish we knew better that time or knew people to ask before starting that project. See, how were we supposed to know that there is no such thing as a licensing board for Architects in Chile?!

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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by HybridAmbassador » Mon Oct 05, 2015 2:47 pm

You wrote.
( In the beginning, husband and I were debating on getting a pre-fab house vs a custom-built one "on the cheap". Decided to go with the latter. )

Perhaps if you had gone the "pre-fabricated house" way, already owned and moved in, enjoying your new house?
Custom built and "on the cheap" never happens.
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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by Britkid » Mon Oct 05, 2015 2:56 pm

papelchica wrote: He even brought his father in one meeting and dad had nothing but great things to say about son.
Well, you would certainly hope so, wouldn't you. I mean, if his dad said "don't hire my son, he's a useless waster" it would certainly said a few alarm bells ringing.

Melipilla, that is actually not too bad a location for Santiago and the coast, not a wildly exciting place in itself though, but cheap land so I hear... it is just that bit too far to be a realistic commute to Santiago, hence the point where land price is cheap.

Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences.

Probably going after the 20% is not worth it from a practical point of view, but on the other hand if you let him screw you it increases the chance he will screw others. What do you know about him (RUT, address). You cannot win in such a situation, of course, the best you can do is make sure he loses as well.

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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by admin » Mon Oct 05, 2015 6:37 pm

Gloria wrote:
Britkid wrote: What do you know about him (RUT, address)..
It was going to be my next question. Did you write his RUT# and full name somewhere? If you honestly want to help others you should and I would encourage you to give away his FULL name to prevent future victims. Most expats due to embarrassment or fear won't do anything about frauds and the perpetrator continues walking the streets committing the same to unexpected expats.
In theory that sounds good, but for a whole pile of legal reasons not going to let that happen on this forum.
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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by Britkid » Mon Oct 05, 2015 7:40 pm

I guess the OP probably has left that behind years ago. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that kind of thing.

The only problem with Gloria and me and others bombarding people with questions about what they could and should have done is it's going to stop other people writing such articles, so maybe we should tone it down a notch.

What I'm leaning from this type of story (because I may do similar one day and buy something) is to put a higher level of confidence in someone before going ahead and I think the escrow thing is worth looking at.

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papelchica
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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by papelchica » Mon Oct 05, 2015 10:02 pm

Oh wow. haha! Let me see if I can answer some of the inquiries/comments made.

Hi Gloria, I've been a member of this board since before I moved here in 2007. I don't get to hang around the forum as much as I'd like to anymore, but it was very useful and I found some good info on this board before and right after I left the US to build a life here. My husband (also a foreigner) lived here for about 10 years before I moved here to be with him. So no, when this happened 4 years ago - I don't remember surfing boards for info. I'm glad that there is a section here about it for others to refer to - thanks for pointing that out. I hope it will help others when they decide to build. Our parcela was bought by husband from a developer when he first got here and yes, it was registered at BR. I guess I should have just used the word INEXPENSIVE instead of CHEAP. haha! Off with my head.

Britkid, yes of course - but I mentioned the dad only to make a point :-) If you are familiar with chileans, they are typically more reserved and don't really talk much in settings where they tag along with kids on casual meetings. Melipilla is nice, quiet and land is indeed cheap (value for money), especially when it was purchased 15 years ago. The location might work well for someone who doesn't need to commute to Santiago too much (working remotely and such). There are many types of parcelas, I would say something for everyone can be had here in Chile. This is ours (see pic).

Hybrid: Of course, from time to time we wish we just got a pre-fab but as Gloria mentioned - they are not all the same. The ones we saw are way too basic for us (no insulation, too woodsy-cottage-y). We really just wanted something simple that was going to fit our budget at that time. There have been good improvements in design and price in the last 4-5 years for pre-fab houses here though.

Aaaanyyywayyy... I'm too old to feel embarassed or scared which is why I took the time to share the experience. I am in my mid-40s which is where I'm more in the mood to share experiences so that others may learn. This incident happened 4 years ago and I was just asked to share by a curious Britkid because I was selling some stuff over at the classified section. Yes people, we have all his info/name/RUT and hate the thought that he is still probably around doing the same to others. As previously mentioned we already reported this to the police and did what we needed to do. We moved on from that experience years ago. Thanks for the concern y'all!
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Re: Parcela construction woes

Post by seawolf180 » Tue Oct 06, 2015 12:19 am

ocum_et_temuco wrote:Yes this sort of thing happens too often in Chile (although you can find similar in Europe and USA). It also happens to native Chileans. I have done several construction projects in the south of Chile around Temuco. I don't have any horror stories but I have spent some time correcting the mistakes of maestros. It's too common for contractors to abscond especially when you front them the money. Admin will confirm that it is possible to find responsible and accurate contractors but you have to be selective which implies having good contacts and information. I was mostly happy with my first construction project except for the well which dried up in late summer and eventually had to be deepened at some expense. On another house build we found floors and walls out of true but dismissed the contractors and finished it ourselves. From then on it was do it your self with reliable recommended maestros on a daily wage - in other words we became our own contractor, doing some stuff ourselves and using maestros for some. It has worked very well and is cost effective but we find we have to supply many of the tools as some workers arrive on site without even a hammer. That and the fact that everything has to be micro-managed is quite time consuming but at least we don't lose money.
And many of those that dont arrive with a hammer, or other tools, do have them when they leave. The ones they knew you would supply if they showed up empty handed.
DIY if you can. Quite an education.
Plus, when maintenance is needed down the road, you arent at the mercy of maestros to fix things, which they so often make worse. Kinda forces you into being self reliant. Which is so helpful in every aspect of life.
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