New Guy From Florida

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kw2chile
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New Guy From Florida

Post by kw2chile » Sun May 20, 2018 11:31 pm

Hello All,

I have spent countless hours going through the threads here when I began thinking about taking this trip. It has been an invaluable source of information and I have a few questions that I would appreciate your input on. That being said, I have been witness to the treatment of newbies, and lest that not happen to me, and by way of introduction..……

-background- 39 year old male. Bent my first nail at 3, progressed to general contractor, and currently own a niche market business in marine construction in Key West, FL(read tear it up and build it back under and on top of water). Business is good but my heart is no longer in it (wont even get into the bureaucratic bullshit and political and environmental circus). I have learned it was never about the money. Grew up keeping bees with my stepdad and now have the largest, probably only, apiary in Key West area. Spanish 75% + or – depending on use, no doubt language could be 90% in one year.

-the idea- Chilean mother so Ive been to Chile, lots of friends and family. Last year girlfriend and I flew to Puerto Montt and drove back to Santiago. I saw places that drew me like a fish to water. Los Rios region had some beautiful areas. Decided to go for it and now currently have 8 months of contracts to complete and already quit taking new work. Will show up, purchase truck, drive around and find my spot(I would like to be building something as soon as possible, or at least within a year). 5-10 hectares with water. Build house and beehives. I tell people that it will end here, sell the house, go home, almost like a 2 year leave of absence, in my heart I don’t think so. So if I think longer term…….I love building….I will be there anyways……

-the question- I have read here that good maestros either don’t exist or only build good stuff while no one is looking. I have read of people here and on other forums who would give their big toe for good maestros. I have read of people asking about coming down and starting a small construction group and being told that there is no demand and the challenge would be too much for them. I have seen a few well built houses complete and under construction. These things contradict each other for me and wanted to ask about the sustainability of a small construction company (myself and one or two laborers) in any or all of the areas in Southern Chile. The challenge of starting a small, quality, construction company from the ground up excites the hell out of me. What are my biggest obstacles? And as a small expat community would you have given preference to a gringo trained builder, with a resume of work, for your own projects?

Sorry about the length but this is really a synopsis of my synopsis of research. Again appreciate the resource and look forward to your responses.

kw2chile

…..…….and if all else fails I will just purchase my citizenship and live the good life off the land while teaching English to rich Haitians as I have heard from my friends mom who read on the internet that I could do it.

thisisreallycomplicated
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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by thisisreallycomplicated » Mon May 21, 2018 1:48 am

We need good plumbers. Please bring good plumbers. And good (not from China) plumbing parts.
“Now it’s conspiracy – they’ve made that something that should not even be entertained for a minute, that powerful people might get together and have a plan. Doesn’t happen, you’re a kook, you’re a conspiracy buff!” – George Carlin

thisisreallycomplicated
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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by thisisreallycomplicated » Mon May 21, 2018 2:22 am

And bring good door locks too. I've never seen a door lock fail, until I came here.

But the actual buildings, at least in my neighborhood, are very impressive. 8+ earthquake, no problem. The city of Coquimbo is like one big solid block of concrete.

So if you could learn to build a solid house, like a Chilean builder. But with good quality plumbing, locks, etc., you might do well with expats like me. And maybe you could start by updating houses that are already built, but need stuff like the plumbing and cabinets replaced.
“Now it’s conspiracy – they’ve made that something that should not even be entertained for a minute, that powerful people might get together and have a plan. Doesn’t happen, you’re a kook, you’re a conspiracy buff!” – George Carlin

41southchile
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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by 41southchile » Mon May 21, 2018 9:52 am

Hmmmm do you want a challenge or stress (i.e banging your head against a wall and wondering what the hell you started) there is a subtle difference . My advice for what it's worth do not attempt to start any form of construction company in Chile especially the South of Chile. I know someone from Europe who tried it and it's been a nightmare for him, although I will not blame it entirely on Chile, but he may have succeeded in another country, but the chances of another foreigner making it work in southern Chile is probably close to zero makes me think that southern Chile is probably the common denominator there . Chile is a fantastic country to retire, probably to start a tourist business, maybe teach, or work remotely or something else, in fact just about anything else, just not construction and definitely not in Southern Chile.
In the Lakes Region Chile for 6 years. It looks like New Zealand in some ways, and is nearly at the bottom of the world too, but there the similarities end.

Gloria
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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by Gloria » Mon May 21, 2018 11:03 am

Here´s some of the main challenges you´ll encounter in the lake and river region.....

1) Lumber is non uniform and humid 19% or more.
2) so called carpenters with no skills.
3) good building materials are hard to get.
4) finding good and knowledgeable electricians and plumbers.
5) you must be very fluent in chilean lingo.
6) getting hard workers to show up to work on time and obey orders.
7) trustworthy crew ....many have light fingers.
8- CHILEANS HAVE A CHEAP MENTALITY when it comes to building anything but not with regard to buying clothing or cellular phones so keep that in mind.

Without writing a book, those are the major hoops but I guarantee you, there are lots more.
We live in the river region 10 years now, we built our own home ourselves with lots of blood sweat and tears. With the knowledge we have today, it was the smarter decision we´ve ever made.

So, you´ll be better off..............".and if all else fails I will just purchase my citizenship and live the good life off the land while teaching English to rich Haitians as I have heard from my friends mom who read on the internet that I could do it". :lol:

Probably bee keeping would be more successful.
I'm from the generation of common sense, wisdom and unfiltered answers. I sayeth as I seeth.

chesswolf
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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by chesswolf » Mon May 21, 2018 12:26 pm

kw2chile wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 11:31 pm
And as a small expat community would you have given preference to a gringo trained builder, with a resume of work, for your own projects?
Personally, no. I need someone familiar with the materials available here as well as the demands of the environment. In short, if you try to build Gringo style here you will have problems because we are not in the US anymore. Now, if you worked for a solid Chilean maestro for 5-10 years to learn from him and then started your own company I might be interested. Being a gringo I would have greater confidence in your skill and having worked under a local for 5-10 years I would have greater confidence that you understand how things work here.

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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by admin » Mon May 21, 2018 12:33 pm

Gloria,

Stop shopping at the local hardware stores and maestro with a chainsaw that call themselves a lumber yard.

Sodimac sells the same lumber in the bodegas that is exported all over the world, including the u.s., that is machine dried and produced by some of the largest lumber producers in the world.

The maestros dont like it because they prefer to over charge people for green crap lumber they stole from their neighbor.

If a maestro tries to sell you their neighbors tree, fire them. They are too stupid or crooked to be allowed near a building site.
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From USA and outside Chile dial 1-917-727-5985 (U.S.), in Chile dial 65 2 42 1024 or by cell 747 97974.

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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by admin » Mon May 21, 2018 12:39 pm

chesswolf wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 12:26 pm
kw2chile wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 11:31 pm
And as a small expat community would you have given preference to a gringo trained builder, with a resume of work, for your own projects?
Personally, no. I need someone familiar with the materials available here as well as the demands of the environment. In short, if you try to build Gringo style here you will have problems because we are not in the US anymore. Now, if you worked for a solid Chilean maestro for 5-10 years to learn from him and then started your own company I might be interested. Being a gringo I would have greater confidence in your skill and having worked under a local for 5-10 years I would have greater confidence that you understand how things work here.

What the hell is a "solid chilean maestro"?

Oh, i know. It is that maestro that you manege with a baseball bat.

Sorry, never seen one that was even remotly conpetent to hold a hammer, without direct, boot on the neck, supervision. You blink, and they will either screw it up, or screw you over.

Now the point of a just off the boat gringo builder trying to get going, i agree. There will be a steep learning curve.

There are gringo builders around chile already building.
Spencer Global Chile: Legal, relocation, and Investment assistance in Chile.
For more information visit: https://www.spencerglobal.com

From USA and outside Chile dial 1-917-727-5985 (U.S.), in Chile dial 65 2 42 1024 or by cell 747 97974.

Donnybrook
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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by Donnybrook » Mon May 21, 2018 2:59 pm

I don't know the possibilities in the south but imagine the construction "window" might be short because of the weather. There are foreigners here (speaking of Santiago because it is what I know) who have a good business in construction but they are mostly not building from scratch. They are repairing, adding additions to an existing property, painting, making built in furniture etc. Look for the Facebook page of Better Call Peter. He has done well and has lots of photos of his work. He is European not from the US. Another guy was doing well for a while as he did really good work but he then crashed when he would half finish jobs and disappear for ages. Once the Gringo grapevine says you are not to be trusted, there goes the business. No one hires him now even though his actual work was good. I think one of the main differences between the two was that the successful guy has a team which he can call on for specific jobs and he oversees everything. The other guy was a one man operation and couldn't organise his jobs to fit the time he had.

Just being a foreigner won't necessarily open the door for you but will help getting jobs with other foreigners. Whether that is enough of a market to be getting on with when you start - I don't know. Eventually you would have to move into other markets in order to make a decent living out of it.

thisisreallycomplicated
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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by thisisreallycomplicated » Mon May 21, 2018 3:04 pm

kw2chile wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 11:31 pm
... small construction company (myself and one or two laborers)...
Do you plan to bring those laborers with you from Florida? If not, I think that'll be your biggest challenge. The technical stuff probably won't be difficult to pick up, if you have the aptitude for it.
“Now it’s conspiracy – they’ve made that something that should not even be entertained for a minute, that powerful people might get together and have a plan. Doesn’t happen, you’re a kook, you’re a conspiracy buff!” – George Carlin

Julito
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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by Julito » Mon May 21, 2018 3:22 pm

The Californian plumber I've previously mentioned (another thread) is currently overseeing the construction of a house near Lican Ray for a part time Summer only expat. Says he's got a small team of Chilean maestros who're good but he needs to closely supervise them because they aren't used to working to a high standard and're reluctant to use their initiative.

He's familiar with what's available when it comes to local materials/construction techniques/regulations but's still learning and it certainly ain't the USA! As to the steep learning curve be ready to get stuffed around because it depends who you ask. All too often someone who should know the answer to a question won't have a clue so they just make it up and happily send you off down the wrong path.

We had the recent experience of 2 gas installation inspectors working for the same employer disagreeing over what was required, the 2nd more senior one insisting on a modification which the 1st (and us) considered unsafe. It was bleeding obvious he'd just made it up to assert himself over his junior but we did it to keep him happy. We'll change it back after he's signed it off.

mem
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Re: New Guy From Florida

Post by mem » Mon May 21, 2018 3:39 pm

Yes, I would certainly give preference to a gringo builder. Aside from being able to communicate effectively and with nuance, having experience and understanding of what is proper US construction technique is valuable. Knowing how to put a roof on properly sealed and with, heaven forbid, actual venting architecture done correctly, thicker walls, thicker insulation, the list goes on

I actually spoke with a gringo down here who built his own house and I was getting some advice from him on materials, and he recommended importing some of the building materials from the US in a container because of the difficulty finding them here (in Araucania). I was surprised to see the comment from admin on high quality machine dryed wood at sodimac, maybe i just haven't noticed it at my sodimac, but it is good news if it can be gotten here.

Even more so than a gringo contractor, most of all I would want someone who is conscientious and a bit of a perfectionist in the details. I've met a few builds that came from europe or other parts of the world and sometimes they have a "ehh who cares attitude" about small gaps in finishing, etc and its part of the personality, perhaps the culture corrupting them I dont know, but you cant make some take pride in their craftsmanship. I'd rather have a true craftsmen take 3x as long to do something that is an engineering work of art than the guy who is just going to do the bare minimum (even by US building standards I mean) and do it faster.

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