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Building a property in Portugal – bringing your plans to life

By • Mar 13th, 2005 • Category: Building a property, Companies, Quinta Lifestyle

Seamus O’Keefe has been in the Algarve for 15 years. Having worked on a major golf & leisure project as Project Manager and General Manger, launched his own company, Ibéria, in 1997 with partner Agostinho Mota. From spacious, purpose-build new offices on the outskirts of Almancil, Seamus talked about the role of a builder, changing trends and his company philosophy.

Agostinho Mota & Seamous O'Keefe, Directors, IbériaA builder enters the construction process when the architect has drawn up plans and the project is put out to tender, either by the architect or the project manager. There are normally 4 to 6 builders tendering for each project and, in Seamus’s experience, it is not always the cheapest bid that wins the contact.

“We are not the cheapest builders in town, but we give a fair price and we never cut corners, and we do the work as best we can,” he says, “we don’t believe in compromising to the detriment of the quality of the work, in terms of price or timescale.” He explains that he is aware of a couple of projects he has lost because the timescale he quoted for completion was longer than another builder. ” I knew that the house could not be built in the timescale the other guy quoted, and I explained that to the client,” he said, “and so it turned out. The project started, and the timescale stretched and stretched beyond the original limit. But by then the client is committed, and cannot change.”

His role in the construction process is to take the plans drawn up by the architect and bring them to life. But, of course, it is not that simple. “Clients arrived with a batch of magazine cuttings and say ‘I want that’ even though it was not on the original plans,” he says, “or ideas develop during the building process. We have to maintain a constant dialogue with the architect and the client – or, if he is not around, with the project manager – to keep everything on track.”

What are the main changes over the last five years?

Seamus is clear. “The level of competence and workmanship has improved enormously,” he says, “and there is now a much wider range of top-quality materials available for builders to use.” Styles, too, are evolving, with the market becoming more sophisticated, using decorative stonework, columns and colour to create character. Two storey villas are now the norm, partly because of the cost of land and partly, thinks Seamus, because people enjoy ‘an upstairs and a downstairs’ as they had back home.

What does he feel strongly about?

“Communication and customer service would be top of my list,” he says, “the project is a partnership between the builder and the client, and their needs and ours need to be compatible. There has to be ongoing two-way communication to avoid problems.”

What is his company philosophy?

Agostinho Mota, Ibéria“We are very aware that we are building something to last a very long time, and we do it as well as we possibly can”.

Costs and Timescales?

“This obviously varies enormously depending on the project and the specification,” Seamus explains,” but a typical Quinta do Lago house should be completed in around 12 months – add another 8 weeks for a basement. Costs? Around 1,000 Euros – 1,400 Euros per square metre for a typical villa in Quinta do Lago. And remember that changes to the plans can seriously impact both time and budget.”

Final words?

“If you are holding land, now is the time to build. After a hectic few years, things are calming, companies have capacity and prices are competitive. Make sure that you get your specifications right at the beginning, and keep a dialogue going with the architect and the builder throughout the process.”

- Director - Born in Germany and educated in various European countries as well as in the USA, Alison is a true internationalist.
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