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Strategies for Managing a Foreign Property Renovation

Renovating a foreign property is a time-consuming investment that requires unwavering dedication and a strong network of builders and suppliers. Here are three strategies to help homeowners successfully manage their foreign property renovations with the help of a general contractor.

1. Break Down Language Barriers

When searching for an international general contractor to oversee the renovation of a foreign property, language barriers are a common challenge. That's why international homeowners should consider finding a bilingual or multilingual general contractor who is familiar with the local area.

Word-of-mouth referrals often play a major part in searches for contractors, says Clayton Morley, a contractor for Almeria Ruins, a company that manages property renovations in the Almeria province of Spain. To gather referrals, Morley suggests that property owners congregate in popular places for expats, like an English pub, where they will find people speaking their native language.

Property owners should consider telling their general contractors how often to reach them with updates throughout the renovation process, and which mediums to use.

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During the interview process, foreign property owners should ensure their general contractor speaks the same language as his or her renovation team so that important instructions are not lost in translation.

2. Develop and Execute a Clear Communication Plan

"It is always helpful if the client has some kind of idea about what they want to do to a property," says Tracey Nicholas, a property manager for Abruzzo Reality, part of a national estate agency in Abruzzo, Italy. During consultations with their general contractors, foreign property owners can offer as much - or as little - input as they wish. These ideas will then be drawn up in the project plan that will serve as the contractor's guide.

Property owners should consider telling their general contractors how often to reach them with updates throughout the renovation process, and which mediums to use, Morley says.

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When possible, in-person visits are another great way for property owners to ensure the plan is properly executed. "If there are any small things to be changed, [the owner] can decide on the changes," Nicholas says.

3. Decide Terms of Payment

For international homeowners working with a general contractor for the first time, laying out a firm and clear payment plan - prior to an international home renovation - helps to ensure deadlines are met and creates the framework for successful financial planning.

Having such a plan builds trust, increases a contractor's incentive and is more advisable than a loose agreement found in some client-contractor relationships. This is especially true for owners who plan to compensate their general contractor at the end of each month or upon the completion of certain milestones. Terms of the international payment plan vary by company and can often be decided at the discretion of the property owner.

To make periodic international payments to the general contractor from a long distance, property owners may want to use a trusted online foreign exchange provider to make bank-to-bank money transfers. In addition, online foreign exchange services offer helpful resources such as email market-rate alerts that make it easier to secure the latest exchange rates and maintain control of a project's budget.

"The client is, for the most part, in control of when and how much money [he or she] sends over," Nicholas says. "[It's] a matter of trust between us."

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