After buying a bargain of an elderly house in Abruzzo, most people’s next decision is whether to appoint a geometra or architect to carry out the restoration.
For many, including us initially, understanding what a geometra can and can’t do legally can take a while to work out. In essence think of them as a multi-mix of surveyor, project manager and architect. To clarify the differences between their job description and an architect:
Firstly, unlike architects the majority of Abruzzo geometra don’t speak English, so either get working on your Italian or be prepared to have a translator accompany you so nothing ‘tasteful’ gets lost in translation.
If your restoration is small it’s fine to appoint a geometra, but if you require any structural changes, and that can be anything as bitsy as new window, your geometra would be required by Italy’s strict earthquake (anti-seismic) legislation to get that signed off by a civil engineer, he cannot do that himself. For that very same reason they cannot ‘lawfully’ be responsible for any projects that involve reinforced concrete. It’s important that you ensure you get the legally correct sign-off for your project otherwise you could quite easily end up with a house that is not just un-sellable but illegal and could in affect be pulled down.
Upon appointment a geomatra will create two sets of building plans after discussions with you which he will submit to your local commune. One, the stato attuale describes the building now and the other il progetto describes your finished home. Once your local commune has given planning permission, your geometra has 3 years in which to complete the project before in affect your building permission expires. Just in case things get drawn out they MUST begin works within a year of your application being approved.
Your geometra will project manage all your required works, contracting works out to local Abruzzo plumbers, electricians and builders ensuring everything complies with the necessary commune and national building regs.
What does seem to take longer than the actual ‘work’ is getting the certification of completion ‘abitabile’ (habitable) for the completed works back from the commune. Without this you will not receive the final instalment of your restoration mortgage. Your geometra is responsible for chasing the commune for this and this is the point most likely when chasing your geometra will need to occur.
Before making a final decision on which geometra to appoint: Do physically check out their portfolio – don’t just rely on a website or presentation booklet. Go and physically look at the houses they have worked upon and check to see the level of detail and craftsmanship they have insisted on as a project manager.
Even if your Italian isn’t yet up to scratch, ask your translator to speak to local people to see what they think of your proposed geometra’s skills and costs and most importantly their ability to deliver a project on time and ‘after care’.
Do put late delivery clauses into your contract with your geometra. Remember if they late deliver it is you that has to look for funding elsewhere to pay for everything until you get your certificate of completion from your local commune. It is only once you have this that you will receive the final part of your restoration mortgage. Temporary bridging loans can cost an awful lot and why should you have to be the one that pays it due to your geomatra being unable to deliver a completed project on time?
Upon signing your contract it is quite wise to stipulate for nothing to be applied to the walls that you have not requested. We had an incident of a very ugly ornament glued as a ‘present’ which took an awful lot of work chiselling off and then hiding. This does indicate the generosity of Italians – it is a lovely welcoming gesture to bear gifts, just make sure those aren’t anything affixed to your house.