So many people, who know of our dream to build a house in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland, keep asking, “How is the new house coming along?”
What could go wrong? A home that builders promised to finish last April that I called, “our plot” remains like it sounds - a hole in the ground (well in our case a chunk carved out of a mountainside).
The building area resembles a construction site with rocks, dirt, foundation, a crane, but no roof, no walls, no windows. The plans sold to us showed a beautiful complex of three triplex homes housing 9 different families.
Each of the 9 owners-to-be has been promised a June 2022 delivery at the very latest.We now have been given 3 floating dates depending on the buildings. The only positive outcome of this mess is that we have gotten to know our future neighbors. Over irate, disgruntled coffee klatches, we rant about the lies we’ve been told and the alarming lack of progress.
No one in their wildest dreams could fathom this kind of screw up in a country as well organized and efficient at Switzerland where hardly a train runs late.
Part of it may be due the international nature of living here.
To fill you in on the background, the property, owned by a Scotsman who lives in the chalet above the land, bought it for peanuts 40 years ago and sold it for a fortune. At first, he put a credible Swiss architect firm in charge with whom buyers signed contracts.
For unknown reasons, the Scotsman took the Swiss company off the project and put a small construction company in charge where everyone speaks Serbo-Croatian.
“You’re in trouble!” my Serbian friend laughed and explained, “They work on Serbian time, everything will always be late.”
The Scotsman signed a different deal with the original Swiss architect company to oversee the end result, but no longer have any role in the day to day operation. Consequently, the small builder oversees his own progress.
Yet the Swiss company, who retains a 15% cut on all additional costs, legally must assure that the project is completed. With 3 different entities involved in the deal, responsibility has been passed hand to hand like a hot potato. No one communicates to the buyers what is really going on.
The results: one building has siding and a roof, but no interior finishing, another building has a foundation, ground floor walls, and a third of the siding on the second floor, and our building remains a cement foundation.
We were supposed to be the first structure built until engineers decided that our home, on a level above the other two, must be constructed last to keep the mountain from collapsing on the other two.
See why we are worried?
By renting our rustic chalet in the same village, we can easily check on progress or lack there of. At the end of September, in a meeting with all 3 parties, they promised my husband that our home would be ready by the end of April 2023. Our neighbors, in building two, were told they would be in theirs by Christmas 2022, but winter is coming and when the first snow falls all work stops.
When we walked by the premises recently, we were alarmed to see partially finished buildings, an idle crane, but no workers or building supplies on site. We surmised that the builders ran into major delays in attaining the prefab wood siding panels ordered from a company in Slovenia.
How insane is this scenario?
A friendly Scotsman sells a piece of land to a reputable Swiss architect company with whom we signed contracts. Then the switcheroo - a Serbian building company, owned by a British firm in London, takes charge of construction with materials ordered from Slovenia. Global efficiency ?
As the clock ticks, the tab grows greater with owners paying more on all interior fixtures due to price increase. Owners are also paying rising interest rates on Swiss bank home loans. We paid extra American (as well as Swiss) taxes on our “virtual” home. We also pay a rent and storage fees for a full year longer than budgeted.
Right now, no ones lives in their “dream house” except a local gang of druggies, who discovered that the site is a great place to hang out and get high.
Stay tuned! Oh the joys of the ex-pat life.