If you’re a UK property investor with developments in France, why does it matter who the project manager is?

With appetite amongst international investors for French real estate continuing to grow, investors’ understanding of the statutory and cultural nuances of managing building projects in France is slowly developing.

In 2018, it is estimated that more than 40% of the 31bn Euros invested in French real estate was from international investors, compared to 25% in 2017. However, to fully realise and develop the value of those assets, investors need to understand some of the specific risks, and opportunities, involved in undertaking refurbishment and redevelopment projects in France.

The ‘normal’ rules don’t apply

Having spent a decade as a Project Manager in the UK before moving to France some 10 years ago to manage such projects across France for a variety of international clients, ranging across logistics, office and retail assets, I have seen first-hand that assumptions typical of the UK do not necessarily apply in France.

A different approach is required to collaborate effectively with suppliers, consultants and statutory bodies, while the risks need to be clearly communicated to clients.

For example, the role of the architect in France is much greater than in the UK, as they have wider responsibilities in engaging with the local authorities and statutory bodies and in some cases administering building contracts.

Getting procurement right

Selecting the right Architect is therefore vital to the success of the project, as they must combine technical capability, regulatory knowledge and a commercial approach with the softer skills required to work with the client and project team.

The manner in which works are procured also differs, where a ‘traditional’ approach is favoured over the design and build route commonly adopted in the UK, with works typically procured in separate packages under multiple contracts direct with the client, rather as sub-contractors to the main contractor.

Combined with the absence of standard form contracts we see in the UK, this means contract drafting can be more involved to meet the institutional standards required of many of our clients.

A different risk regime

The risk management regime is different, and in many ways more robust, in France. The appointment of independent, licenced advisors, separate to the design team, is required for both building regulations and health and safety, while further specialist advisors are required specifically for high-rise buildings.

As with the selection of architects, having a local network of the best consultants in these areas is crucial.

These are just three examples of where undertaking major projects in France differ from the UK and demonstrate how important it is for the right project manager to be appointed.

The importance of understanding the French real estate market

Investors need someone to navigate those differences on their behalf. The ability to combine a strong local network of consultants and suppliers with a detailed knowledge of French technical and statutory requirements is essential.

This knowledge, our understanding of international investor requirements, and the ability of our bilingual team to communicate effectively with all parties, has enabled Workman Turnbull to successfully fulfil this role for a growing number of international clients.

Paul Fenton
Director of Project Management – Workman Turnbull
t. + 33 1 47 42 84 56
e. paul.fenton@workmanturnbull.fr