Building your own dream home is an exciting prospect but you need to keep your feet on the ground when it comes to planning and cost control. Whether you are planning a new extension, kitchen or undertaking a complete new building project, this article is essential reading. From the basics of how you choose a builder to achieving a sensational style for your home. When you are familiar with exactly what you want and your building plans are drawn, invite a shortlist of building contractors to quote.
After the quotes are in check that you are comparing like with like and remember that the cheapest quote may not necessarily be the best, you need a good builder you can trust and get along with throughout the project to help you cut through the red tape of building regulations and planning permission. You should not be compelled to go for the first or cheapest quote instead select a builder who understands what you want and can show you other examples of work completed.
Confirm the contract price in writing with the builder and set aside a contingency fund of 10% above the contract price for unexpected costs and remember that if you decide to make changes or add things that were not in the original contract they will add extra costs that will affect your original budget.
A winning team
When Pat and Stuart St. John embarked on their new house project costing in the region of EC$500,000 they knew they needed to find a builder with experience of similar housing projects to that of their new dream home located on Golf course overlooking Grand Anse beach with a spectacular view of the Caribbean Sea.
The couple spent some time with their architect designing their house and interviewing potential builders to undertake the construction work and finally a contractor was selected.
“The contractor and his team were motivated by the quality and scope of the project more than by just money.” says Stuart St. John.
“We gave the contractor a lot of responsibilities and he used his extensive building experience to build our dream home, working well with specialist subcontractors. They were always on time and we discussed any problems that occurred. Our architect supervised the project and held frequent meetings with the contractor”.
The St. Johns met with both the architect and contractor regularly to discuss progress and made a few changes in the plans along the way, these included the addition of a small swimming pool on the lounge deck and changes to the main living area to accommodate some built-in furniture that the owner’s selected.
“Projects not finishing on time, poor administration skills and issues around payments are common causes of disputes between builders and their client’s,” cites Brandon McKinley, construction consultant for the Builder’s Guide magazine with over 26 years experience in the business.
“most disputes start on site with a simple disagreement but they can quickly escalate.
The builder is unlikely to complete the project leaving the owner looking for another builder to finish their home and in the process incurring additional construction time and costs.”
McKinley suggests that the best way to avoid disputes is to decide up front exactly what you want before you engage the service of a builder.
“We were pretty realistic so we talked to the builder on a regular basis about changes or any delays to the project, any additional costs involved and came to a compromise as we went along, The builder was very flexible and we never had a tricky moment in the relationship,” says Stuart St John.
“I think the key thing to remember in a building project is that it is a team effort, the architect, builder and client must all stay involved. The result of working closely together was a magnificent home that exceeded our expectations.”
The St. John’s building project proved a resounding success winning not only the client’s approval, but the client also recommended the builder to their friends. McKinley emphasizes that trust and honesty is the answer to any good relationship, adding:
“Most peoples homes are a projection of themselves and they can feel very protective when letting strangers into their life. Like any relationship, it is important for the building contractor and client to have a mutual understanding of how both parties tick so that they can work together amicably.”
A good contractor will not be the cheapest by any means. When some contractors are in need of work, they may sometimes underbid and hope to get the job. Well, when they come in with the lowest bid, they must cut some corners! (No pun intended.) Sometimes they lose money on a job, for the mere fact that they bid themselves out of any profit.
There are a lot of honest and good contractors in the building industry. Building contractors that don't satisfy their customers, have more to lose than the customer in the long run. It depends on the strength of the market, but I suppose that most of the middle of the road-priced contractors are pretty straight and narrow. They give you a price up front which includes material and labour and then they have the obligation of trying to get the best deal and doing it under their bid. You need not worry about whether they buy too much or too little material when they are building to a previously agreed price for the complete work.
My firm belief is that you spend a lot of time getting to know your contractor, checking references, before you negotiate a contract based on very clear drawings and specifications including the work of an architect, making sure everything you want is clearly noted, that you have a clear warranty and you will end up resting quite easily. If you form an adversarial relationship with the contractor by incessantly bothering them while they try to get work done, they are more likely to not give you the benefit of the doubt in situations that are in the gray area especially regarding extra costs.
It just makes sense that a reasonable responsible builder will work better when dealing with customers that treat them well, have confidence in them and ask questions but not make demands... especially because demands from your average person are generally not reasonable and often come from fear rather than informed opinion.
Building a home is an incredibly stressful experience. We’ve seen it rip many relationships apart. It’s not something that anyone should undertake if they can be satisfied with their existing home and especially not a good idea if you are stretching financially to do so. There are always unexpected costs unless the builder has built several similar homes and even then, issues arise.
It’s best to find a well recommended and trustworthy contractor.
The worst position builders find themselves in, is when a customer thinks they’ve made a mistake in the design process. People sometimes react and feel silly and since most people don’t have a keen sense of what something will look like or how it will function, this happens fairly often. As we’ve said before, this type of expense and absorbing experience is very stressful and people can often become different people while they are in the thick of it. We've met customers years later and are often shocked at how lighthearted their personality is in comparison to the time we were dealing with them."