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With appropriate forethought, even the average person can build

Everything is achievable if we start off correctly. Thus, certainly, with the proper mindset and dedication, even the ‘average’ individual can build.

Whether it’s the house of your dreams or your first home, construction may be a challenging and drawn-out process; but they can overcome it with careful preparation.

Furthermore, it would be feasible quickly with the appropriate planning and preparedness. Once you make up your mind, as long as you have the necessary resources (no matter how small), the authorised building plan, your availability, the right personnel and the correct mindset, you can move forward!

However, given the current state of our nation’s economy, it appears to be a challenging road to undertake, making it an unappealing topic to discuss.

Thus, let’s be reassured that life will go on, and that ‘renting’ is an equally stressful alternative. No matter what, of course, not everyone would be able to build; this is particularly true for those with unique situations involving their ownership of a willed property or those facing hard economic realities. Especially if the structure is in the middle of town, owners of bequest homes or properties could decide to use their money for other more worthwhile endeavours, or they might just lose interest in constructing again.

This article seeks to encourage everyone who wishes to build and bring to bear the major pertinent issues that an average person will need to know even before taking a decision to build.

What we need to know before commencing to build

Building a house from scratch isn’t the same as buying an already built home. When building on your own, every aspect of the project – including the location, size of the land, design, shape, style and colour – must be planned out in advance.

Building requires careful planning, which is essential. Before starting to develop, some people spend a long time with the planning process. They take into consideration acquiring suitable land at a good location, engage qualified architects/engineers to work on the building plan/drawings, engage the right personnel, do the budgeting before engaging experienced contractors or masons to commence work. The best houses have every aspect planned out before any fieldwork is done.

This level of detail is undoubtedly excessive for the average person looking to build a home. But everyone can benefit from some degree of planning. The building engineers will tell you that there is more to building a home than just telling them you want 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. The style, lay-out, soil, materials and many other details are required.

There are a few things to be aware of if you want the procedure to go well.

Let’s look at the following tips:

List your primary goals

The key to building a house is identifying objectives and taking the necessary steps to accomplish them. Making a list of the key features you desire in a home is the first step in the planning process. In a broad sense, this is the planning stage. Considerations for finishes and colours should wait.

At this point, your plan sketch should cover the main features, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the basic lay-out of the house, the number of floors, and whether or not a dining area is required. Determine the house’s principal rooms. In the words of our elders in Akan, “Ɛdan yɛ si wɔ dɛm ansa yɛdi epie”.

The architect and other designers will use this as a reference while creating the designs.

Budgeting

The budget is another essential component of this first planning stage. Unlike what we often do when we start constructing a house, which is to hire a mason—usually through recommendations from friends—and immediately get started, only to run into problems along the way or have to make many adjustments to the plan due to a lack of preparation and inexperienced building personnel; this is quite time-consuming and expensive because more materials may occasionally need to be purchased.

The budget phase is all about striking a balance between your desired house and your financial constraints. To guarantee uninterrupted employment, contractors often desire steady cash inflows. So, you can request estimates for the various stages, so you remit funds based on the various stages.

It is crucial to have a rough estimate of the amount you would like to spend on the project. Before you begin construction, qualified building engineers may assist you with quantity calculations. Naturally, keep in mind the tight deadlines for the deliverables due to inflationary pressures. Even if you don’t initially have the financial resources, having an understanding of the scope of work and the accompanying costs can help you budget and plan well in advance. If the different processes take a lengthy break, the estimate might need to be reassessed, but it’s usually preferable to not know ahead of time.

Additionally, keep in mind that there are additional upfront costs, such as the cost of land, the building design/plan, permit and other site costs – including digging fee, which is taken by the youth of the area in many parts of the country. This, however, has nothing to do with the main estimate or cost of the building but must be taken into consideration.

Negotiate effectively

It is always good to negotiate well right from the beginning of the project. Try to take quotes from at least more than one contractor and all sub-contractors. Consult with friends who have already built as well as fellow construction engineers who can offer guidance. Taking different quotations from contractors will help you to negotiate properly. You do all these taking into consideration the quality of work. But too much cutting would result in poor quality work or the contractor walking away from the job. Some would also, at first, concur and ask for further financing.

It’s important to correctly negotiate the cost of labour as well. If you’re a homeowner, some contractors will almost always offer you a higher price because you might not be skilled or experienced. However, care must be taken here as well so you don’t find the contractor/mason bolting and abandoning workers at the site, who may in turn rather demand payment from you, the homeowner. It is always best to engage qualified and experienced workers to avoid your project being stalled because of bad negotiation. Sometimes, cheap things are rather expensive.

Obtaining credit

I would suggest that we weigh the pros and cons of taking a loan vs. trying to generate the funds on our own, taking into account all other relevant economic factors like inflation, exchange rate volatility, etc. Once you qualify, I would propose taking a loan if you compare and the cost is lower. Banks offer loans at different rates; to minimize costs, review all the fine prints, including pre-disbursement fees, monthly repayment, tenor, insurance, etc.

This loan might not necessarily be a mortgage loan but if you, however, qualify based on your income and other financial factors, why not? Do all the analysis or get all the necessary advice to help you in making a good decision.

Of course, there’s no point in creating a budget and then a set of plans if you can’t get the right funding to carry it out.

Other budgeting tips

We can consider the following budget tips when planning to build a house:

  • Avoid taking on more debt than you can manage, either through excessive building or bank borrowing. Construct two or three bedrooms if that’s all you can afford right now. If you want extra rooms, just plan for expansions.
  • Plan for unforeseen expenses. The experts will advise you to budget between 5-10 percent for contingencies.

Get involved

If you have the time, it is imperative that you visit the construction site on a frequent basis. It assists you in carrying out the plan, learning and above all, gaining an understanding of every detail involved in creating your own house. It facilitates the future construction of additional structures.

There are homeowners who would much rather not meddle in the construction process. For some, hiring a builder and an architect to build the house based on the agreed design is sufficient. It appears to be a much simpler procedure, but is obviously not. Sometimes, your building plan can be altered by the builders if you don’t pay regular visit and attention to the project.

Having an agreement

Having some level of agreement is always easy when you deal with the qualified builders. It is, however, difficult when dealing with the ordinary masons.

I will, therefore, advise that you keep every single detail of every amount you disburse when dealing with the ordinary masons.

  1. Get their bank account to transfer monies directly to their account; just find out from them if they do not owe their banks.
  2. With the advent of mobile money, this means can also be considered; at least mobile money records can always be retrieved.
  3. You can request from them if they can issue receipts on each disbursement made to them.
  4. Keep personal records of all advances with date to avoid any disagreement in the future.

Other issues

Other problems that might arise during construction include:

Weather condition

Weather conditions are not predictable. There is, however, the need to always take the weather into consideration. It is very difficult or almost impossible to send building materials to the construction site during the rainy season. A poor understanding of weather patterns can lead to the waste and destruction of certain building materials. Additionally, it may cause the job to halt.

Cost of materials

Material prices have never been steady. Wood, iron rods and cement have all become more expensive. The use of other building materials, such as stones, sand and even metal works, have drastically increased. Finishing materials, e.g., some specific designs of tiles, can go out of stock. That will require the homeowner to select the perfect tile when they get to that stage, or possibly purchase ahead of time if you have the ready funding.

Temporary project halting

Periodically, certain masons or contractors may pull a surprise by stopping the job. They can use various excuses, such as being unwell, having to attend family gatherings or funerals while working at multiple jobs in other places.

Hidden costs

There are other hidden costs as already stated. Some of these things may come as a big surprise to the homeowner, especially after depleting all available resources.

The following are some of the hidden costs:

Security

Security is crucial, particularly if you wish to live in safety with your family. This has given rise to several security measures, including installation of security cameras, barbed wires and so on. These security systems, however, don’t come cheap.

Permits

It will cost between GH¢3,500 to GH¢25,000 or more to secure a permit for a typical three-bedroom residential building, depending on the demography of the area, not to mention the costs of the fire test, soil testing and other related expenses. E.g., permits for developments outside of town will be far cheaper than developments in prime areas like Cantonment, East Legon, Airports and so on. Buildings with three to four storeys for residential use will cost somewhat more.

Connecting utilities

Installing an electrical and water connection might be difficult. Estimates from these agencies can often be costly, but there’s little else you can do except accept them.

Septic & water

It is excellent news if you are lucky enough to live in a place where the sewage and water systems are connected. If not, you will require a septic system, reservoir or borehole to collect rainwater during the rainy season. A new septic system typically costs around GH¢25,000, while a borehole might cost anywhere from GH¢20,000 to GH¢30,000.

Fence wall

Building a fence wall will protect your privacy and provide a crucial security element. On a site of 70 by 100, the cost of a normal fence wall will average between GH¢40,000 to GH¢60,000, depending on the chosen design, style and materials.

Conclusion

The average person obviously can build his/her house although it can be a bit overwhelming, but following the steps listed earlier can help make the transition a bit easier.

It is, however, essential to pay attention to all the little details when planning to build a new house. Apparently, the experience of finishing and moving into your own house is fulfilling and an exciting one.

Email: felixekoweshun@gmail.com

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