• Deen Gabriel

Top 10 tips for building your dream home

1. Do your sums

Before you embark on any building project, be it an alteration or a complete new build, you must ensure you have sufficient funds and a little extra for contingencies which invariably crop up. Check on the latest residential building stats to give you an idea of the costs you are likely to be in for.

According to Property Analyst, Jacques du Toit of Absa, in October 2019, the costs to build a home average at R7 400 per square metre. Obviously these costs will increase depending on the fixtures and finishes you select.

Ensure that you have available funds or a line of credit to pay contractors and suppliers along the way.

2. Do you have the time?

Building a home requires a lot of your time. If you opt to manage the project yourself, depending on your contractors it may be like a part-time job on some days and on others, it will be full-time. You will be checking on progress, sourcing fixtures, fittings, tiles, paint and more.

Depending on your other regular commitments, this can be stressful. If you have the extra funds it can be hugely helpful to employ a project manager, but you will still be required to have input and attend site meetings, and you will want to -after all this is your dream home.

3. Recruit right

The most important thing by far is to hire the right people. Being pennywise and just going for the cheapest quote could well cost you way more in the long run. It’s vital to work with reputable contractors. Ideally, you need personal recommendations, don’t simply rely on the fact that there are references in a CV. Contact references personally and request permission to visit the homes that have already been built by the contractor.

4. Chemistry is key

It’s also important that you are comfortable with your contractor’s work ethic and personality. This person is going to be significant in your day-to day activities for the next few months, and given their role in constructing what will invariably be your greatest asset, will likely have an impact on you for years to come.

For a start, apart from punctuality and reliability, there should, at the very least, be a timeous and helpful response to messages and emails. You need to feel that this person or these people are completely dedicated to your project while they are on it.

The same is true of the architect, it’s vital to find a blend of authority, creativity and empathy, in that the architect should understand your vision/aspirations for your dream home and provide an inspiring solution that is in line with your lifestyle and budget and ultimate goals for the property, such as personal residential, resale, rental or maybe use as a guesthouse, for example.

5. Plan for your furniture and fittings

You may have a large, beautiful, antique dresser or four-poster bed, or you might be visualising the ultimate island in your kitchen, or perhaps you dream of a floor-to-ceiling dresser and a large farmhouse-style Aga stove. Either way, ensure that your plans can accommodate such items and factor in the sizes of doorways to allow for the installation of larger fittings and furniture.

6. Build green

It’s ideal to plan an off-the-grid home and install all your energy-saving elements from the start. Ultimately, this saves money and is more likely to be compliant as well as aesthetically pleasing. Consult experts in solar PV power and look into sinking a borehole fitted with a filtration system for in-the-home use.

7. Landscape

Plan a water-wise garden from the start and ensure you include this in your budget, gardens are so often a costly afterthought.

8. Plan, plan and plan

Any project, large or small requires planning, and building a home requires more planning than a lot of things most people are going to take on in their entire lives.

It’s the sad truth that you can never assume things will get done. Ensure you have a checklist and weekly goals. These should be assessed at a weekly site meeting to ensure the project is on track.

Do as many things as you can to streamline the process - the more elements you can have ticked off your list, such as your choice of tiles, taps, carpets, laminate floors, window frames and so on, the fewer delays there will be as and when these elements are required. The last thing you want is to hold up the project because you haven’t decided on a particular style and once you do, it has to be placed on back order.

Having said this, it’s important to accept that even the best laid plans can go awry, and there will inevitably be some delays which will require a patient and philosophical approach.

9. Snag check

Whenever you walk around the site, you should make notes about all the elements you observe that need attention. In this way, you can stay on top of things as the build progresses.

When the building is complete, or almost complete, it’s important to make a detailed list of all the outstanding tasks and issues as well as any faults you may find. Ask an eagle-eyed friend to double check and enlist the help of a qualified estate agent who will also know what to look for.

Keep a portion of the budget in an interest-bearing account and only pay the final amount to your building contractor when you are completely satisfied all snags have been effectively dealt with and or eliminated.

10. Enjoy your new home

It is time to make good memories.


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