To build or to buy - that is the ques­tion

George Herald - Private Property - - Property News -

There’s noth­ing quite like a home that is pur­pose-built for your needs, but for most South Africans, the thought of build­ing a house from scratch is more than a lit­tle over­whelm­ing.

The good news is, with a lit­tle help and a lot of plan­ning, it's def­i­nitely pos­si­ble to build the house of your dreams.

Bill Raw­son, chair­man of the Raw­son Prop­erty Group and ex­pe­ri­enced prop­erty de­vel­oper, walks us through some of the main steps you'll need to take as you ven­ture into the world of owner-built homes.

Be re­al­is­tic about build­ing costs "One of the most im­por­tant things to un­der­stand and ac­cept be­fore build­ing a house in South Africa is that it's highly un­likely to be the cheap­est op­tion," says Raw­son.

He ex­plains that our rel­a­tively high con­struc­tion costs tend to make build­ing sig­nif­i­cantly more ex­pen­sive than buy­ing, although new con­struc­tion tech­niques on the mar­ket - like steel- and tim­ber-framed homes can nar­row this gap by a fair mar­gin.

As a rule, how­ever, he does not ad­vise build­ing if your in­ter­est is purely fi­nan­cial. "It makes much bet­ter sense to ren­o­vate and sell if profit is your mo­ti­va­tion," he says. "If you're will­ing to pay a bit more to live in your per­fect home, on the other hand, build­ing could be an ideal choice for you."

Find the right land Lo­ca­tion is an es­sen­tial con­sid­er­a­tion for any home, but when you're plan­ning on build­ing from scratch, it's not just prox­im­ity to good shops, schools and neigh­bours that you have to think about.

"You'll need to con­sider ac­ces­si­bil­ity for con­struc­tion ve­hi­cles, and ac­cess to power and water for the con­struc­tion process," says Raw­son, "not to men­tion get­ting a pro­fes­sional sur­vey done to pick up on any slopes, drainage is­sues, soil types and un­der­ly­ing rocks that could cause prob­lems."

Zon­ing is also an im­por­tant fac­tor, as some even have re­stric­tions that limit build­ing op­tions. Raw­son rec­om­mends dou­ble-check­ing zon­ing sta­tus and get­ting a copy of the site plan be­fore mak­ing an offer.

Un­der­stand build­ing loans

A build­ing loan is quite dif­fer­ent from an or­di­nary mort­gage, and Raw­son says it's im­por­tant to un­der­stand these dif­fer­ences be­fore sign­ing on to the build­ing process. "For starters, build­ing loans aren't lump sums," he says. "You don't get paid the full amount of your loan to man­age as you please - the bank gives you in­stal­ments based on the progress their as­ses­sor sees on site. That means if progress is de­layed, or you hit un­fore­seen prob­lems, you might not have im­me­di­ate ac­cess to the cap­i­tal you need." For this rea­son, Raw­son rec­om­mends putting aside the equiv­a­lent of a 10% - 20% de­posit to use as an emer­gency fund in case of un­ex­pected ex­penses.

Get pro­fes­sional plans

To qual­ify for bank fi­nanc­ing, you'll need to have a com­pre­hen­sive con­struc­tion quote based on ac­cu­rate spec­i­fi­ca­tions and fin­ishes sched­ules.

These are much eas­ier to get with the help of an ex­pe­ri­enced ar­chi­tect, who can not only help to make your de­sign dreams a re­al­ity, but also keep them within your bud­get. "The more ac­cu­rate your ini­tial draw­ings are, the bet­ter your chances are of se­cur­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate fi­nanc­ing, but en­list­ing the ser­vices of an ar­chi­tect can add a lot more value than just that," says Raw­son.

"When it comes to project man­age­ment, the right ar­chi­tect can save you im­mea­sur­able time, stress and money, and those sav­ings tend to more than make up for their pro­fes­sional fees."

Ex­pect the un­ex­pected

"There is no such thing as a per­fect con­struc­tion process," says Raw­son. "Ev­ery sin­gle build­ing project comes with at least a few grem­lins. For this rea­son, it's a good idea to pre­pare your­self men­tally and emo­tion­ally for sur­prises, and have a lit­tle cash on hand to deal with un­ex­pected ex­penses."

Raw­son also warns that very few build­ing projects run 100% ac­cord­ing to sched­ule, so you shouldn't bank on hav­ing ac­cess to a com­pleted home on the ex­act date your con­trac­tor has promised. "Try to keep some flex­i­bil­ity in your ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions while you're build­ing," says Raw­son. "You don't want to find your­self with nowhere to stay be­cause things are tak­ing longer than ex­pected."

Choose a qual­ity con­trac­tor

Of all the things you need to con­sider when build­ing your own home, Raw­son says a qual­ity con­trac­tor is the most im­por­tant. "Noth­ing makes the build­ing process more

As a rule he does not ad­vise build­ing if your in­ter­est is purely fi­nan­cial.

stress­ful than a con­trac­tor who doesn't de­liver on his prom­ises," he says.

Sadly, it's not al­ways easy to tell good builders from bad, which is why Raw­son rec­om­mends only con­sid­er­ing con­trac­tors with plenty of con­tactable ref­er­ences.

"If at all pos­si­ble, go with a word-of-mouth rec­om­men­da­tion from some­one you trust, or get your ar­chi­tect to ap­point a con­trac­tor from their own trusted pool," he says.

"It's also a good idea, if pos­si­ble, to pay a visit to your prospec­tive con­trac­tor's re­cently com­pleted projects to make sure that their work­man­ship is up to snuff."

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