Build­ing your dream home can be­come a night­mare

George Herald - Private Property - - Property News -

De­sign­ing and build­ing the per­fect home is a dream for many, but choose the wrong con­trac­tor and it can all go south very quickly.

The de­ci­sion to build your own house is not to be taken lightly and although there are a num­ber of ben­e­fits - in­clud­ing be­ing able to plan your per­fect home - there can also be draw­backs.

Shaun and Kirsty, a young couple from the East­ern Cape, de­cided to bite the bul­let and buy their first home. They just couldn't find any­thing they re­ally liked in their price range though, and even­tu­ally they de­cided to build. They bought a plot and be­gan sketch­ing a ba­sic plan for a home that in­cor­po­rated all their ideas.

"We sim­ply didn't like any­thing avail­able in our price range at the time, and even when we found some­thing vaguely suit­able, we were put off by the amount of work it would take to trans­form it into some­thing we re­ally liked and could pic­ture liv­ing in," said Shaun. "It quickly be­came ap­par­ent that we were limited to two choices: buy­ing some­one else's headache or build­ing some­thing we both re­ally wanted."

It was an ex­cit­ing time, with plans for a dream home be­ing drawn up and the hunt for a builder be­gin­ning.

"We knew it was im­por­tant to hire a rep­utable builder. The per­son we chose had a good rep­u­ta­tion and we were im­pressed by the high level of work­man­ship ev­i­dent in his other projects. He was in­cred­i­bly en­thu­si­as­tic and promised the world… that is, un­til he re­ceived the de­posit and build­ing be­gan," said Kirsty.

"The big­gest prob­lem was he was never on site and left his work­ers to their own de­vices. I was forced to tell the builders what to do, which in the be­gin­ning was ex­tremely dif­fi­cult as I'd had very lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in the build­ing field. Things didn't im­prove and it quickly be­came ap­par­ent that I would ei­ther have to learn what was re­quired to get the home built or face the fact that the project would be de­layed for an in­def­i­nite pe­riod.

“Kirsty and I ended up su­per­vis­ing the en­tire build, from be­gin­ning to end," said Shaun.

The couple has since moved into the home, but things are far from per­fect.

"Un­for­tu­nately, we only re­ally re­alised the ex­tent of the prob­lems af­ter we had moved in and had ma­jor is­sues with things like the plumb­ing.

“I as­sumed, in­cor­rectly as it turned out, that build­ing my own home meant I'd get ex­actly what I wanted, but that didn't hap­pen. The plans, for ex­am­ple, called for ex­posed beams in the liv­ing area, but we ended up with a sus­pended ceil­ing. The home wasn't sit­u­ated ac­cord­ing to the plan and the bound­ary wall wasn't built to spec. All in all it was a very stress­ful time and although it was ex­cit­ing to source the fit­tings and in­stall the per­fect kitchen, over­all I don't think I'd ever again em­ploy a builder to build a home."

When asked what they'd learnt from the ex­pe­ri­ence, the couple said they should have taken more time to en­sure the builder they chose had the right ex­pe­ri­ence and was qual­i­fied to do the job prop­erly.

"My big­gest re­gret is that I didn't check that he was a mem­ber of a reg­u­la­tory body and opted to hire some­one who of­fered a much cheaper rate than other builders in the area. It turned out to be a costly mis­take. In my opin­ion, we would have been far bet­ter off had I built the house my­self and thanks to the ex­pe­ri­ence I have gained from this, that's just what I would do if we ever de­cided to build again."

Those look­ing to build should al­ways check the fol­low­ing:

Look for builders who are reg­is­tered with the lo­cal Master Builders' As­so­ci­a­tion.

En­sure the builder is reg­is­tered with the NHRBC.

En­sure the elec­tri­cian used is reg­is­tered with the Elec­tri­cal Con­for­mance Board.

Don't just look at pre­vi­ous jobs com­pleted by the builder, ask the owners about the prob­lems they ex­pe­ri­enced.

Em­ploy a li­censed plumber. www.pri­vateprop­erty.co.za

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