Ask all on Planet Earth about the process they went through when building their homes. Should one speak fondly of a smooth process, he/she/it probably glows in the dark and is not one of us.
As someone with such experience, here are a few of the tips and nuggets of wisdom I have earned along the way.
Tip #1 Approach your building project professionally.
This is business – business with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake, so you need the comfort of knowing that your chosen team is the best your money can buy.
Nugget: Shortlist architects and contractors who have worked on projects of similar complexity to yours, go to see said projects, get quotes and GET REFERENCES!! In the absence of a Bajan homeadvisor.com, where you can get ratings on listed architects, draftsmen, contractors and tradespeople, word of mouth works well.
Ask references about:
Overall skill level – was the team able to execute tasks skillfully to ensure that the structural integrity was up to required standards and the finish as professional as expected?
Structural integrity of their project – any leaks, cracks, electrical or plumbing problems?
General professionalism and work ethic – this is a major headache for property owners especially when the project team is being paid according to time spent, as opposed to phases completed. Does the team work a full day or only until their tummies growl, while charging you for a full day? Is there a lack of diligence which results in double work? Is your contractor accessible? Or is he/she often subject to alien abductions – can’t reach them by cell, landline WhatsApp, or private investigator.
Here’s a WhatsApp conversation I had with a potential tiler:
Me: “Does your cost include prep?”
Me: “On what?”
Crickets. I have never heard from him since.
A conversation with the electrician:
Electrician: “I need a taller ladder. I’ll be back”
Two months later he resurfaced with a story.
So get referrals, but note the common mutual funds disclaimer: past performance is not always indicative of future performance. (I have had different experiences with my building team than another relative who previously used the same team).
Tip #2 The contract is king!
Determine what type of contract suits you best.
The overall cost quoted will be a major area of focus as the contractor’s estimate has to fit your budget, but also focus on the details of the payment structure.
Nugget: Choose a contract that details the phases of the project, the cost for the delivery of each completed phase and a schedule of delivery. NB: It may also be wise to have an independent contractor involved in your regularly scheduled meetings who will give a report on the integrity of the work done. This can mitigate workmen cutting corners to avoid the diligent work needed while still meeting deadlines. This will also help your contractor to respect your project, and understand that the highest levels of quality are expected.
Tip #3 Schedule regular project meetings.
You’ve got your approved drawings and chosen a contractor, now prepare thoroughly and have a kick off meeting to ensure the architect’s / draftsman’s drawings are clear to the builder/contractor leading the execution of the project. Answer their questions and get your questions answered. As the project gets underway more questions will arise. In my experience, what gets discussed on site, on the fly, is often forgotten, and contractors and builders may make executive decisions because the master bedroom doesn’t really need to be that big, the pitch of the roof over the garage could differ from the rest of the roof – isn’t variety the spice of life? – and even though she specifically told me to widen the walkway, I don’t really think she needs a wider walkway. Apart from rogue builders, much can genuinely get lost in translation, and when mistakes are made, they are costly. Guess who’s paying for the error to be rectified? If you are paying by the hour, you will pay for the error one way or another.
Nugget: Provide meeting notes for all present. If drawings are updated, ensure that the old ones are discarded.
Tip #4 Keep an eye on the money.
Before deciding to build my own home, my uncle said, “Be prepared to ‘get your eye juk out’. It isn’t a matter of whether it will or will not be, but how much.”
Nugget: Check all of your receipts when you are in a quiet place. I have had various reputable suppliers from mortgagee to vendors overcharge me many times. Once when I pointed out an error to a supplier, my bill was reduced by $9,000. Another supplier refunded $500+ and even my financial institution made tabulation errors which cost me. Funny how errors usually cost the client and not the service provider.
Building your dream home is a very exciting part of your overall life goal. Be disciplined, get advice from professionals and trusted sources online or elsewhere, learn from the many pitfalls of others and you can be one of those rare ones who glow in the dark.