Pounding the pavement to look for a job is the equivalent of sweat, blood and tears, but pounding the pavement to accomplish your goal of building a house may be one of the most exciting and most satisfying moments in life. Put a lot of gusto and zeal into building a house, it’s the perfect labor of love and a worthwhile investment.
The thrills of building a house are one too many but if you’re aware also of the perils and are prepared for them, then you double the thrill and avoid gut-wrenching heartaches. For many, building their houses from scratch is a chance to acquire the expertise in every aspect of the building phase. You might even be inspired to build a second house!
Building a House: Factors
a) Cost - think of how much money you have, how much you’re willing to borrow, how much you can pay back and how much of a margin you’re prepared to go over-budget. A house is a real cash-eater. Whether you buy something that’s already standing and is in ready-to-move-in condition or one that’s about to be erected from a vacant piece of land, you’re likely to shell out endless amounts of cash. Do your calculations, make room for the unforeseen and ensure you have a good relationship with your lenders;
b) Buying too much house - people have to stop a building project midway because of a lack of cash. Avoid going overboard because it can leave you embittered. One way to avoid any frustration is to be realistic about what kind of house you want to build. It sure is nice to have a big, sprawling piece of real estate that you built yourself, but you got to put food on the table and pay the heating as well;
c)Land and its location. Check with the town or city whether there are any future plans to re-zone the land you’re about to purchase. You also need to obtain free title to the land and check out of if there are any liens on the land or legal conflicts involved. Before you buy the first bag of cement or the first piece of plywood – and way before you go shopping for an architect/contractor, you have to make sure the land is yours – not to some entity or other individual;
d) Zoning laws and building codes - just because you’ve checked ownership and confirmed that the land rightfully belongs to you, it doesn’t mean you’re done with the city authorities. You’ll have to obtain the zoning laws and regulations including building codes. There are some cities that are very strict with the façade of a house, about how far it should be from your next door neighbor and the kind of pipes and sewers you will be installing. Also, if your house is not up to environmental standards, the city may not issue you a permit to build your house. There are also certain materials they will not allow, so the rule of thumb here is to ask for written guidelines. Don’t just consult a clerk at the window!
e) Neighborhood – take a walk around your neighborhood. See if there are any similarities in the houses. You may discover too late in the process that you won’t be allowed to have a satellite dish on your roof, or a centralized air-conditioning unit that is too noisy. You’ll be surprised to learn later that fenced properties are not allowed or if they are, they must follow the specifications issued by the city.
Building a House: Advantages
You’ve searched far and wide and still you don’t find your dream home. This is one advantage of building your own house. You can design and construct it to your “spec”, based on your requirements and whims. A second advantage is that you know the parts and materials are 100% new and have not been re-cycled and re-sold in the market. A third advantage is you can build a house that adopts the latest technology and modern design trends for higher efficiency levels. Most new houses these days are located in areas that guarantee a good resale value for your house at a future date. Because you get to choose the location yourself and not one chosen by the builder, you’ll make sure that the location is an excellent one – one with easy access to major roads and highways and to amenities and self-contained communities. A sixth advantage but certainly not the last one is that you can play an active role in the building process. This means you’re not subject to the whims and temperament of the contractor; you can also approve or disapprove whatever goes into building your house!
Building a House: Disadvantages
The perils of being a do-it-yourselfer exist but for as long as you’re mentally prepared for potential problems, building a house should not be an experience that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Be aware of these disadvantages:
Cost overruns – like we said earlier, there will always be unforeseen and sudden needs. It can happen that your plans did not provide adequately for the number of electrical outlets you need, or the capacity of the water heater isn’t sufficient to meet the needs of a family of four. It could also happen that your choice of tiles is turning out to be more displeasing than pleasing to the eye. They looked great on the store’s display counter but once installed in your own home, they look kind of “off.” Back to the store you go. Remember, the things you least expect will crop up, no matter how prepared you are. So stay close to your budget and don’t engage in any impulse buying. There’s a lot of truth in the saying that building a house is more expensive than buying a pre-fab one.
Delays – if you live in Canada, bear in mind that in some provinces like Quebec, you’d be hard pressed to find a worker in the first two weeks of July. This is when construction comes to a standstill. It’s called the construction holiday and most workers leave the province in droves to take their families for a much needed vacation. Remember that joke from Woody Allen? He said “not only is there no G-d but try finding a plumber on Sunday.” So if you’re going to build your house in a certain province or state, find out a when construction holiday is!
Note too that some manufacturers will not be able to fill your order on time. Be prepared to wait for your special kitchen cabinets or your Roman bathtub.
Support – finding an architect and then a contractor as well as suppliers and secondary workers is very time-consuming. You can’t just pick them out from the street or from the Yellow Pages. You’d rather work with people who come highly recommended.
Miscellaneous expenses – when the house is completed and you’re getting ready to move in, we hope you have allocated costs for decorating, landscaping, and a host of other tasks you need to accomplish.
Your Pride and Joy
When you build a dwelling from the ground up, the sentiment of belonging and ownership runs stronger. Buying a house is exciting for everyone, but the excitement is more intense, more special when you build your own house. You can look at your house many years down the road and picture it in your mind as YOUR IDEA, YOUR EFFORT. It’s a lasting tribute to your creativity and to your persistence and perseverance.
And because your own sweat went into building your house, you’re going to do your best to maintain it and shower it with truckloads of tender loving care.