PROPERTY NEWS - The Department of Human Settlements recently announced that it would be moving away from the construction of houses for poor families to the provision of serviced stands and support measures that will hopefully encourage and enable a much greater number of people to build their own homes.
In addition, says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, there is currently increased demand for stands in established suburbs and gated estates, as more buyers in the middle and upper prices ranges seek to build new energy-efficient and eco-friendly homes.
"And the one thing all these owners will have in common is the need to keep costs down - which is always best done by thoroughly planning the whole build before you begin."
His top six suggestions for saving when building a new house are:
• Choose the site location very carefully
When buying land, size is definitely not the only consideration. "It is worth buying a somewhat smaller stand, for example, if it is already connected to the main water, electricity and waste networks in the area, as it is very costly to secure these connections yourself. If the stand also already has a fibre or cable connection to the Internet, so much the better."
Then you also need to think about the location of the stand in relation to work, schools, shops, public transport hubs and sports or entertainment venues. Land on the outskirts of town may be much cheaper, but living there will almost certainly mean high transport costs.
This is one of the reasons for the growing popularity of "brownfields" projects, in which old inner-city industrial sites are being redeveloped into new residential areas.
Think about the style of home you want to build
This can have surprising cost implications, says Kotzé, and you would do well to seek professional advice from an architect, developer or qualified builder before you make a final decision.
"For example, you might like the idea of an open-plan layout, but because there are fewer walls to hold up the roof, the beams required to do so will be more expensive. You may also need more costly wiring and plumbing solutions, and open-plan homes are generally also more expensive to heat in winter. By contrast, you might think it would be more expensive to build a double-storey home than a single-storey with the same floor area, but it actually could be cheaper - and more suited to a smaller stand - because it requires much less roofing and a smaller foundation."
Always get more than one quote - and then negotiate
"You need to shop around for everything, including your lender, architect or designer and material suppliers as well as your builder," he says. "If you need a building loan, for example, even a small difference in the interest rate can make a big difference to the eventual cost of you home, and it's best to get a reputable bond originator to help you secure the most favourable loan.
You also need to think about the cost of getting building plans drawn and approved - which can be a whole lot cheaper if you buy land in a 'plot-and-plan' development where the developer has already done a lot of this work and can offer you a selection of approved home plans.
In addition, it is usually easier to access finance, such as home loans and subsidies for construction, in this type of development. Some developers will even cover your loan registration costs and certain legal fees."
Always go for quality when you choose a builder
"It is extremely important to spend time in selecting a reputable, registered builder with a real track record of quality work that was completed on time and to the satisfaction of their previous clients," says Kotzé. "You should preferably be able to view homes they have already built, and you should be sure to call any previous clients given as references. Price should really not be your guideline, as some excellent builders may be able to give you a cheaper quote simply because they are really efficient, while some really shoddy builders may quote more if they know you are inexperienced - and end up costing you even more when you have to pay someone else to fix their poor work."
Stick to the basics - and your budget
"As the plans for your new home come together, you should keep asking yourself what you can do without, at least for now," he says. "For example, to have the 'green' features that are really important to you and still come in on budget, you may have to forego higher-grade carpeting for now, or choose standard bathroom and kitchen fittings, plain tiles, melamine cupboards instead of solid wood.
Similarly, good quality roofing is much more important than a built-in braai on the patio, or a fancy garage door. The idea is to think about every single item that is going into your home and choose the most cost-efficient option, or do away with some things that you don't need right away, in order to afford quality basics that will add value to your home in the future.
However, it is also important to discuss any changes you want to make with your builder to ensure that these will not jeopardise the basic structure in any way, or result in the completed home not passing inspection."
Plan to DIY where you can
There might be areas of the project you can handle yourself, or with friends, to keep costs down, says Kotzé. "For example, if you have done your homework and know where to get really good deals, you may prefer to select and buy all your own fixtures and finishes, such as floor tiles, countertops, light fittings, sinks and baths, cupboards and carpets, instead of relying on the builder to do so.
Perhaps you could also enlist the help of friends to paint your home once it is built, or to lay out the garden and put up shelves in your garage? This will help you keep your total costs down - but don't get carried away and suddenly decide to become your own carpenter or tiler.
Stick to things you already know how to do and leave the rest to the experts, as that is likely to be more efficient and cost less in the long run."
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