Building Your Dream Home in Paradise
All your ducks are in a row… you bought a corner lot, with spectacular ocean views in a private community. You’ve got your finances in order and are finally ready to build. You’ve done your research and although the developer you bought the land from has a variety of home styles his builder can customize, you’ve found a builder that can build your dream home for almost half of what your developer’s builder is offering.
This is where you should stop and question why the cost is so much less.
It’s true, sometimes you can find good deals and the value and quality is still there. But when you’re building your dream home, in a foreign country, you want to ensure it’s done not only right, but also with quality materials and by experienced trades people.
Find A Qualified Architect
Whether you choose to use your developer’s architect or find one yourself, make sure they are qualified. Not only will they design your dream home for you, but for an additional fee they will also be your project manager. They’ll ensure you’ve got the proper permits and will let you know of what you’re allowed (or not allowed) to build in your area. They will also be able to recommend reputable builders to you.
Find An Experienced Builder
It’s so important to find a builder who has experience building the type of home you want. If you’ve done your due diligence and have spent some time in the country you’re building in, you’ve no doubt noticed a wide variety of homes. Different budgets will yield different styles from the most basic to the most elaborate. You want to ensure that the builder you’re choosing has built what you’re looking for. Ask for references from past clients, check out their past builds and chat with people in the area. Chances are, if a builder has a bad reputation, people won’t be shy about telling you.
Get A Minimum of Three Quotes
This is your dream vacation or retirement home, don’t be shy about shopping around! Just make sure that you give each builder the same requirements to base their quote on to ensure comparable numbers.
Warranty and Insurance
Confirm your builder’s warranty before signing on the dotted line. How long does it last? What does it cover? It’s also not a bad idea to see if they offer an insurance in the event of lost time due to worker illness, injury or if the business goes belly up.
You’ve chosen your builder, now you need to have your local attorney prepare a contract outlining exactly what work you’re expecting to be done, when it’s going to begin and end and ramifications in the event that your builder goes over their time-line.
It’s important to be extremely specific about your expectations in the contract. Finishes, materials, costs, colors and sizes need to be included. Attaching samples as appendix to the contract is also a good idea. Don’t take anything for granted. Unlike back home, many local homes aren’t plumbed for hot water, for example, and the more detail you list, the less chance of disappointment.
The contract should also include the total project cost as well as a breakdown of payments. Don’t be afraid to tie well-defined progress to payments and be sure the builder understands to provide receipts for all materials and labor.
Keep in mind that if you make changes along the way, prices can change. A builder can’t be expected to pay out of pocket if you choose to upgrade your shower or if you change your flooring from laminate to hardwood.
The contract also needs to include what happens in a worst-case scenario.
Ongoing Inspections & Final Walk Through
Whether it’s your Qualified Architect or someone else, your project manager should be conducting regular inspections on your building site and the progress of your home. This is key to avoiding larger, and typically expensive, issues down the line. It’s a good idea for you to visit as well. Even if your builder is on par with your vision, there may be small changes you’d like to make during the building process – adjusting counter heights or changing an appliance location.
Make sure to do a final walk-through with your architect before the final payment as well.
It can be a fun and exciting experience to build your tropical dream home. It might take a couple of additional steps then doing it back home, but in the long run you’ll be thankful you took the extra time.