Business

Convenience or creativity in homeownership?

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter scotts@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 03, 2013    

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OWNING a home could be a dream come true, but should you buy it or build it?

With all things being equal, chartered quantity surveyor, Michael Robinson figures it is cheaper to build a house, as long as you are efficient.

Also, there are expenses that a developer incurs, which you wouldn’t necessarily have to deal with and which can increase the final cost of the house.

“A developer incurs cost of advertising the house, and real estate fees, and requires a return on his investment,” he said.

Michael Lake disagrees.

The chairman of the Jamaica Developers Association believes that individuals wanting to build their homes can’t beat the price of the developer, because larger housing projects benefit from economies of scale.

“They are selling in volumes, and can sell at a reasonable price,” Lake said.

Gore Developments, which is a major player in the housing sector, said that the company creates housing communities and is able to keep the costs down by its efficiency in system building.

“Buying new construction from a developer takes much of the work out of the process of a home purchase,” said Joanne Padgett, Gore’s sales and marketing manager.

Even then, some persons get more satisfaction seeing their own ideas and work come to fruition.

“(Sometimes) people would prefer to build an ideal home, rather than buy an affordable home,” said Lake.

On the other hand, buying a home comes with the convenience — once you pay, the key is yours — while the turn-offs of home construction can be many.

Developments also comes ready with sewage and other amenities for the home.

“The developer also has put in all the infrastructure for roads, water, sewer, and electricity,” said Padgett.

Even if you ignore the possibility of losing your materials to thieves, there is the preliminary cost of building to consider.

The Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica (IMAJ) said that could run the builder about 12 per cent more to enclose the site; hire someone to monitor the property; and insurances.

If you still insist on building your home, Lake said the correct way to build is to do it in stages.

“Build incomplete houses that you can live in, build in a logical sequence,” Lake said. But make sure you have your budget ready, according to Robinson.

“Many persons begin the work and stop because they run out of money,” the IMAJ told the Sunday Finance. And when they decide to continue, the cost of the materials and labour might be higher.

Once proper planning is done, you can cut unnecessary costs.

“If you know what you are doing, and you get the right contractors and stick to your budget - you can build an affordable house,” he said.

Also, if you do choose to build your own home, try to avoid wasted space, given that you pay by the square foot. Lake, who is also an architect, said there are many such instances in large homes.

There are different types of professionals who you can go to when looking to build, including architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and building contractors.

A contractor tends to be a little sharper in his costing, because he knows that there are many others you can go to, said Robinson.

Even with building a house, you can shop around.

Seek the prices of more than one contractor, and then get a quantity surveyor, who is much like a building accountant, according to Lake.

But it's more challenging for an individual to find an architect, prepare a plan, and work through all the permit requirements that are involved with building a home, Padgett said.

“Many people have had the experience of being quoted a price and then ending up having to pay more and more for the same job to be completed,” she said “With Gore the price you see is the price you pay — once you have made a deposit you know exactly what your house will cost.”

The IMAJ advises individuals to make formal contracts with builders and have them sign in the presence of a witness to avoid large budget overruns.

There's also the option of buying an existing house, but the buyer will have to thoroughly inspect it.

Lake suggests that people buy in an unfinished state, then, they add your own touches.

“Homeowners can demand more of those homes, and can get it at a cheaper price and can buy the types of finishes they desire,” he said.

Usually, the most expensive areas, if you were to do a cost analysis would be the roof and the finishes.

When buying a house that is unfinished, you can control the value of finishes that are used.

That way, you purchase what you can afford.

What's more, even finished homes that people buy can be expanded.

“When you purchase a development you purchase a new home, with a lot size that allows for expansion, Padgett said.

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