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8 steps to building your dream home

Twelve years ago, i built my dream home in southern Metro Manila. Before i went down that well-trodden path,  my family had already looked at more than a dozen developments all over town. 

Sweat the small  stuff. Whatever house design you are planning, make sure the foundations, columns, and beams are within the specifications of the Philippines’ Building Code. These standards will help assure that your house can last for the next 50 years.

In the end, we eschewed the slick marketing pitches of some of the country’s leading developers, and decided on our own journey to discover who we were, what we wanted, and how we wanted to live, and where. 

Okay, the “where”  was a no-brainer: my wife’s family lived in the village where the land, which I bought in the 90s for pre-Asian financial crisis prices, sat.  But it was a decent spit of cogon-overgrown real estate, where we could set up roots, and define our relationship to the world.

Here is the short, eight-step sojourn on how we executed this dream, based on my builder’s checklist from more than a decade ago. 

Set goals

1. You’ll want to plan your trip. This means having a sense of what the end result should be, and how much it will cost. It involves setting goals and taking the steps to achieve them. Some questions you’ll want to answer to set these goals:

What do you want to achieve? 

Where do you want to be?

What will this cost?

Can it really be achieved? 

Does plan A make sense? 

What’s plan B?

Establish a budget

2. While a budget should be in any goal statement, it’s such an important piece that it’s included here as a separate task. When making your budget, of course you’ll begin with what you can afford, and how the cost of your house fits in with your overall plans for the future. 

In the Philippines, the cost of building a house nowadays can range between PHP 14,000 to PHP 18,000 per sqm,  if you get a contractor to deal with the construction from start to finish. A normal two-level house that has a floor area of 150 sqm and a one-car garage will set you back between PHP 2.1 million to PHP 2.7 million.

Other expenses not included in the construction process include permits and other paperwork. These include the following:

A complete architectural plan, which will be used as your reference in the house construction. This will provided by the contractor.

A permit from the barangay that has jurisdiction over the area you chose. You will also need to ask your neighbors to sign this.

Once you have the barangay permit, you will present this to the city hall together with the architectural plan to secure the building permit. Only after being issued a building permit can you start construction.

When the construction is done, you will also need to secure the occupancy permit.

Healthy contingency

As with any complex project, the road from point A to point B will have a detour or two. Make sure these little side trips won’t send you over the edge.

A spreadsheet program, such as excel, is a good tool to use for developing a budget, as you can continuously update and modify it as you work your way through the project.

Live a little. Allow for the few places where you’ll want to splurge in the budget, say, the kitchen….if  you spend a lot of time cooking, allow yourself to splurge a little on something you’ll enjoy.

Building a house in the Philippines means that there is more than one party involved, and all need to coordinate with each other for the construction to be successful. 

And if you already have access to funds, know what your budget allows you to do all the way up to the completion of your home. You may end up spending a lot on building the first floor where the living room and kitchen are, but come to realize later that you have run out of money for the completion of the bedrooms on the second floor. 

If you are borrowing from a bank, know how much equity you can afford.

Location, location, location

3. The location of the lot where your house will be built on is important . You have to know the following about the area you are looking into:

Is the neighborhood prone to flooding?

Is it within a subdivision or a gated community?

How is the water supply?

Are there informal settlements in the area?

Are your neighbors conducting any business that may affect the peacefulness of the area?

Is the price of the lot within the prevailing market value in the area?

Getting the right contractor

4. Getting the right contractor is crucial. You have to check the financial capability of the contractor, and see if the company can afford to finance the project. 

Check the previous projects they have done and interview if possible, the owners of the houses the contractor built. Get a highly recommended contractor if you want to lessen the headache of monitoring the construction, since they will take care of not only of the materials, but also the labor needed for building the house.

Based on your budget, the contractor can give you an estimate on how far your money can go in terms of the total area of the house and the quality of the finishing that you want. An average finish will cost you around PHP 14,000 per sqm, while a first-class finish will cost you around PHP 30,000 per sqm. 

Assemble a team

5. Assembling a team of tried and true professionals is the best approach when building your home. The  architect and the contractor (if not one and the same) are going to be your most important team members. These people will act as guide, therapist, advocate and counselor throughout the journey that creating your home is. 

As you embark on this journey, you will likely want to add team members. A kitchen and bath designer, perhaps; maybe an interior designer, too. Certainly a landscape architect, who shouldn’t be the last person hired when all the money is gone.

Plan, plan and plan some more

6 . Every large project has one thing in common. The owner, whether a private developer, government agency or corporate entity, knew the importance of planning the project in detail before starting to build.  Some sensible planning tips I learned from my experience ten years ago: 

• Play the “what if?” game. Sometimes the first answer is the right answer, sometimes it’s the 31st. Just remember not to settle until you’ve explored all the possibilities; you don’t want to say after the project has been built, “We should have done ...”

• Go big, or go home. And I don’t mean big as in size (that’s a whole separate discussion), but big as in big ideas. Building a home, be it from scratch or a renovation, is an exercise in making something that’s yours. So dream big and have grand plans.  Don’t sweat the small stuff… for now.

• Sweat the small stuff. Decisions, decisions, decisions. You’ll be asked to make many — more than you can imagine. Just remember that God is in the details, so make sure that the details are there so that your home will be uniquely your own and speak to who you are.

 Accept the inevitable

7. You’ve made the plans, gotten the permits and secured the money; now the only thing left to do is build your house. 

Oddly enough, stuff happens. Stay calm, keep your sense of humor and work with your team to address the issue. This is where having the right team in place can pay dividends. An architect, a contractor and others who can work together and share ideas without criticizing one another will go a long way to helping you keep your sanity. 

An important tip to stay sane during construction:

• Don’t change your mind. Early on make all of the decisions you have to, select all of your finishes and don’t change your mind. Yes, you’ll be enticed by that new thing that comes along. Just remember that once construction starts, it’ll cost you time and money if you change your mind.

Enjoy your new home

8. You’ve worked hard and spent your hard-earned money to create your new home, so enjoy it to the max. 

Revel in the size of your master’s bedroom and 2nd floor balcony with a pocket garden, as well as koi pond which still works like a charm to chase away your stress at the end of each day, as it did twelve years ago.

Find unexpected places to talk with family members. Discover how this place gives shape to your lives, and allow all of you to become the persons you want to be. 

Topics: 8 steps to dream home

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