KEEN ADVICE FOR NEW HOME BUILDERS
After nearly a decade in the construction business, and extensive research in this field, Keen has collected some ideas regarding new home building; we hope the points below will prove useful to those considering building a home.
Should you build?
Before deciding to build, be sure to examine your intentions and honestly ask yourself, “Why do I want to build a new home?” – actions are only by intentions, so the more beautiful and sincere the intentions, the more blessed and fruitful the actions.
Thoroughly explore all options available (e.g. renting, buying something smaller, other investment options etc.), consult wise and experienced people, and seek guidance. It is best not to rush this crucial first step. Based on our experience, taking time here to make the right decision will pay off many many times over in the future.
Things to consider here include: staying debt-free or becoming debt-free as soon as possible, and avoiding taking on more debt. The economy is too complex to predict as evidenced by the many disastrous busts since the great depression – all catching the vast majority of people off-guard.
To get a glimpse into the structure of modern finance and economics see:
- Bruce Livesey’s book, Thieves of Bay Street; as well as
- Margaret Atwood’s Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth; and
- www.moneyasdebt.net for an in depth analysis of the modern economy.
Ideally, work and save to purchase or build a house in cash, obtain interest-free loans to purchase the home, or there are other risk-sharing models that are safer than exploitative conventional mortgages.
If certain about building a home, select the right piece of land
Some considerations to purchasing a lot: family, relatives, friends, community, places of worship, walk-ability to grocery stores and other commercial needs, water, sunlight, gardening & community gardens, accessibility of nature, traffic and noise, industries, in-fill vs. new development, the area of the city, etc. For an idea of what makes some neighbourhoods better than others see the landmark book by Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Detailed drawings and specifications
The intention is to clearly outline exactly what you want and how you want it. To do that you need to be informed; this means research. See the section below for important environmental and health considerations to incorporate in the construction plans. Then, details, details, details. Many of the problems experienced during construction are due to lack of sufficient forethought and detailed planning. It is important to be as detailed and thorough and thoughtful as possible in this phase. Visualize the space, visit and tour other homes, research, make hand-sketches, make mock-ups. Important considerations for zero carbon and green building are imperative during this phase; for further information, visit our Green Building page, and check out this Home Design Checklist from TrustedPros.
Approach multiple builders to provide proposals for constructing your home
Be sure to ask for proposals and not simply ‘pricing’: beware of making a decision solely based on price. There are many factors to consider including: competence, honesty, reputation and track-record, quality and attention to detail, contracts & change management, safety, conduct & demeanour, communication, customer service, and of course price. Of course it will be difficult to ascertain all of these, but some indicators include: authenticity of the people – interview and listen and observe carefully, quality and thoroughness of proposal, reference checks and consulting others, check what associations they are part of, prayer, and finally, follow your instincts. Some builders you may consider as well include: Effect Home Builders, Novhaus, Honomobo, Vivid Homes, and builders listed on the BBB‘s website. TrustedPros has this Hiring Guide on their website; it is not comprehensive, or foolproof, but gives solid ground for finding good contractors.
After you select your builder, sign a good contract (such as the CCDC-2) that clearly and thoroughly outlines obligations and responsibilities including a clear and fair payment schedule, review this with your lawyer, and you’re on your way! Set regular meetings or updates with your contractor, ensure that you are receiving invoices, and hold them accountable to their commitments. Make sure there are no hidden fees, and a clear change-management process to document and approve changes – all these should be in the contract.
Towards the end of the project conduct final walk-throughs, identify deficiencies and once all is done the keys are handed over and you move in! Of course issues may arise, and your builder should have their company warranty on top of the Alberta Government Home Warranty. Hopefully by the end of this, you’ll have made a new friend.