After years of working hard and saving, you finally can see that you have the capability to build your own dreamhouse.   A house with all of your personality and family’s unique requirements, a house built from your blood, sweat and tears.  Here’s a guide to help you in this journey.

Designing

Search the internet, especially thru Pinterest and Instagram, all kinds of housing plans, themes and finishes.  Pick out pictures and designs that you like. You can even search probable floor layouts which will fit your needs and fit the lot that you have.  It is always best to hire an architect and a civil engineer to do your designs as they would know which plans are feasible.

If you want to squeeze some savings, you can package the design part into the contractor’s proposal.  This is called a design and build contract.  You’re going to spend more time though making sure that the bidders for your house project are clear on the details of your house and how you want it be done.  Even with this setup, the winning contractor should submit a complete set of plans signed by an architect, civil engineer, professional electrical engineer, sanitary engineer and a professional mechanical engineer (if you have HVAC systems and fire protection systems).

Here are some of the common warranties that should be provided with the works, make sure that all proposals will indicate the warranties that they offer:

  1. 20 years for structural works
  2. 5 years for waterproofing
  3. 2 years for painting works
  4. 1 year for all other items to be installed

Bidding

A lot of homeowners tend to get somebody recommended by a friend or they got from the internet to build their house without going thru bids and eventually complain of how costly the house was.  Select contractors who have a PCAB license, this prevents you from getting fly by night and unskilled contractors.

It is important that you get three contractors to bid for your house. Contractors are careful in pricing and would give you competitive prices if they learn that they are competing for the project.  You can search for bid breakdown forms in the internet for which your contractors can start off on.  Make their proposals detailed so that you can compare quantities and unit prices.  Remember also that this detailed bid would be the basis for change order and disputes in the future.  Make the contractors indicate also their proposed schedule of construction.  You have the right to claim for liquidated damages should the contractor fail to deliver within the agreed timeframe.

Read the specifications and plans carefully.  Make sure that even the brands of finishes are included in the details so that you can ensure that the contractor uses the right kind of product and not install cheap and weak alternatives.

Starting the project

Once you have a chosen a contractor among the bids, you need to prepare a contract.  This shall include all the conditions to be followed for the project.  Ensure that all conditions of the site are accounted for, Homeowner’s association construction bonds, gate fees, subdivision restrictions, etc.

There are a number of payment schemes which the project can take but the usual would be thru a 20% downpayment with progress billing or milestone billing. Progress billing is based on the percentage accomplished by the contractor based on the detailed items of works.  Milestone billing is based on completed tasks and the weighted amount against the total contract. For every billing, keep 10% of the billable value as retention money for corrective works should the contractor not act on them.  To protect the downpayment that you would give, you can impose to the contractor to submit a surety bond.  The premium to be paid to the insurance agency will add on to your cost, but would secure your initial investment.

 Checking the works and Control

 Plans and specifications were made to be followed not just by the contractor but also by the client as well.  If the contractor is veering away from these documents, you have to immediately point out to the contractor.  On the other side, you cannot just impose changes also as these entail costs.  The cost of each change depends on when you instructed it and how much the change affects the whole project.  If you are not satisfied with the work of the contractor, consult with an experienced civil engineer or architect to confirm if your issue is correct.  Make certain that you officially indicate to your contractor that you are giving authority to a third party to check their works. 

Diligence shall come from both contractor and client too.  You have to make sure that you pay your contractor based on the agreed terms in the contract.  Delaying payment, gives the contractor the right to delay or stop the work as this affects their cash flow and affects their capability to pay for labor, equipment and materials.

Completing and closing

Once the contractor informs you that they have completed the project, it is your right to inspect and test the whole house and its systems.  There are two lists that you can do to correct the contractor’s work, balance works and punch list.  Balance works pertains to items which were not completed or installed but clearly indicated in the project documents.  Punchlist are completed items which were done with poor quality and not according to plans.  Punchlists are to be made only ONCE so you have to ensure that you have inspected and included everything.  You cannot make punchlists that grow as this will be detrimental on your part if your contractor decides to settle through legal authorities.

The contractor has to submit the warranty certificates as earlier mentioned.  Have an engineer do the test for your systems.

Once everything is satisfied, make sure that you pay the contractor the full amount.  Monitor your house for any defects and base your claims on the warranties submitted.

You finally have your dream house in your hands.  You have exerted so much effort to make this happen and it’s time to make it a HOME.  Start and cherish the memories that you would build. 

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