So…you want to build your new home?

A Chartered Surveyor can help you draft your brief quickly and in a format your architect will understand.

You’ve seen the TV shows, you’ve read the magazines and you’ve listened to your friends and work colleagues talk about their own projects.

So now it’s your turn to get out there and build your own home.

Building a home is, in so many ways, a primeval urge and here in the Cayman Islands the availability of land means that dreams can be turned into reality.

However, the process of acquiring land, building your home and installing the services needed to run it, requires careful management.

Without a plan, dreams can turn quickly into nightmares, but the options can be bewildering, or as one client of Charterland put it “without help it can be like trying to find your way through a maze”.
In recognition of this, there are a number of professionals keen to help.

Begin by appointing a Chartered Surveyor to assist you in purchasing your plot. It is important to note that purchasing your land is really the first step in the design process. Be certain that the travel patterns and travel times will suit you when trying to get to work and take the kids to school.

As some residential areas are still in the process of being developed, your Chartered Surveyor will help advise whether or not you’re going to be surrounded by construction for the next five to 10 years.

Your Chartered Surveyor will also advise on any rights of way or restrictive covenants that will affect your property. It cannot be overstated just how important this apparently simple task is. Get it wrong and you could be faced with significant and unplanned costs.

A Chartered Surveyor can help you draft your brief quickly and in a format your architect will understand.

For the vast majority of people who build their own home, this will be their single greatest, and most risky investment. Don’t be fooled, building is very expensive, particularly in Cayman where all the building materials have to be imported and subject to duty at 22 per cent.

Beware of square foot costs. Here in Cayman there is no consistently accepted code of practice which defines what a square foot cost should provide for.

It also cannot be overstated that when square foot costs are quoted well before any of the important decisions impacting the design have been made, that cost must be treated with caution as it is only a “should” cost benchmark and not a “will” cost fact.

Also, regrettably more often than not, when square foot costs are quoted at this early stage they only refer to the barebones construction costs and vary considerably depending on who is providing you with the information, what portion of the project they may be handling and what they hope to secure in providing you with an “attractive” cost.

When it comes to actually getting your home built the three most common approaches used here in the Cayman Islands are:

  • The “traditional” approach, where the owner appoints a project manager and a design team and then tenders the project to a general contractor.
  • The design and build approach, where the owner engages a contractor to design and build the entire project.
  • Construction management, where the owner engages a construction manager, who manages an array of specialist sub-contractors on the owner’s behalf.

Each of these approaches has its pros and cons, principally in terms of the transfer of risk and responsibility, so before deciding which route to go down, think very carefully about your attitude to the following eight key factors:

  • Time: is it essential that you make an early start?
  • Cost: is a firm price needed before any commitment to proceed with the construction is given?
  • Flexibility: are you certain that you know what you want?
  • Complexity: are you looking to incorporate any sophisticated designs and/or technology into your project?
  • Quality: how important is quality to you (particularly when compared to the other factors)?
  • Certainty: is it essential that the project finishes on time and within budget?
  • Division of responsibility: are you happy to pass all of the responsibility on to your contractor, or do you want some sort of governance via a third party project manager?
  • Risk: how much of the risk associated with the project are you prepared to accept?

The correct choice of procurement route is essential to ensure that you generate the maximum value from your investment for an acceptable level of risk.

Employing the judgment of a Chartered Surveyor will help you decide which route is the most appropriate for you, because as another client of Charterland recently noted “some people like to walk their dog along the beach at weekends, others like to base jump.  You have to recognise who you are”.

Kevin Drysdale is head of quantity surveying and project management services with Charterland. Kevin has more than 25 years of experience building homes and commercial property in the Caribbean, the UK and Europe.