Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tips for Building in a Foreign Country

For many people the thought of building your own home can be daunting. There is so much information that you think you may need to know to proceed with this task. And definitely, the idea of building in a foreign location can be even more intimidating.

First there is the distance factor to be considered. Then there is the fear of hiring the wrong contractor. And third there is the fear that you won't get what you are paying for. And don't forget the variations of building materials and building codes. All put together, it's no wonder that people shy away from building their dream home in their dream country.

I am here to tell you - it shouldn't be a scary proposition providing you have done the homework involved. This article is intended to provide a broad overview of tasks you can employ to make the project less scary and more successful as the goal ultimately is to have you complete and enjoy your new abode in your dream country.

The following steps should be taken whether you stay in the country of choice for the entire build or if you are going to assign the project to your realtor, your contractor, or another person of your choosing who will be monitoring your project. At no time should you leave the project unmonitored - use somebody to be your fill-in. You may be required to pay for the monitoring services however this fee will be small compared to a half-finished project with all money used.

1) Above all else, contact a reputable realtor in your country of choice. You can then use this individual to bounce your ideas off, to help with the research and to direct you to a host of reputable individuals you will need to help with your project. The realtor is also able to be your "feet on the street", so to speak, liaising with the contractors, with the lawyer, with the local government officials to ensure that everything is going as planned. As well the realtor would be able to provide unbiased project status reports which can include pictures, videos, reports, invoice and receipts, and whatever else is requested.

2) Decide if you are going to be the general contractor or if you are going to perform the duties of the general contractor. Acting as your own general contractor can save you money but it can also give you big headaches when it comes to sourcing and purchasing materials and hiring workers at the right time to get the job done.

3) Once you have been provided with a list of contractor names by the realtor do your research. Use the internet to research the company, go to their own website and see the scope of work that has been done. Not all contractors have websites though so you may want to not put the most benefit on the website. And we know that the content on websites is intended to show the company in its best light but what you may be able to glean is information on what types of buildings the company will construct and you may even be able to locate contact information. Sometimes there just is nothing like a direct conversation with somebody.

4) Next, again use the internet. This time go to the blogs that have been written for the destination country and post your questions. Ask if anybody has used so-and-so contractor. You will need to make sure to identify where the contractor is from. Asking somebody on the Ambergris Caye, Belize blog if they have used a contractor from Toledo District, Belize is not likely going to get you any responses. And if you don't target the questions to the right area you may come away thinking that nobody has used the contractor at all, when in fact, it is your questioning method that is not targeting correctly. You could also ask a relocation specialist if there are any contractors that he or she is aware of.

5) There may or may not be a form of the Better Business Bureau in your country of choice. If there is then submit a request for information on the contractor(s) of choice. If there isn't a Better Business Bureau or reasonable comparable organization then contact a lawyer in the country to see if you can obtain any BBB type information about the contractor(s). You are doing this to ensure that the contractor(s) name you have been given by the realtor is on the level and that you are not depending upon one source of confirmation of the reputation of the contractor(s).

6) Next, schedule a meeting via the internet for a face to face meeting. Interview the contractors online. Not all contractors will have access to the internet so you may have to do the interview via telephone. Have your list of questions, listen to the answers given, and watch for inconsistencies in the answers. Ask the same questions a couple of different ways and verify that the answers are consistent.

7) Be sure to have an architect's drawing of what you want to build and that the contractor is able to read the blueprints. You will want to be sure that the chosen contractor can read the instructions on how to build your dream home.

8) Once you have decided on the contractor of choice it is time to ask for references. Yes, it is true that references can be bought and that the contractor will only give you references of work well done but you should still not miss this step. You may even ask your realtor of choice to go and check up on the work done by the contractor so that you can be sure the work done is in the place owned by the customer.

9) After you have decided on the contractor of choice be sure to draw up a comprehensive contract outlining all aspects of the project and when money will be forthcoming. Ensure there are clauses included for accountability of the contractor. Receipts must be provided, and verified every step along the way. Have the person monitoring the job verify the receipts.

10) As well, do not hand out all the money should the contractor threaten to walk away. If the project has been detailed correctly and the contractor works as expected this should not come up but don't be taken in by the ploy to get more money.

11) Do not pay up front for work not completed. If possible, arrange with the hardware stores to have an account set up and pay for the goods directly to the account. You will need to provide some money up front for the crew to begin working but have a scheduled time for the next payment. The scheduled time should not be based on calendar dates but on completion of specific tasks.

12) Hold some funds back, approximately 10%, until you are able to visually verify that the terms of the contract have been met to your satisfaction.

By taking these steps you will be much further ahead towards the completion of your dream house in your destination of choice. Regardless of where you are doing your build you need to be diligent but especially if you are doing it long distance. However, it can be done and you should be prepared to visit the site at least a couple of times for your own peace of mind.

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