Building a Home
Ignoring for the moment the legal issues relating to a foreigner purchasing land, buying a house that is already completed is certainly much simpler than buying land and building a house yourself.
Advantages v.s. Disadvantages
When you buy an existing house you can see exactly what you will be getting for your money. You will of course probably have to compromise on what you want and you will also be paying a significant premium over the development cost (land plus construction).
The advantages of building a house for yourself are that you can design and fit-out the house exactly the way you want it, on a land size you want and a location you want (subject to availability), at a cost significantly less than the market value of the finished house.
While building your dream house may sound very appealing, it is not as straightforward as you may think and there are many pitfalls for unsuspecting foreigners. Infrastructure problems may arise in regards to electrical supply, water supply, telephones and roads, to the land of your choice. The choice of materials to be used in the construction of your house may be well below western standard materials; which may or may not be available, and if available, may be extremely expensive in comparison to local materials.
Finding a qualified local architect and construction manager is difficult, as are finding ones that can speak any language other than Thai, or that have experience working to European or Western standards with Western materials.
A middle ground between buying a fully finished house and building one yourself, are the several housing developments and subdivision projects, undertaken by experienced developers. These developers normally allow you to customize your home design, subject to certain restrictions, and can offer assistance with the design changes as well as economies to scale for the modifications.
Choosing a Builder
Start by asking your friends or Real Estate Agent to recommend reliable builders. Do you know anyone that has built a home lately? Were they happy with their builder and the quality of the builder’s work? Would they recommend their builder whole-heartedly?
Perhaps you have driven past a house being constructed and been impressed by it’s appearance. See if you can speak with the owners and find out about their builder. You may even be able to speak with the builder directly if he is still on site.
Real Estate Agents will also be able to provide you with information on local builders, including some of their past and current work.
Inspecting Previous Work
The best way to assess builders is by reviewing their work first hand. As your short-listed builders to provide you with the addresses of several homes they have recently constructed. Also obtain the contact details of the owners if possible.
Drive by these houses and observe the style of the developments. If you do wish to take a closer look at any buildings, contact the owners and request a viewing.
While you are chatting with the owners, ask them how satisfied they were with the builder’s work. One of the best questions to put them is: “would you use the same builder again?”
When examining the home, your eye should be tuned into the quality of the construction features. Look carefully at the cabinetry, carpeting, tiling, paint and etc. has the builder shown attention to detail? Do you like the overall finish of the house? If you cannot discern differences in the work of particular builders, then perhaps ask a friend with a keen eye to accompany you.
Another good idea is to visit homes under construction. Inspecting work sites gives you an opportunity to see each builder’s work crews and assess whether they keep the site clean and organised. You should feel comfortable and welcome on the site – you will need to, when the site is your own and your new home is being constructed.
Asking the Right Questions
Before choosing a builder, take the time to meet each candidate and then ask the following questions:
- Is home building your profession? Be wary of part-time builders, especially those who offer to build your home for a substantially lower cost than that of full-time builders.
- What is your background in the building business? How long have you been in the business?
- What materials will you be using, local or imported?
- Can you provide references?
- What guarantees do you offer, e.g. on workmanship and minor repairs that become necessary after the building settles?
- Do you use your own crew, or sub-contractors? Which jobs do you sub-contract, e.g. plumbing, electrical, and to whom?
- If we do go ahead with you as the builder, when could you start and how long do you think the job will take?
One of the most critical factors to come from your meeting with a builder is the ease with which you can communicate. If you feel uncomfortable with the builder or find that you cannot chat freely, then do not engage that person to build your home.
Once you have short-listed those builders whom you would like to deal with, ask them to provide you with a full quote on the project. Also request that each builder supply detailed specifications to accompany their quote.
Explain clearly what you want built and provide as much detail as possible to the builder. The more information you provide to the builder regarding your housing requirements, the more likely different builders are to include common features in their specifications.