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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning to Build Your Dream Home

After all the dreaming, hard work and saving you are finally ready to turn your dream home into a reality. With all the excitement what most individuals fail to realize is that it does not take much for the project to turn out to be an epic fail. Proper planning needs to be in effect to save you time and money. Here are 5 costly mistakes you need to avoid.

Mistake #1 – Poor financial planning!

Unless you will be buying your home out of pocket (in that case, we envy you!), you are going to need financing. Check around for the best mortgage rates and terms and find out how much you can afford before meeting with a real estate agent, architect or contractor. Building your dream home should not plunge you into debt or a straitjacket. Deciding on the type of construction and style of the home that will fit into your budget may require some research but it will definitely pay off in the long run.

Mistake #2 – Planting roots in the wrong location

After you have built your dream home, you will not be able to move it around if the location chosen turns out to be wrong for you. Consider changes that may occur in your environment in the future and how that will affect your quality of life, and value of your property in case you decide to sell your home later on.  For your own enjoyment and for future sales look for property in a location which is convenient while still being relatively peaceful.

Mistake #3 – Not starting out with a good set of plans

People think they are saving money by not buying good plans.  First, without plans you cannot get an accurate cost estimate for building a house. You can’t make an accurate materials list so you won’t know what the materials will cost. A contractor will not know how difficult the house will be to build so he cannot give you an accurate estimate of the labor. The plumber, the electrician and other subcontractors need to be on the same page so it must be a plan that can be understood by all concerned.  Incomplete or nonexistent plans will inevitably lead to misunderstandings, tear-outs, delays, and conflicts which cause greater expense.

Mistake #4 – Choosing the Wrong Builder

Shop around for builders, ask for references and check them!  Do not make the mistake of choosing a contractor because he has the lowest price. Talk with several builders; check out their work to find the right fit. A good contractor will be willing to work with you to stay within your budget by going over the proposal to see where you can cut back. Regardless of your choice, understand that working with a professional with a solid background and years of experience can come at a premium price but it is worth the investment.

Mistake #5 – Building for only your current needs

If you know that children are in your future, build with them in mind.   If you cannot afford to prepare for children immediately build to allow for an addition later on. There is nothing worse than building a new house that is already too small the day that you move in.  If you need more square footage than you can afford at the present time, consider lowering the cost of the fixtures such as cabinets, windows, and doors some of which you can always upgrade in the future.  If this is to be your retirement home, what will your needs be then?  Does your home need to have wheelchair access?  Will you always be able to use the stairs?

Which one of these mistakes do you believe would be the worst to make?  Have you made one of them?  Can you think of other mistakes that should be avoided? Share with us in the comments.

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Buying Versus Renting: Which Should You Choose?

Many individuals believe that it is ultimately more beneficial to spend money on buying a home rather than spending years paying rent. However, that is not always the case. There are a lot of factors to consider before making your decision and every situation is not the same. Here are a few things to think about before choosing the best option to suit you.

Mortgage and Loan: Buying a house naturally requires money, and in most instances requires the individual(s) to apply for a loan or mortgage. You need to first know whether you are able to obtain a loan or mortgage, if not then renting would best suit you. Factors such as poor credit score and low income will decrease your chances.

Employment: Be sure that you have a safe and secure job. If you feel that any day in the near future you may be fired, or you plan on quitting your job then home ownership is probably not the right decision. The loss of a job can bring many financial difficulties that buying a home will just make even more difficult.

Total Cost: You need to analyze which option will cost you the least amount of money in the long haul: monthly rent compared to monthly loan payment, and all other costs attributed to each option. This includes maintenance and repair of the building. This is one of the main costs of buying a home which does not factor into renting. Whichever decision saves you the most money should be highly considered.


Change in family structure:  If you are single and plan to remain that way, renting may be a practical option. However, if you plan to get married and start a family, a stable home where memories can be made and roots laid-out is essential.  Your own provides security and a sense of belonging to your family that renting does not provide.

Future Plans: Buying a home is a long-term investment and should be treated as such. If you are someone who is always on the go constantly traveling from place to place then it might be more beneficial to rent in the meantime. Worst yet if you plan on spending time abroad for a long time then buying a home may just be pointless.

Freedom v. stability: Renting gives you a sense of freedom if you like to change scenery often by moving to different locations.  In addition, with renting you have the freedom of moving if you do not like the home or the area.  However, there is uncertainty with renting.  The landlord is within their right to discontinue your lease, and you would be forced to move in that situation.

Are you at the point where you need to decide between renting and buying?  Which do you think better suits your situation? Is there any advice you can provide to someone needing to make that decision?  Share with us in the comments.

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Take Advantage of the Rain to Conserve Water and Save Money

Why didn’t you think of this earlier?! Take advantage of the rainy season by harvesting rain water to use around your home and save on your water bill. Here are five (5) practical uses of rain water to benefit your family and the environment:

Plant Care:

Rain water can be harvested to water your garden and household plants. Instead of pipe borne water for decorative or indoor plants, use rain water. Establish your garden in such a manner that it can benefit greatly from rainy days. Ensure that your plants are in an area where water can be accumulated and drained out to avoid erosion and flooding. This increases the self-efficiency of the plants and decreases the need for constant care.

The toilet:

A toilet can use up to 12 liters of water per flush.  An average person uses 30 liters of water flushing the toilet per day or 210 liters per week. That is money that can be spent on other things or saved for ‘a rainy day’. Installing a tank to toilet system can lead to major water savings.

The Washing Machine:

You can also save loads of money and water by connecting your washing machine to your tank.  Washing machines can use up to 150 liters of water per load and most households do 5-6 loads of washing per week. If the option of installing a tank is not desirable to you, rain water can simply be collected in a bucket or barrel and used to fill the machine.

Rain Shower:

Rain water is perfectly safe for use in the shower while taking a bath.  Bathing uses about 54,000 liters per year which can be saved if the shower is connected to a rainwater collection tank. If the source of water is not from a collection tank which filters the water it may first need to be decontaminated based on where it is collected.

The Kitchen and Household Chores:

Dishwashing and the kitchen uses about 27,000 liters per year, convert this as money in the bank by using rain water to handle those chores. In addition, use rain water for other domestic chores such as mopping and other general cleaning tasks.

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3 Road Safety tips for wet days!

Road safety is often taken lightly by drivers these days.  With a speedy increase in the number of vehicles on island, and an increase in the number of vehicular accidents there is no doubt that road safety needs to become a greater priority. This is especially important on rainy days where the likelihood of being in an accident is greater. Here we offer 3 tips to the drivers out there when driving along those wet, slippery roads.

Ensure that visibility is clear

You have to be able to see: the bends, the vehicles in front and behind you, the people, animals or objects (fallen trees, rocks, potholes, etc.) in your way. The dark clouds and falling rain make this especially difficult. Ensure that your windshield and mirrors are properly cleaned; that your windshield wipers are working efficiently and all necessary lighting (brake lights, headlights, taillights, and turn signals) are functioning before you hit the road. Rain repellant products can also be used on mirrors and windows to clear standing raindrops.      

Refrain from distractions

Your attention is to be placed on the road in front, behind and at your sides. Stay away from the cellphone and keep the radio off (or at least have the volume very low). You need to be aware of other vehicles, possible landslides and anything else that may be on the road. If a call must be made or received pull over on the side of the road for the duration of the call, then continue driving when you are done.


Slow down

Wet roads reduce friction between your tires and the road. This causes drivers to have less control over their vehicles and also makes them more prone to skidding. Hydroplaning occurs when water builds up between the wheels and road surface. This causes a loss of traction and prevents the vehicle from responding to input controls. The faster you are driving the harder it will be to maintain traction if you begin to lose control. Remember it is better to arrive at your destination a few minutes late than to never get there at all.  Even better, leave for your destination a little earlier to give yourself enough time to drive more carefully.


Here is an extra tip: seatbelts save lives, if all else fails ensure that they are properly fastened.

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Make Your Home Elder Friendly

The following smart and easy ideas are useful to make your home more comfortable and safe for your golden years, and are also great remodels for current homeowners who have seniors/elders living at home:-


Be easy to find – A home address sign should be erected at the front of the house which is visible both day and night in order to make it easy for emergency services to find the home.


Light things up – As we age our eyesight tends to deteriorate, which means that a home with dark shadows and gloomy hallways can become a safety hazard. Low voltage night lights can be erected to illuminate dark hallways, such as from the bedroom to the bathroom.  One can consider motion-activated nightlights that turn on when someone moves.


Getting a Grip – Railings and grab bars along stairs and in bathrooms can make a great difference in the mobility of the elderly.  There are many different types of grab bars, including some high-end products that don’t necessarily look like grab bars.


Keep steps at a minimum – Steps can be a huge obstacle for senior citizens, and a very dangerous one at that. With the brittle bones and stiff joints that come with aging you would best use as little stairs as possible in your home. Where ever you can try adding rams which are less strenuous and is better suitable for those with wheelchairs, crutches, etc. If stairs absolutely cannot be avoided refrain from making them too high, and too far apart.


Make things hand-friendly – Hands that have lost their strength because of arthritis and other health issues may not be able to easily turn doorknobs, faucet and shower handle knobs. Depending on the space around the faucet, knobs can be easily replaced with levers.


Getting Around – For someone who will have to move around in a wheelchair or scooter, life around their house can get difficult. Wheelchair access and proper door passage through the home is essential.  While getting around, carpets and tiles which are placed improperly or unevenly, as well as slippery floor materials are a hazard for the elderly.  Making sure that flooring is slip and trip resistant is important for seniors since falls can be greatly debilitating for them


We would love to know, which one of these tips is the easiest to implement at your house?

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Drainage Matters

Post Tropical Storm Erika, one of the serious issues that our engineers have identified as a contributor to flooding and failed infrastructure, such as walls, is poor or no drainage.

Drainage is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from an area. Many agricultural soils need drainage to improve production or to manage water supplies.

Drainage and public health


In areas where drainage and sanitation are poor, water runs over the ground during rainstorms, picks up faeces and contaminates water sources. This contributes significantly to the spread of diseases such as typhoid and cholera, and may increase the likelihood of contracting worm infections from soil contaminated by faeces. Flooding itself may displace populations and lead to further health problems.


Designing and constructing drainage systems require expert advice from engineers to make sure that water flows away quickly and smoothly and is disposed of in a surface watercourse or soakaway. Drainage installed by one community should not create problems for other communities downstream, nor should it affect ecologically important sites. Environmental considerations should be given adequate attention: long-term changes to the environment may lead to greater health problems in the future.


In many cases, although there are drains, there is a failure to keep them cleared.  Obstructions in drains lead to the formation of stagnant pools and result in breeding sites for disease vectors, such as mosquitoes, increasing the risk of malaria, and snails, increasing the risk of schistosomiasis. The drains must also be properly maintained and cleaned: it is common to find that new drains become dumps for solid waste or even sewage because of inadequate maintenance. The community should therefore establish how often drains are to be cleaned and who will be responsible for the maintenance. Often, the best solution is for community members themselves to take responsibility.


Storm-water drains


The detailed design of storm-water drains should be carried out by engineers and take into account climatic and hydrological data. These data may be scarce, or may not cover the community where work is to be carried out. In such cases, the community can help by describing where major flood problems occur in the village and providing information about previous floods. Storm-water drains should be designed to collect water from all parts of the community and lead it to a main drain, which then discharges into a local river. The size of the drains should be calculated according to the amount of water they would be expected to carry in a storm. More extreme floods occur relatively infrequently; to provide a safety margin, the maximum flow of water is usually calculated on the basis of floods expected to occur once every 10 or more years. If drains are designed to carry only the amount of water expected from an annual flood, they will not be able to cope with the flow of water from heavier floods, which may occur as often as every 2–3 years. This may make flooding problems worse and increase the health risks. Storm-water drains are best constructed using a concrete lining. Earth drains are more likely to become clogged and overgrown, and cause problems with storm-water flow during minor floods.


Damage to roads


Damage and wear to the road can be reduced if the flow of water is controlled. Minor damages can easily be repaired as part of the regular maintenance provided to the road and its structures. If the flow of water is not properly managed, the deterioration of the road will be more serious and occur more rapidly. This will lead to higher maintenance demands and in the worst cases result in serious damage which may obstruct the passage of traffic.


Various drainage measures are applied to effectively deal with the water arriving at the road. Surface water arrives directly on the road as rain, as runoff from the surrounding areas, or in streams and rivers. In flat terrain, the entire area around the road may be inundated with water during the rainy season. In addition, water also travels underground which can have an impact on the quality of the road.


An efficient drainage system is therefore essential to allow water to flow off and away from the road as quickly as possible. This is achieved by a system consisting of the following components:

  • road surface drainage which enables the water to flow off the road surface,


  • side drains and mitre drains which collect and lead the water away from the road,


  • road embankments in flood prone terrain, lifting the road surface well above the highest flood levels,


  • catch-water drains which catch surface water before it reaches the road,


  • scour checks, preventing erosion in the ditches by slowing down the flow of the water,


  • culverts which lead the water from the side drains under the road to the other (lower) side,


  • bridges and drifts which allows the road to cross rivers and streams in a controlled manner throughout the seasons.


In addition, different arrangements may be required for drainage of high water tables to lower the levels of underground water.


Drainage should be taken very seriously within our communities to reduce the incidence of flooding and to curb the spread of diseases related to poor drainage of water.

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Factors that Affect the Selling Price of Your Property

While home owners anticipate high return for their property, estimating the value can be a complex and comprehensive process. There are many factors that can affect the market value of your property. Knowing what factors influence the sale price can go a long way in estimating what the final sale price will be. Below are some factors that can influence what the sale price of your property will be.

The local real estate market

There are customarily three different real estate markets: a seller’s market, when there are lots of potential property buyers and not enough property; a buyer’s market, when there are many properties for sale but not many potential buyers. The third real estate market is a balanced market, when there is an even supply of properties for sale as the number of potential buyers looking to purchase. As with any other commodity, supply and demand influences price.

The location or neighborhood

Residential property located on a busy road generally will have a lower sale price than a home that is on a more quiet area, which is more desirable. There are certain things potential buyers look for in a neighborhood or community while deciding which one to live in. These mainly include: distance from schools, churches, clinics, public transportation, the city, etc.

The condition of the property

Potential buyers will take into account the condition of your property when deciding how much they are willing to pay for it. A home in immaculate condition has a much higher potential for a great sale than one that is lacking the most basic routine maintenance. Buyers tend to look for important conditions like paints, floor covering, walls, ceilings, doors and windows. They may also pay close attention to the plumbing, electrical work, needed repairs, bathrooms, kitchen, and so on.

Upgrades, features, and amenities

There are certain upgrades, amenities, and features that home buyers are looking for which can have an impact on the sale price of a home. High end homes have a higher sale price because of the desirability from the eyes of the buyer. A home or parcels of land that may have similar square footage and location with added features generally have higher sales prices.


Expertise and experience of the real estate professional

Being able to sell a home is not the same as knowing how to sell a home. Hiring an excellent real estate agent or agency will impact the sale price of your property positively. If you are selling, a few things you should expect from the real estate agent include:

  • A comprehensive marketing plan with strong negotiating skills
  • Frequent communication, trustworthiness and honesty
  • Strong online presence with a website, blog and social media
  • Strong negotiating skills
  • Creativity


The motivation level that a homeowner has can greatly impact the sale price. A home that sits on the market because the seller is not motivated, in many cases, will end up getting sold at a lower price than if they were eager to sell from the beginning. If you are selling a home and have doubts as to whether you should sell or not, do not list your home.

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Buying a home for the first time? Do not make these common mistakes!

When purchasing a property, you don’t want to make the wrong move or completely overlook something important. The best thing you can do is educate yourself and be aware of common mistakes buyers make – so you can avoid them and the stress they cause.

  1. Miscalculating the Full Costs of Buying

Buying a house will likely be the biggest financial endeavor of your life thus far. Even with all of the low down payment programs available to first-time buyers, it’s no small feat. Down payment aside, other expenses can really add up. Along the way, there will be a few sunk costs, like paying your home inspector and the appraisal fee. The biggest “hidden cost” that comes as a surprise to first-time home buyers is the closing costs, which cover a wide variety of transactional fees and pre-payments.

Down payment aside, other expenses can really add up. Along the way, there will be a few sunk costs, like paying your home inspector and the appraisal fee.

Closing costs can amount to 2 to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price. The best way to determine a comprehensive list of fees is to speak with all of the key players involved in the transaction (your real estate agent, the lender, the insurance provider, the title company, your attorney, etc.) to get an estimate.

  1. Only Fixating on the House

The house is obviously a very important part of the home-buying equation. But, I would argue that its surroundings are equally important. As a buyer, you are investing in the community and particularly the neighborhood. If you’re relocating to a new area, it’s especially critical to analyze things like crime rate, school systems, amenities and public transportation options. With a little effort, you can scout neighborhoods like a pro.

  1. Being Close-Minded About Inventory

You know the expression, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, the same thing could be said for buying real estate. Sometimes we are put-off by a listing online, especially if the marketing efforts are lacking. Before ruling out a property based on poor-quality photography, run through its other attributes.

The same can be said about neighborhoods and housing types that are outside of your current knowledge base. As a buyer, the best thing you can do is to keep an open mind and fully explore your options.

  1. Letting Emotions Override Your Wallet

Buying a home can be emotional. It can be hard to think logically when a seller has pulled out all of the stops to make you fall in love with his or her home. Trust me, an immaculate and beautifully staged property in your ideal neighborhood may be difficult to pass up. It’s fine to let a home pull at your heartstrings, and to let the emotions help to guide your decision. However, if the financials are a critical driver of your purchase, you’ll want to balance emotions with logic.

I always recommend creating a comparative market analysis to help you determine a home’s fair market value and justify your purchase price.

  1. Getting Distracted by “The Small Stuff”

If you’re new to homeownership, it’s difficult to imagine the responsibility that goes into maintaining a property. Heating/cooling systems, roofs, siding and windows are all fundamental components of a home. Home shoppers love to look at the surface items like finishes and paint colors, but you don’t want to become so distracted that you completely ignore what’s under the hood.

Try to compile a list of the big-ticket infrastructure items and how much life is left in each. Request a disclosure form from the seller and press for answers during your home inspection so that you can budget for repairs.

  1. Blaming Other People When Things Go Wrong

Investing in real estate always holds some level of risk. It’s only wise to make well-researched choices and to hire experts throughout a transaction. Sadly, even with all the good intentions, sometimes things go south. What’s worse is when you feel like you’re stuck holding the bag. Say, you bought a house and quickly find out the finished basement has a water seepage problem. While it would have been nice for the home inspector to catch the issue, it may not have come up in a visual assessment.


Be your own advocate. Ask the hard questions and think about things from a holistic viewpoint. Also, protect yourself. It’s always best to have a reserve fund to cover the unexpected (when and if they should arise).


Lastly, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is an exhaustive list! Every deal is different, but by avoiding these common mistakes you’ll be putting yourself in a stronger buying position.

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What is a typical construction timeline?

Every construction job is different, and from our previous article we discussed the different variables that can affect the construction timeline. However, there are some steps in the process that are standard when it comes to building a home. A construction timeline tailored to the house you are building should be provided before the project begins. If one is not provided there is nothing wrong with asking for one.

According to Home Building Smart, here’s what the average construction timeline might look like:

Pre-construction period

Before you begin, the construction plans and cost estimates should be finalized and your finances (loans, etc.) should be sorted out. This can take one to two months maybe even longer.

Preparing the lot and laying the foundation

This includes clearing out trees, leveling the lot, construction of the foundation and starting the flooring. A month is about the average timeline for this step.

Framing the house and building the roof

Framing usually takes about two months, but can be delayed by the weather. Once the roof is completed: framing and covering, weather is generally less of a hindrance as it allows for different activities to be undertaken within the structure during rain.

Siding and services: electrical and plumbing

Workers will erect internal and external walls of the house, which takes about a month. With the walls in place, rough plumbing and electrical wiring works, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (if included) can be done but the installation of services will be ongoing.

Surface finishing

This is when the inside of your house starts to look like a house, with the work completed. Expect about two months.

Fixture installation and finishing works

In the final two months painting is done in addition to finishing the plumbing and electrical work and hanging of ceiling fans, if any.

Punch list

This is a critical step where you do a final walk through and you and your contractor create a to-do list of little things that still need finishing up to ensure that the work meets your expectations. Make sure you go into this with a critical eye and question anything that seems inconsistent with these expectations.  This is your chance to get your contractor to fix mistakes before you move in.


Some of these steps can overlap, of course, and as previously stated delays along the way can make the job take longer than anticipated.


Have you experienced the home building process? What timeline did it take? Share with us in the comments below.


If you need any clarification on this topic, feel free to email us at

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Variables That Can Affect Your Construction Timeline

Anyone looking to buy a home knows that it is all about compromise. You may find a good home, but the kitchen is smaller than you want. Or the price is within your budget, but the layout is nowhere close to what you are looking for. If you have searched tirelessly and simply cannot find the right home, you may need to have the perfect home constructed. One of the most common questions we get asked is, how long will constructing a home take?


While experts believe that it takes somewhere between 5 months and a year to build a residential building from scratch, there are a lot of variables to consider which can affect the construction timeline, the biggest of which are:-

  • The number of efficient workers on the job each day – the timeline in which your home is completed heavily depends on the amount of individuals working on the construction site. For instance, if you have a large crew more work can be accomplished in a shorter period of time compared to having a small group of construction workers.


  • Type of materials – the materials you choose can also impact your construction timeline. Based on the home you want built, whether it be made of concrete, brick, wood, or a combination of the above mentioned, the time taken to complete will vary. Also whether you desire a concreted roof, galvanized roof, or a tiled roof can affect the timeline.


  • Arrival of materials – one holdup that can be out of your contractor’s hands is the arrival/availability of materials. It is beyond the control of anyone except the company providing the construction materials as to when they will be available. Not having the necessary items when needed can cause your construction project to get off track.


  • The state, location and accessibility of the lot – in instances where there may be an existing building in need of being demolished or the ground where you want to build is in bad shape or steep more time will be added to the duration of the construction project. If the land is located in an area with poor access, transportation of materials can be difficult and result in work being slower.




  • The weather – weather is probably one of the most common factors that can delay construction, especially at the beginning of the job, before the roof is complete. Constant rainfall as well as many other acts of nature can delay your progress. Once you have the walls and roof finished, bad weather isn’t as much of a concern.

What is most important is that you find a contractor or construction firm who you can trust and who communicates with you every step of the way. You need to trust that you are being given a reasonable time estimate. If something feels like it is taking too long, ask your contractor about it. There could be a good reason, but you will not know unless you ask.

Have you experienced the home building process? Are you a contractor yourself? What are your thoughts on the variables shared? Did you experience another factor that affected the timeline of your construction project? Share with us in the comments below.

If you need any clarification on this topic, feel free to email us at