Sunday, May 17, 2009

Difference between custom built house construction and commercial building projects

Designing as per your requirements and constructing a house in your land is not exactly similar to buying an apartment or villa from a builder. In the case of buying a house from a builder you have no say or control on the following
1. Design of the house
2. Structural design for the building
3. Quality control on construction
4. Price of the finished product
5. Specifications of all input materials, items used for construction
6. Payment schedules
For any such builder who offers an apartment or villa, all specifications including detailed bill of materials are available with him. Just like any other manufacturer he prices his product with margins as high as 50 % to even up to 200% or more against his input costs which are under his control to a great extent as he is not liable to be cross checked or inspected for any aspects of construction till finish of project with specifications already frozen by the builder and accepted by buyer. In most of the cases builder gets more than adequate advance of funds from the buyer. A buyer who books the apartment or villa before commencement of construction gets a price less than the price which a buyer on completion of project is offering. That does not mean that the buyer before construction gets price with very low margin to the builder. Builder in turn gets much higher margin from buyer approaching him on completion or nearing completion stage of the project.
In situation where the demand for the house is in excess of construction projects available, naturally the margin of the builder goes up. This enhancement of margin is treated as price increase by the buyers when actually there need not necessarily be a cost increase in inputs of construction. Another point to be noted here is that almost all builders form a cartel just like any other organized business sector so that price levels are kept at a higher level to maximize profit for that class of builders or business group
In India there is not exactly an economic recession. May be there is an economic growth slow down with GDP growth coming down from 9% to as low as 6%.This economic slowdown has not produced any price reduction in the case of cost of inputs to any industry. Huge margins of business segments operating with cartelized pricing has come down as a result of lesser demand for their products and services. That does not mean that basic prices for construction inputs have come down. In fact basic raw material and labour costs are always gradually increasing with time.
When we take up construction of your house, we are not acting like a usual builder of apartments or villas.
We design your house specifically for your plot considering its peculiarities and specific features and your requirements to the extent possible considering limitations of plot, architectural, structural and Vasthu constraints.
Estimate we prepare is based on the available data considering present basic input costs. Unlike usual builders we are not operating with frozen design and specifications. Design parameters and specifications can be changed by mutual discussions and as per professional suggestions from our side to improve quality, utilty and better appearance and finish of the house at any stage. Initial estimate prepared may not have considered many aspects like details of exact specifications works after completion of structural work like Electrical, plumbing, flooring, painting, interior wood work, landscape work, compound wall work etc.Initial estimate simply gives you an indication of cost that can be expected based on data available prior to construction.
Basic input costs for construction can go up or come down depending upon market conditions (These market conditions are not cartel pricing changes by a small business community) During one year or more required for completion of the house basic input costs can vary and therefore even rates indicated by us in initial estimate for various items of construction can also change.
In clearer terms you are actually acting as a manufacturer of the house with complete freedom to suitably modify specifications for construction of the house at every stage of construction. Unlike a builder in the building business class, we ensure that every design details are fully correct and the best possible without limiting or compromising to bring down input costs to maximize profit.Infact unit costs for each item in the construction indicated in the estimate has not considered not more than 10% margin for our work. Unlike a commercial builder operating with huge margins, we may not be able to absorb input cost increases and increase or decrease in input costs will have to be passed on to you. This is precisely why we give stage estimates prior to each stage of construction which are binding on us for the billing to take place immediately after that particular stage of construction.
A commercial builder can give a square feet cost for construction as he is operating with frozen specifications and quality not counter checked even by his customer and margin of operation known only to him protected by his competitors due to cartel pricing. In reality if you look at cost of building construction on the basis of input costs, there is no meaning for the term, square feet cost. For details on this you can refer to my blog entry on square feet cost
Initial estimate given naturally cannot correctly quantify or assess data for finishing work for a custom built house .Data for these will be available at that stage based on our mutual discussions and finalisation considering also your funds availability at that stage
Contractors do not give an almost realistic costing indication to the prospective client as the client is likely to seek alternative arrangements thinking that the cost indication is high. Alternate contractor will also try to mislead the potential customer with less cost indication in the beginning as the client will have no other option other than sticking to the contractor after commencement of work and realizing the fact that no builder or contractor is insulated from varying basic cost inputs except when quality of construction can be compromised.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Design and Construction of house

I keep getting mails from Keralites living in different parts of world saying that he/she intend to construct house in Kerala. Most of them simply ask me how much it will cost to construct a house without even bothering to tell even the place for construction. Most of them simply think that construction of a house is as simple as going and buying something from the market. It is definitely not that simple
1. Prepare a list of what you need in the house
Starting point for construction of a house is preparing a list of what all rooms, facilities you need in the house. Try to make this list after detailed discussions and obtaining inputs from all members of the family. Of course later while discussing with an Architect he may suggest changes and improvements on this wish list based on his knowledge and experience in designing and building houses for many
2. Site visit by Architect
Site visit by an Architect is essential for him to properly visualize your dream home. An experienced Architect can see in his mind how the house should look when completed. If the Architect is well versed in Vasthu, he can also decide on appropriate positions for each room as per Vasthu requirements. A well designed plan is the most important aspect of construction of a house. Even if you pay more for a good design by obtaining a better qualified and experienced Architect, you will save lakhs of rupees and can avoid inconveniences and wastage of space that can occur due to improper design
3. Finalising the Plan
Based on initial requirement details given by you, Architect will prepare a plan showing positions and dimensions of rooms, doors and windows. From the plan drawing you may not be able to understand properly features of the Plan. Hence it is better to get a detailed briefing from the Architect on features of the plan, advantages and disadvantages of the Plan. It will also be better if you obtain a second opinion on the plan from an equally qualified and experienced Architect and try to discuss points raised by second consultant with the first consultant so that you can be sure that the plan prepared is the best considering your site conditions, requirements and financial arrangements
4. Engineering Estimate
Before finalising on the plan try to get an Engineering estimate giving item wise costing at least for the structural part of the building as interior and finishing works can be estimated after completion of structural part of the building depending upon your financial condition at that stage. On the finishing work to be done you will get a clearer picture after the structural work as you can visualize better works required at that stage. If structural costing is not within your reach you can revise the plan at that drawing stage itself rather than waiting for changes after commencement of work
5. Selecting a contractor for the work
While a selecting someone to carry out the work you should try to get someone associated with a professional Architect who will follow procedures of work strictly as per quality standards of an Architect/Engineer with proper structural design for each steel and concrete parts of the building. You should not simply go for the lowest quotation as it can be costly for proper construction of your building in the long run
Like above points there are several matters to be carefully implemented during design and construction of house. You can mail me for free consultation on any stage of construction of your building by writing to
You will get a prompt reply from me

Buying land in Kerala for house construction

When you want to buy land in Kerala for the purpose of constructing a house, several aspects has to be considered and verified before you make a decision on land purchase
1. Technical aspects
First of all, try to buy original land without any filling during the last ten years. Construction cost especially foundation cost can go high with concrete piling even for two storied building if you buy filled up land which was originally marshy land with clay . When you buy land in Cochin most places of Cochin are filled up land without even a trace of sand for several meters depth
Plot should have free access to road with at least seven feet width and preferably not less than 10 feet width. If you buy land without road wide enough for easy passage of truck, transporting construction materials to site will become very costly
As per building rules you have to leave 3M from front road and from sides 1 or 1.2 M if the side of the plot does not have any road or even private passage. In the case of passages ending with dead end coming in sides, you will have to leave minimum 2 M in that side. Otherwise for a regular road on sides, you will have to again leave 3M on the sides also. Thus a plot having roads on all sides will have much less space for building when you have to comply with Kerala Building rules. In the case of a normal two storied building you will have to leave 1.5 M on the rear side also
Plot should preferably have larger length in the side where it faces road. Do not simply go by area of the land usually referred in Kerala as cents. One cent is an area of the land which is equal to 435 square feet. A plot with lesser dimension in the side facing road with larger depth will be inconvenient for construction of the house and due to lesser frontage your Architect will not be able to design a house with better front appearance for such a plot
A plot should preferably have not less than 12 M frontage for small plots. But for bigger plots frontage length of about 25 M will be better. Even though too much depth will not be of much use, for smaller plots again 12 to 15M depth is preferred when you have an almost equal or nearer frontage length. For bigger plots again depth of about 20 M is preferred
You have to check up with local authority whether the plot is included in any of the government schemes. If so you may not get building permit after buying the land for construction of house
As you may not be fully aware of all aspects it is better to get the plot inspected by a technically qualified person experienced in construction of houses before you decide to buy the plot
2. Vasthu aspects
As per Vasthu plot with road facing the following directions in that order is best suited for construction of house
1. East
2. North
3. West
4. South
However Vasthu stipulates ideal positions for rooms for houses facing each direction. Even for house s facing south, there is no problems expected if you follow instructions for South facing house as per Vasthu while preparing Plan of the house by properly placing each type of room of the house
You should avoid buying plot where a road or passage ends. This plot is expected to bring all sorts of problems and misery to those who live there
There are several other aspects to be considered as Per Vasthu before you buy a plot of land. Hence it is better to get the land inspected by a Vasthu consultant before you decide to buy the plot
3. Legal aspects
You have to get all documents related to the land verified by a lawyer experienced in civil cases. The following documents will have to be obtained in original before making payment for the land in addition to what additional documents a lawyer may call for after examining documents related to the land which you plan to buy
1. Original deed
2. Original previous deed if the property was not divided earlier and copy of previous deed if the property was divided prior to earlier transaction
3. Land tax receipt in the name of seller issued by concerned Village office
4. Possession certificate issued by concerned village Office in the name of seller
5. Location certificate issued by concerned Village office in the name of seller
6. Non encumbrance certificate for 14 years issued by concerned Registrar office
You will also have to get services of a reliable document writer for carrying out all formalities related to purchase of property. If you can get the services of a professional agency like ours who will arrange and coordinate all the above by various agencies together, it will be better and less troublesome for you as a buyer of land