The Real Estate sector seems to be slowing down , house construction is still going on but the rate of growth has slowed down drastically. This is not surprising as it is a reflection of what is prevailing in the economy. I recently visited Chishawasha and Grange in Harare and witnessed a lot of big and beautiful homes- there was a worrying trend though-homes or mansions that are incomplete !. A lot of people are struggling to complete some mansions that they had started building, we hope that they will complete them when the fortunes of the country improves.

The topic of the day targets first time builders-the problems they encounter and proposed solutions.

Most people make blunders when they build their first homes, most will be excited to have finally secured a residential stand. Running around to have your house plan approved and securing funds to start building. It is a wonderful feeling and building your first home is something that you will remember for the rest of your life!

The advice given below is for first timers who will be engaging individual builders to construct their homes. If you have enough money then you can enter into an agreement with a contractor who will build your house and deliver a complete product. This option is however expensive and this is why most prefer to engage individual builders.

So what are the top 3 problems that you are likely to encounter?

Unscrupulous builders: Here is someone you are going to like or dislike for the rest of your life. Get it wrong and the project is going to be a disaster!  Make sure that you get a reputable builder or contractor to do work for you. First shortlist a couple of builders like 3 or 4 and then do reference checks. Do not do one reference check but more checks of projects that they would have worked on. Choose the one with the best references to do work for you.

Use of Helpers: The builder is likely to recruit helpers or ‘Dhaka boys’. If you do not check what is happening, the helpers can end up building as well. These inexperienced helpers may even be left doing the job whilst the main builder seeks other work. He will only turn up at specific times so as to conceal evidence of absence from work. This practice is rife in Harare and is the number 1 headache for a first time builder as it often results in shoddy work.

Building Material Disappearance: Most builders get money from selling excess building materials, this is a given. They make you buy more cement and sell the extra bags. They can even say we have run out of cement so that  you can compensate for the stolen cement bags. This practice of stealing building materials starts from the foundation up to roofing level. When you involve them in drafting a bill of quantities, chances are high that they will be including their ‘profit share’ in the materials to be purchased.

Proposed solutions

We have mentioned the need to vet builders as a starting point, discuss with others who have built houses or will be building in your area. They will give you tips on the top risks of engaging independent builders to construct your first house. Secondly we encourage you to be involved in certain critical stages of building your home such as the foundation.

The rule number 1 of building your home is that’ You should be physically available’ when your foundation is being built. In your planning, take leave for a few weeks from your employment and ensure that you oversee the construction of your foundation. Do not second anyone-you should be physically available, get an independent expert to assist you if you can afford. Most builders are unscrupulous and will find ways of duping you during this stage because this is where most of the funds are used. This is where you spend more money on cement, bricks and more. For the unethical builder-the foundation represents a cash cow! This is where they make the most money through stealing materials.

Can you use a relative to oversee the foundation construction?

We mentioned above that you should be physically present right? Now what if you are busy and decide to second a relative to the project? A good friend of mine seconded a close relative to the project and guess what happened? The relative ended up conniving with the builders and stealing building materials! He thought everything was right only to be shocked when he found a lorry fetching cement at his construction site. So the fact is -do not trust anyone with overseeing your construction project especially at critical stages such as the foundation stage. If you are in the Diaspora then it can be worse-expect ridiculous prices, shortages and missing building materials. If you are not physically present then expect prices to shoot by more than a half.

After ensuring that the foundation is complete, you can leave the builders to finish the construction knowing fully well that  your home will not crack in future because of looted building materials. Do take leave again when roofing your home because this is another critical stage like the foundation where a lot of money is used and thus presenting high risk with carpenters selling roofing materials if not closely monitored.

So there you are, do monitor your construction projects and make sure you are physically present at certain critical stages. Do not miss our next article when we feature Zimbabweans building homes in Australia.



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