When purchasing land or building a home, people sometimes make mistakes that cost them peace of mind, time, and money.
In the hopes of minimising these mistakes, Patries Ramkaran, managing director of Ramkaran Contracting Services Ltd’s The Dream Home Ambassador, hosted a seminar called Home For Me at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Westmoorings, in September. The aim of the seminar was to empower and educate people so that they could realise their dream of owning a home as soon as possible.
“It’s also to provide inspiration and empowerment for people to push though and focus on their dreams despite the challenges, especially the financial ones... There is a power in visualisation and vision and I saw it work for me. I left my full time job to go into my own business. I didn’t just sit and say, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I had to put in the necessary work.”
According to Ramkaran, mindset and vision is important. She said some people are afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone for fear of failure. Therefore, instead of trying to monetise their talents or think outside the box many people stick with their eight-to-four jobs even though their salaries were insufficient to position them closer to those dreams. Her advice? Look for legal ways to generate more money, make sacrifices, go the extra mile because little things add up.
She said as a contractor she realised when people go for an assessment from a financial institution and get a loan they tend to get excited and act without proper planning. They continually lose money because they are unfamiliar with the various processes or what to look out for on the TT market, they hire the first people they meet, they want everything, and do not conduct proper checks and balances. They also get bad advice and their actions lead to delays, re-dos, and cost increases.
Ramkaran recapped some of the information and suggestions from various presenters for Business Day to help limit the mistakes of potential home-owners.
The first piece of advice is to ensure that the real estate agent with whom you intend to do business is registered with the Association of Real Estate Agents. This increases the likelihood of getting redress in the event of a problem with a down payment for land, or unethical behaviour by the agent.
A survey of the land you intend to purchase is highly recommended. If there is already a cadastral sheet or map that indicates the proper boundaries, ensure it is a recent one because many times people buy land and years later have to break down a fence, a wall, or even a piece of their home.
Banks require valuations for financing and they have a listing of pre-approved valuators. Because these valuators are in high demand and usually have many clients, it could take a while before they get around to your intended property. Be prepared to wait.
Development of an area begins with the clearing of a site and building of infrastructure such as roads and drainage. When searching for property locations, keep in mind that prices of pre-development land is usually cheaper than developed. “The advantage with that is that you could save a couple thousand dollars, and you could have preference in terms of choosing your lot location earlier. However, you have a longer waiting period compared to a lot that is developed.”
It is also recommended that your attorney be registered with the Financial Intelligence Unit so any deposit could be held in escrow. “If you go to purchase land or house, the ten per cent normally given to the owner of the property, they recommend for it to be held by the attorney. Let us say for some reason the sale can not be executed because the person selling the land is not the owner or there is some other problem with the land. The purchaser could get back their deposit from the lawyer rather than having to fight a legal battle or losing it altogether.”
DESIGN AND BUILD
Ramkaran explained that an architect designs the layout, proportions, space, and colours of a building while a civil engineer ensures the building would last. The engineer calculates the details of the foundation, placement of columns, and size of walls, including external work such as retaining walls, walkways, driveways, fencing, and drainage.
Draughtsmen, she said, usually do both to acceptable levels for residential buildings and they are usually cheaper than an architect. However, she stressed that a civil engineer should review the structural design to ensure the structure could withstand time and natural disasters, and the draughtsman did not overcompensate for these.
Ramkaran said she has seen many homes across the country that were obviously not approved by the Town and Country Planning Division. She believes most of these were built “out of pocket” because banks would not finance unapproved plans. “As a country we see our legal requirements in terms of submitting for approvals as optional. Most people do it because they need it to get financing. If the banks were not asking for these things, I don’t think citizens would really do it.”
To those “out of pocket” builders, she said the TT Bureau of Standards has a small building guide at $300 per copy. She suggests purchasing it and following its guidelines.
She added that if your Town and Country approval is denied, there is a process to appeal the decision. There would be a hearing in front of a panel where the builder could propose what they want to do on the site, and the request would be considered.
Lastly, contractors. It was suggested that a three-quote system be used where you get quotes from three contractors before choosing one.
However, you do not simply choose any three contractors out of the phonebook. They should be recommended by others – friends, people on the internet, or even ask the contractors themselves to provide references. Contact these references and ask about the quality, cost, and if delivery of the work was on time even before you start to talk business with the contractors.
“It’s a little tedious and a lot of people get anxious because they want to get things done now, and then they end up having to pay more money to get things done properly. It all goes back to planning. You can start to acquire all this information way before you get financing so when you’re ready to start you’d already have done all the preliminary assessments.”