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Things To Know Before You Construct Your Dream House

There is a famous saying in Tamil, “கல்யாணம் பண்ணி பார், வீடு கட்டி பார்’’, which translates to mean  ‘conducting a marriage and constructing a house is such an arduous task that you get to realize life and its hardships by the time you are done with both of them’. I have my share of learnings in the construction of my house and still am going through the grind - for over a couple of years now. The project is exhaustive, and painful; while you can't avoid the pain, I guess you can well mitigate it to a large extent by being diligent and curious.

If you are purchasing an apartment, there isn't much you can do and need to worry about. But if you are constructing a house on your own plot, there are a heck a lot of things that could go wrong leaving you exhausted and devoid of your peace of mind. This post is a note to younger self on things to get right for the mega project called "House Construction". 

  1. Government Permissions: Know the touch-points with governments for which you need permissions/licenses - Municipal Water, Drainage, Municipal Tax, Electricity, House Plan Registration, etc. This clearly is the fort of the realtor to squeeze money out of you and still not deliver.
  2. Blue-print: The building structure (the pillar/beams) are dependent on the house Blue-print. Iterate on the house plan to your needs be it Vasthu, utility, safety, etc. before you give it that final nod. If the realtor is kickass, the fully constructed house would not see the beams at all. And truth be told, you don't get to see a realtor who can deliver to this level of perfection. Welcome to the new world order, where the play jugad/hack to cover this deficiency by promoting false-ceilings as superior alternative. Old-schoolers like me see beauty and strength in core stuff. If you are craving for false-ceilings, or any interiors for that matter, wait until the first few rains, to know how good your construction is. Nature shows you the path forward. (There is so much to this one, that this deserves a separate blog. More on this sooner..)
  3. Get the House Plan approved before demolishing your existing house. Your realtor will push you to first demolish you existing house to be rest assured that he has his gig and take control. Beware!
  4. Cost Estimate and Agreements: Ensure that your project cost estimation breakdown has milestones and only upon such milestones the due amount would be delivered. The milestones IMHO, should have penalty clause for time and quality - ideally. 
  5. Shared Ownership/Partnership: In case of shared ownership of property (henceforth called as partners), ensure that all property owners are clear and transparent in what is happening. I had created 2 Whatsapp group, one internal group and other with realtor, for communications to happen in only these channels. Break this process, everyone gets to lose; for it doesn't matter where in the bottom of a boat a crack is, the entire boat sinks. This seemingly simple value system is not only overlooked and broken in workplaces, but often is broken in family too.
  6. If you got partners, and one of them is a mole without responsibility, set clear expectations on his conduct and better to get in agreement to enforce it. Often, an irresponsible person is as dangerous as a greedy one - you are better off to fear both.
  7. The realtor will in a few months into the construction works, will play out emotions to seek advance money than what is agreed upon. It could be anything, from his kids marriage, personal loss, etc depending on what he reads as your weakness. Do not fall prey for it. And beware that they would have a ton of tricks like this that they would keep employing from time to time.
  8. Your Trusted Supervisor: You should have at least one and preferably two experienced people from your family circle or someone you trust, who can supervise the works even if the entire project is given out as a contract. Without this in place, you can take for granted that your money is gone for nothing.
  9. Pest control: Pest control should be administered when the foundation is laid - this is the best time for max impact against pests that can eat your pricey woodwork in your home. You should have a witness and proof of this thing happening.
  10. Roofing: You should personally supervise on the day when they do the roofing for each floor, to ensure that the concrete mixture is done right and poured over. Typically this structure must be tested later for its quality usually by Rebound Hammer Test.
  11. Wedged Window Elevation: Every window should have wedge border as elevation, failing which the water drips inside during the rainy season spoiling your furnishings and thus your peace of mind.
  12. Wet Rooms: Any wet surface rooms like toilet and bathroom when packed out with cement and tiles, be there in person to ensure that water resistant glue is mixed well enough with the cement and the flooring tiles are well bridged with Grout matching the tile color. Gaps between tiles is no small issue. Do not underestimate water - it has a unique way of creeping through pores and weakening the structures or affecting the wall-paints in moisture form.
  13. Painting: Do not paint your house inside first before first painting the outside building, especially during rainy season. You will end up re-painting your inside otherwise. Supervision is required to not just prevent pilferage, but also to ensure right amount of water is mixed with the paint, as prescribed by the company. Also indoor painting for a house should be done only after the walls and floor concrete are tested to be dry enough. 
  14. Do not overpay your realtor. If you do, take for granted that the overpaid money is gone for nothing.
  15. [Will be adding more sooner or later to this list...not done yet!]
Should you believe I missed adding something to the above list or have better solutions to the listed problems, I sincerely would love to learn from your experience.

As thumb rule, you can take for granted that your realtor could potentially be that sweet sounding scamster who has the knack of figuring out the cracks in you and exploiting it. Beware and be alert until your house is done to completion and that you have it audited and certified by a third party person at every milestone.