Any building work is an investment that could improve your lifestyle and be a pleasant experience or it could be something that you would rather forget about. How you approach it will determine which of the two it will be.
The first thing to do before you even start your planning is to have a look at the Title Deed of your property. The Title Deed will have a list of what can and what can not be done on your property. The conditions set in it will always override the Council Zoning regulations for your area. Depending on the particular clause, certain restrictive clauses can be removed but this is a long process (anything from 9 months onwards) and will cost a fair amount to achieve (budget on R25 000). It is also possible that certain clauses in your Title Deed do not need to be removed but can be relaxed by your local council. It will be prudent to check your Title Deed with your local Council Building Department before you get too far into your planning. This will be one of the first documents that an architect will ask for when starting any project as there is little point spending time and money on a design that is not going to be permitted.
The second thing to check is what the Council Zoning regulations for your particular area will allow you to do. There are always restrictions on how far from any site boundary you may build, things like overlooking features if you are thinking about extending upwards, maximum site coverage and many other items will be indicated. The Zoning regulations will also restrict what you may or may not use the property for, ie. A ‘granny flat’, B&B, consulting rooms, business premises as opposed to just extending your personal accommodation.
Some of the zoning regulations may be relaxed my the council if you are able to obtain consent from the registered owners of the properties around you. If there are objections to what you are proposing to do, then you may face difficulties in getting your plans approved.
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Your choice of architect or designer will also make a difference to the end result and thus to the ultimate value of your home. There is no substitute for experience and you will almost always get what you pay for. Choose your architect or designer with the same care that you would take if you were going to appoint someone to invest the same value of money that you would have used for your building alteration in some investment fund or other for you. It will make a visible difference to your end result if you choose your designer wisely.
The most important point to consider is always going to be your builder. There are some builders that will start and finish your project on time without giving you any difficulties and they will leave with a good recommendation from you. Then there will be those who will turn what could be a good experience into a nightmare. The question to ask yourself is, which one are you prepared to pay for. A good guide would be to find out which builder needs a big deposit in order to start your project (or finish off his last one) and which one is in a position to fund the first 10% of your build and thus also be able to sign a recognized Building Contract (JBCC or Master Builders) and provide the guarantees required by those contracts. It must be noted that the builder’s quote is not a contract and by signing it, you only bind yourself to the builder’s price with no protection for yourself.
If a builder is not able to fulfill the requirements of a legal contract then you need to question his financial ability to successfully complete your building on time and within budget. There have been many cases where the owner has ended up paying more for a build when using an unregistered builder than he would have spent if he had used a slightly more expensive registered builder and a recognized contract in the first place.
Building can be a pleasant experience but much of it will depend on the choices that you make.
You can find more articles by Les Abbott of L A Design Studio here.