Asking the right questions - How much does it cost to build a house?

You will most likely only undertake one major building project in your lifetime - and this will be your dream home. Statistically speaking this is true for most people. This is why you need to ensure you are well prepared before you get started. Make sure you ask the right questions before you start building.

1. Can I afford it?

The most important question of all is “Can I afford it?, How much does it cost to build a house?”. Start by calculating the construction costs of the building, the fence or wall surrounding the property, connecting water and electricity, building permits and make sure to include some extra money (about 10%) for unforeseen costs. has a very good article on calculating your construction costs and how to save money during construction which you can see here. If your budget is on the limit make sure you have extra time to complete construction in which you can get the funds needed before you get kicked out of your rented apartment.

2. Do I have the time?

Construction requires a lot of your time. You must select a plan, select materials, colours, doors, sinks, tiles, fixtures etc. You must oversee payments to the contractors or labourers, get building permits, deal with your water department and electric company for them to make connections - and so much more. It sounds very intimidating but this is something that you will learn very naturally as long as you are involved in the process. Just make sure you have the time to deal with it all. Expect a realist timeline of 8 months to 2 years of construction. And even longer if you are on a small budget or building using your monthly income.

3. Is the location the right one?

So you have bought a plot and now you are ready to start building. But is the plot in the right place? Once you get started with construction there is usually no stopping and you can no longer change your mind on the location. Ask yourself the following: Do I like the neighbours? Is it a noisy location? Is there access to water and power? Are the roads passable during the rainy season?

4. Who will supply the building materials?

In most cases it is worth employing a contractor to undertake all work. You go into an agreement with the contractor who then ensures all materials are purchased as per drawings and agreements. The contractor will also ensure safety of construction materials on site. It is cheaper to purchase materials yourself but if you do not have very good security you will find materials disappearing from the building site without your knowledge which ends up costing much more in the end. Unless you are experienced or have done enough research it is better to have a number of contractors make bids on the project and you can select the cheapest option.

5. How many bricks do I need?

This is a very common but not very relevant question. If you are using bricks (or concrete blocks), like 92% of buildings constructed in an urban area, then the cost of bricks will only amount to about 10% of the total construction cost. You can find a cost estimate calculator for each house plan from which will give you a good indication of the total costs involved for each plan. Alternatively, you can get Bill of Quantities prepared for your project which will give you an even more accurate cost estimate including a detailed list of all materials required.

6. How do I select a home builder/ contractor?

The first thing the contractor must have is experience. The more experience the better and faster he’ll be. The contractor will also know how to minimise costs and therefore will charge you less. Secondly, ask the contractor to show you work that he has undertaken previously. Talk to people the contractor has worked with and get feedback. This is your biggest investment so make sure you have the right person for it. Don’t select a contractor on face value but rather make thorough research and base your selection on facts, references and positive feedback. A contractor should also know your local building regulations so you don’t get troubles from the local government. Prepare a list of questions and meet with several contractors before making your final decision.

7. Will the house be properly secured?

When you are still making a decision on what your dream will look like it is important to know that you will be able to live securely in it. If the neighbourhood is not safe make sure you have burglar bars and a secure perimeter wall or fence. Less doors and windows give you more security so select a plan which reflects this if you are concerned about your safety. Ask yourself whether you can add steel grills to the doors in your selected plan if they will be needed.

8. Do I have the right plans?

Make sure you have the right plans by talking to a professional. A plan should work with your plot and the surroundings, the local building codes, your taste and requirements, your budget, and much  more. You can contact professionals at in case you need assistance with selecting the perfect plan for your dream home.

9. What design style should I go with?

This question is closely related to the issue of costs and security. The more “fancy” a design is, the more it will cost. Let’s say you want a design with large windows the price will be higher than installing small windows. Likewise, large windows are less secure. Keep in mind that all additional elements or decorations translate to additional costs. With most designs it is possible however to add decorations at a later stage once your budget allows you to.


Deciding to build a home means essentially devoting your life, free time, and patience toward the project for many months. I love my custom home – it’s practically a member of the family. But I definitely wouldn’t recommend the process to the faint of heart or to couples in an already-rocky of marriage. Take your time and check out your options before breaking ground on your own home.