The First Step to Building: Foundation

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

It’s a beautiful thing to be able to look at a vacant lot and picture its potential for development. It’s even more beautiful being able to witness that development come alive. This may be a dream that many people share, but don’t know how to start.

I was lucky to have some insider insight to help my dreams get off the ground: my grandma was a real estate broker and my dad was a general contractor. I grew up witnessing the sale and development of a few projects, but nothing can compare to the anticipation, stress, excitement, stress, satisfaction and stress of undertaking your own project for the first time. As suggested by the title, I’m only at the foundation stage but I’ve already encountered so many lessons that I wish I knew before getting started. So my goal with this blog series is to share that knowledge with anyone else interested in property development.

Step One once the sale closes and your property is secured - is to get your plans drawn up by an architect. If you’re building your dream home, you can work closely with the architect to bring your vision to life, or if you’re young, broke and in-a-hurry like me, you can select some basic plans which the architect has already made.

At this point, I was so ready to get started I would have settled for anything with four walls and a roof, but I also wanted to make sure that I was making a wise choice. As a young, single person without plans to have a family of my own any time soon, I figured that a duplex was the best option for getting the most value out of my property. Thus allowing me to live in one unit and rent out the other, providing a generally safe return on my initial investment. So, I had my architect draw up my basic plans and had them submitted for approval. For details about this stage, check out this article by 1 OAK Bahamas real estate expert Dominic Bain which breaks down the steps involved in submitting your plans.

Thanks to a certain pandemic putting the world on pause for several months, it took 10 months for my plans to be approved. Yes, ten. As frustrating as the wait was, it turned out to be beneficial in the end, considering that I needed time to be able to save up every penny I could for what was to come. My original plan was to get another loan, on top of the mortgage which I took out to purchase my land, to finance the construction of the entire duplex. Like I said in my first blog though, your plans will often change, and when it comes to handling this process in the middle of a pandemic, you have to be more than flexible. I eventually decided to start building out of pocket, which may have been either the wisest or dumbest choice I have ever made. Time hasn’t revealed which one yet, so you’ll have to keep up with these blogs to find out!

The first thing I wish I knew about construction is that “most of the money goes into the ground.” I mean, I figured the foundation would be one of the most expensive aspects, but it really is one of the most expensive aspects. After the devastation of Hurricane Dorian in 2019, I made sure that natural disaster-preparedness was a focal point in my building. For this reason, I wanted my foundation to be extra high, several rows of blocks off the ground, to offer more protection in the case of any potential floods or storm surges. While this may have been more costly, I’m sure that it will pay off in the long run.

Honestly, I anticipate (read: hope) that getting up to the foundation is the most grueling stage. It can seem never-ending having to push out tens of thousands of dollars just to clear the land, mark and dig out the building parameters and buy fill to pack into the foundation once the bricks are laid. We know, however, that the foundation can easily be considered one of the most important aspects of building: without a strong foundation, anything can fall apart. That’s why it’s important not to rush your stages, and also have a qualified contractor who knows what they’re doing. You will also have to get approval from an inspector who will first come along and check your progress at the foundation stage, which may cost you more time and money if you’re not up to the building code standards -- so there’s that.

Now at the inspection stage myself, where I have been waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting) to get approval to move on to the next stage, it’s clearer than ever that I am extremely lucky to have my safety net (Daddy) as my trusted contractor to guide me. I would strongly encourage anyone, especially those without their foot in the industry already, to take as much time as they need to weigh up their options before getting started, but keep your options open if land development is something that interests you. My hope is that as I fumble along, I can offer useful and authentic insight for those who may not have the resources to find out what really goes into the process.

To follow my building journey and keep up with tips along the way, make sure to subscribe to the Major Cay website for updates!

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