Building your home in Ghana – what you need to consider

28 October

homeThe home is arguably the most important place in our daily lives. Many people want to build their own homes; however, some find the inherent challenges far too overwhelming and others simply don’t know how to get started. In this article, we’ll answer the most burning questions that first-time home builders have.

First of all, it’s important to note that anyone can become a homeowner – but it all depends on your wants and needs, and how disciplined you are in attaining that dream. Factors including location, functionality, size, budget and lifestyle, all come into play when considering homeownership.

Location – This plays a big role from an investment point of view. Better locations yield better long-term value for the money spent on land acquisition and construction. Location is also important depending on your lifestyle and profession, as well as schools for your children. If you work from an office, you’ll likely want to own a home close to your place of work; but the closer your place of work is to the center of town, the more it’ll cost you to own a home nearby. However, if your job doesn’t require you to leave your home or be stationed at a specific location, you’re left with plenty of options. In considering a location, be mindful of the growth trajectory of the city; in other words, where are people moving? Statistics show that Oyibi, Oyarifa, Tema Community 25, and Prampram are among the key areas seeing population increases, making them the new big settlement zones.

Budget – Settling on a fair balance between what you want and what you can reasonably afford is very helpful when it comes to owning a home; your budget and your preference need to meet somewhere in the middle. An initial investment is required when moving to a new home – furnishing, bills and moving costs – all of which diminishes your savings. It’s therefore imperative to grow your personal capital and improve your financial standing before you initiate the home construction process. This advanced planning safeguards against abandoned and unfinished homes. Quit spending so much on rental apartments and start saving towards your future building project.

Plan – Being strategic, highly organized, knowing the plan you have for your life, and making sacrifices all go a long way to fostering informed decisions around home acquisition. Areas such as Spintex and East Legon were once considered too far from the action, but over time, these places have developed and become increasingly populated – and now, they are not considered so remote after all. COVID-19 has also given rise to flexibility and work from home options in various parts of the world, including Ghana, so it can be extremely worthwhile to take advantage of these options when considering a move.

Land acquisition can be the biggest headache, because it poses plenty of risks and challenges. Some of these include land that has been sold to multiple people by an individual or different members of the same family or land guards. However, these risks can be mitigated by performing your due diligence on the property you want to own. You can ascertain the ownership of the land you want to purchase by obtaining a search report through the Land Registration Department. Usually, the owner will provide you with a site plan for the search, but it is advisable to hire your own surveyor for this purpose. Occasionally, a site plan will be provided for a different property rather than the land being purchased, which poses clear issues. Once you’ve completed the search and acquired the legal documents indicating that the person who owns the land is the actual person selling the land to you, you can proceed with far greater confidence. Following the search, you must file for a building permit through the Assembly.

One way of getting information about the land you intend to purchase is to do an environmental search. This involves visiting the neighborhood surrounding your prospective land. Identify and chat with the local vendors, workers and labourers. This will give you valuable intel on the situation you are getting into. If someone else lays claim to your land after you paid for the land, it is important to remain calm, maintain the peace and work together with the other party to solve the issue and catch the wrongdoers.

The type of construction project depends on the individual’s intention – whether it is a primary home or a prestige project. A prestige project or dream home can be a tall tree to climb and can often drag on for a long time. There are few instances in which the builder is constructing their first home – which happens to be their dream home – and they have sufficient resources to see the project through. For the average person, this just isn’t the case; their intention is driven by the need for a roof over their head.

For most people, the key priorities for the construction process should be what is affordable and what is required. Think about functionality before form and beauty. It is more practical to build inside out, which means building the house around your needs. Share your requirements with the architect, who can then design your house around those needs.

When you have enough capital for construction, it is easier to build quickly. This means you must plan towards your project and have a clear idea of how it will be financed. Some people save, trade expensive assets for less expensive ones to free up some money, take a loan, borrow from friends and family or adjust their lifestyles to ensure the success of the project. If you are unable to complete the project in one go due to restricted funds, then have an architect draw an incremental plan that can gradually expand in phases. For example, if your dream is to eventually build a four-bedroom house, you can start with a one- or two-bedroom home to occupy in the meantime. This frees up all the money that you would have spent on rent, which can then be invested in your future home. By starting small, you can still dream big and scale quickly, reducing the stress inherent in a big building project. Another consideration for a project like this is future plans and lifestyles. The house can be constructed so that when the need arises, it can be partitioned into different units and rented out for income.

In Ghana, the wide availability of land has enabled the construction of unnecessarily large homes. We need to think about the function of the spaces we are building and come to terms with building reasonably sized homes and spaces. A lot of people copy blindly from other homes they have seen without considering the functionality and how the space will serve them. Bigger spaces require more tiles, more paint, and generally more furnishings, which all take more time and money to complete. In comparison, smaller spaces allow you to complete the project faster while spending a manageable amount of money. Also, going basic instead of springing for fancy building materials and finishes will help keep the cost to a minimum and give you the financial freedom to explore and put your money elsewhere.

Find a good architect who will design a building that caters to the local climate and takes into consideration factors like the wind direction, sun direction, and so on. This will provide your house with enough light, ventilation, good drainage, etc. and will also save you from expensive bills long term. Most people avoid architects due to the hefty fees attached, but not using their services will cost you more in the long run.

Communal building is one of the best ways to tackle a project, even though it’s not a very popular route to owning a home in Ghana. Collaborating on buying the land, walling the land, and buying tools and materials cuts down costs significantly for all parties involved. If you decide to go with this method, ensure that all parties involved sign a legal agreement.

To buy or to build? This is a question to ponder for a lot of people. Skill, time, energy, and tenacity are required to build your own home. If you are lacking in these key areas, it is better to buy from a credible developer who can provide you with a warranty in case you encounter any issues with the home.

No place is too far to live in Accra because development is on the rise and in a few years, even the outer suburbs will become part of the developed city. There are many places that were once considered too far from town but over the course of a few years, they have become bustling neighborhoods full of residents and amenities. A few lifestyle changes like commuting to and from work outside of rush hour can be very helpful to gain more time out of your day. When it comes to owning a home, you need to make sacrifices, be very strategic and have a great plan and vision in place; above all, always perform your due diligence on any property you want to own. With some discipline and determination, anyone – even you – can become a homeowner.

One location which is making it possible for people to live their homeownership dreams is Appolonia City, Greater Accra’s new city. The mixed-use development located between Oyibi and Afienya has incorporated the highest standards of infrastructure making it a suitable location to build your home or buy a new home.