We all have different priorities after landing our first “good” jobs after graduating from university. Most people choose to buy their first car, earn a postgraduate degree, get married, or work hard to get job promotions, all before they get to building a house for themselves. This is because they perceive building a house as a daunting challenge that drains time, finances, and other resources.
Having lived in a rented house for most parts of my life, owning a house was more important to me than a Master’s degree, a car, a job promotion, or a wife. So five years ago, when I was 23 years old, I started building my house. Today I’m happy to say that the house is 80% complete.
If you, like me, believe that it’s time for you to own a home is now and not when you are 40 years old and tired, then you’re at the right place. Keep reading.
1. Be frugal – Building a house can take 6 months or even 10 years depending on your financial position and attitude towards the project. Once you have the financial aspects of the project covered you need to be disciplined enough to follow through with everything because a lot of sacrifices will have to made on this journey. This means you might have to give up certain comforts now to be able to pay for an aspect of the project later. You have to be frugal as possible and save the rest of your income after you have handled your most basic needs. Discipline will ensure you meet your targets at each phase at the least cost (monetary & non-monetary). It will also ensure that you get the best out of every situation you will find yourself in on this journey. Save and act!
2. Save – Based on how you do your planning, your cash inflows, and challenges you can complete 2-3 phases (walling, foundation, block work, roofing, electricity & plumbing, plastering & screed, windows & main doors, ceiling, miscellaneous aesthetics) a year. Save and act! A financial plan is the key to everything else. There were many times when my salary hit my account and I wasn’t excited about it, because it was going to be used to pay off someone the following day and I would have to hustle all the way through to the end of the month. This doesn’t have to be the case for you. You can decide to save for the 1st three quarters of the year and act in the fourth quarter. However, based on my experiences, I suggest executing plans within the 1st or 2nd quarters of the year since business is usually slow after Christmas and owners may be trying to clear old items or recover from their expenditure during the festivities (especially for the informal material suppliers). Need help tracking your spending and saving? Read this article about the personal finance apps Hacking Adulthood recommends.
3. Buy ahead and in bulk – The prices of goods are always going up in this country but unfortunately you can’t really do much about it. In order to save yourself from all the “I should have bought this when I had the chance” moments, look out for great deals. For instance, in my case I bought extra blocks at the time of starting my foundation, so after completing the foundation and recovering from that financial burden we went right to the laying of the blocks. Also, after laying of the bricks to the lentil level I got several quotations on the cost of electrical and basic materials involved – mainly pipes and wiring. I then purchased a large number of pipes and wires and stored them in my rented accommodation. Prices of electrical items have increased over 70% since I started my project, so purchasing these basic items early saved me a lot of money when I begun with the wiring phase.
However, be sure not to buy cement in bulk unless you have adequate and optimum storage facilities. This is because cement has a limited storage life when packed in bags; cement bags are vulnerable to water vapour and will absorb moisture if exposed to rain and water. And you don’t want your bags exposed to moisture because moisture will cause the cement to set and harden, which means that you have to discard it. If you don’t have optimum storage facilities, you can pay a wholesaler deposits for certain quantities of cement to be stored and supplied to you in future.
4. Supplement your income – If you have a skill set that can earn you extra money aside your 8-5, please harness it. It will go a long way towards bringing you some financial relief. My 8-5 job wasn’t earning me enough, so I started doing side jobs such as helping undergraduates with their theses, helping people to get passports, basic administrative work, and buying and selling phones.
5. Focus on the basics – This your first house, not your last, so a minimalist approach is best. I would suggest building a 2 bedroom house with room and a foundation for vertical or horizontal expansion. A 2 bedroom house will cost less and can be completed earlier than a 3 or 4 bedroom one. Regarding the design: you can do it yourself–Google and a foreman are your friends. And while you’re at it, pick straight lines over curves since curves mean spending more on basic materials. You don’t need a garage; that’s an extra room. After your house is done and things settle down, you can go and do the fancy stuff – expansion or building another house.
I would say that with GHS 80,000 (using old louvre blades instead of glass windows) to GHS 120,000 cedis at current prices, excluding cost of land, you could build a 2 bedroom house. Hopefully that’s doable for you with all the tips above. Get saving and get started!
By Guest Hacker George Sekyi Mensah
George is a former Manchester United supporter who likes to read biographies and comics. If he could start building at 23, you can too.