By Lisa Welsch
Okay you’ve purchased the lot that can easily accommodate your dream home in Baja California Sur, now it is time to build it! How do you chose a builder? Who can you trust? Here are a series of suggested questions to interview and find your partner in this upcoming adventure.
1. How many years have you been building in the area?
2. Ask for 5 references and follow up on all. Very important!
3. How long have you been working with your crew? How many are on a permanent basis? Who does electrical and plumbing? What´s your installations (in-wall) crew experience? What´s the warranty time on installations?
4. Who pays social security? Will you provide us copies of all social security payments?
5. What is included in the price? Lights, hardware, carpentry, windows, doors, appliances, water storage, water pump, septic system, mirrors, faucets, etc? Request your contractor a complete and detailed list of allowances.
6. What kind of septic system do you install: 3-stage with grey water? Does it need to be pumped out? A regular septic tank?
7. What kind of plumbing piping do you recommend, PVC or copper?
8. How will payments be made? Do I need to set up a Mexican Corporation and make all payments through it?
9. Do we pay you in Dollars or Pesos? Can we wire funds directly into your account?
10. If we are out of the country, how often do you send updates and photos?
11. Do you guarantee your work and for how long? What is guaranteed?
12. Do you obtain all permits and manifestation of construction? Are all permits and construction documents included on the bid? Or do I have to take care of those?
13. Will you give us a break down of all time and materials used? Do you issue facturas (government official receipts with RFC #’s) not just hand written receipts?
14. What type of building materials are you familiar with?
15. Is A/C included and ceiling fans?
16. What suppliers do you work with?
17. How do you handle change orders?
18. Do you know all the building codes and procedures for building in Baja?
19. Will you assist with obtaining water, electrical and telephone/high-speed internet services? What are the costs to install water and electrical?
20. Are you licensed and registered with all the local government agencies?
21. Are you fluent in Spanish/English?
22. What is your timeframe for the project to be completed? Will a critical path & payment schedule be set prior construction?
23. When the home is completed, is it prepared and cleaned to move-in?
24. Do you survey the land prior to building walls and fences?
25. What kind of contract should we make, fixed price or administration?
It might seem like a lot, but these are some of the questions your builder should feel comfortable answering, which translates into professionalism. I also recommend to have all the answers to in writing and a payment schedule of when to re-plenish the fund. This is a short-term partnership and having plenty of confidence in the process and your builder/contractor will make the relationship and experience a memorable one!
This is a foot note from clients-turned-friends in the midst of building their dream home in Baja:
As I recall one thing hammered on was the importance of getting a comprehensive list of everything that would be included in the price of the house. That means thinking not only about the overall plan and architecture, but also at a granular level. Electrical requirements for instance, such as the placement of electrical outlets (be sure everything is grounded), plumbing requirements including exterior water faucets (be sure all sinks and drains have J-traps, are properly vented and are on a different line than the sewer), Gray water systems, etc. Also think about tile work details because changes can be difficult and expensive. The salty air of Todos Santos, even if you are located on the desert, is an important consideration. Window frames should be anodized aluminum and of as high quality as possible. Hinges and fittings should be solid brass rather than coated steel; avoid painted steel wherever possible, powder-coated steel is the best protection. Use of wood should be minimized due to termites. Finally, consider storm shutters or other hurricane protection as part of your build plan.