San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tips for Redoing or Expanding Your Home

SO you finally bought your dream home, and all it needs are a few changes. The master bedroom could be a bit bigger, the kitchen could be a little more modern and it might be nice to add on another room just to give the place more space. This is a very common scenario in Costa Rica, as more and more people purchasing houses decide to have them updated or expanded.

According to Kelly Kastelz, of Michigan Builders and Construction, and Bruce Cohen, of A1 Master Builders, people who wish to add on to their homes in Costa Rica should do several things to ensure  the addition is what they want and complies with municipal regulations.

THE first step in adding on to your home is checking with the municipality where the property is located. Owners must verify all property taxes due are paid up, or permits will not be granted.

Municipal planners can also tell landholders how much of their property they can use for construction, and how far they can extend on the property.

Once the amount of room available is known, the next step is to find an architect to help you design the addition to fit in the space.

“A good architect will be willing to work with the builder you select to make sure that your addition is exactly what you want,” Kastelz said. Architect fees will usually be about 5% of the construction cost, he said, with design plans running an additional 1% of the budget.

WITH plans completed, it is time to find a builder and begin the construction. A builder should look over plans and survey the house before giving an estimate.

When meeting with a builder, owners should discuss their budget. If they have or are willing to spend only a certain amount, make sure that is addressed up front. By doing this, they can go over what areas they are willing to spend more or less on.

The builder should do an up-front inspection of the area on which he or she will build, and examine the house’s plumbing, structure, foundation and electrical wiring.

Some people find it easiest to hire a full-service builder, who will take care of securing all necessary permits, connect you with a designer and other things that will come up during the process.

Others prefer to hire each individual separately and have a more hands-on role in the work.

TO secure a construction permit, a National Insurance Institute (INS) policy that covers insurance for workers must be submitted along with a list of construction workers.

Some builders, such as Michigan Builders and Construction, include all of this in their fees. The requirements for a permit vary by municipality, and some are stricter than others.

The cost of a permit is usually based on the space in square meters that is being constructed or on a percentage of the estimated overall addition cost.

After the builder has given an estimate, contracts are written up. Kastelz says he uses two separate types. The first is an allinclusive quote. What this means, he explained, is that if something unexpected comes up during the construction process, the builder has permission to go ahead and make the necessary adjustments.

Some people who are not on an extremely tight budget tend to find this the most convenient approach, he said.

THE second type of contract Kastelz uses is an open contract, which involves getting separate pricing for each individual area. In these cases, when something unforeseen comes up, the builder and client need to go back and figure out how they want to go about making the changes.

Cohen said he tends to prefer an itemized contract. In larger jobs, he often accounts for the possibility of minor changes, Cohen said, but takes the same approach as Kastelz with major changes, in that he informs the customer and then readjusts the price.

“What I tell people is that when I make my initial quote, I assume the structure was done correctly. That isn’t always the case, and when that happens then I go over possible options with them,” Cohen said.

BEING open to additional costs is essential when remodeling or adding on to a house, according to builders.

Kastelz recommends allotting an extra 3-5% of your total budget for small changes.

“It’s impossible to know exactly what you’re going to get when you add on,” he said. “You can’t see into walls. For example, you might find that the wiring is done differently than you thought and you have to make changes.”

Kastelz also recommends checking with the Costa Rican Association of Architects and Engineers, which can provide information and give you a good idea what to expect as far as pricing, he said.


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