Today it is very unlikely indeed that a one-off home build for a client will be cheaper than one built several years ago, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group.
The reason for this, he says, is fairly obvious: while the majority of existing homes took a knock in the recession and at one stage lost anything between 10 and 50% of their original values, building materials and building labour costs continue to rise.
Today a 20 year old three bedroom home in, say Plumstead, might cost R1 million to R1,2 million. Buying the stand, building the same home and equipping it with modern materials would probably result in a price of at least 35% more.
However, says Rawson, the satisfaction and pleasure of helping an architect design exactly the home you want and then seeing it take shape are so great that there will always be certain discerning individuals who will go this route – despite the difficulties of finding a suitable site often experienced at the Cape.
What advice does Rawson give to such people?
“As I have said elsewhere,” says Rawson, “it is important to get an architect who (a) sticks to the agreed budget, even if this, as he will possibly tell you, ‘compromises’ the appeal of the home he is designing for you and (b) to find an architect or a project manager who knows how to draw up a tender so that the contractor quotes on 99% of the work and materials that will be required for the building at the outset. This will prevent the contractor charging for a long list of ‘extras’.
“Another very important piece of advice,” says Rawson, “is to get a geotechnical engineer to check the ground conditions. If piling or considerable rock removable becomes necessary, this can make the whole project far too expensive and non-viable.
“I have,” says Rawson, “seen homes where unforeseen substructure costs added literally hundreds of thousands of rands to the bill, much of which would probably not be recoverable on a resale.”
It should be said, says Rawson, that South African architects are among the world’s best – a statement that will not be accepted by many Europeans and Americans but which in his view has been proven time and again.
“The fact is that designing for a sunny climate, often on beautiful sites and not being hampered by an overwhelming plethora of nearby historic buildings does encourage our architects to be more bold and innovative than most of those that I have seen in Europe and America. This is particularly evident to me at the V&A Waterfront, which, being an interesting working harbour, where the historic buildings have been integrated with great sensitivity, is in my view the world’s best tourist harbour precinct with none of the kitsch characteristics found so often at other waterfronts.”