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Building advice from registered professionals

Building advice from registered professionals

The short answer is – appoint qualified, experienced and certified building consultants. Only an architect or quantity surveyor (QS) registered with the Namibian Council for Architects & Quantity Surveyors (NCAQS) may call themselves by these titles.

Only a registered Architect or Quantity Surveyor can call themselves by this title, for instance a nurse may not call him or herself a medical Doctor. For the same legal reason, only a registered architectural or Quantity Surveyor practice, carrying public liability insurance, and registered with the NCAQS, may issue an invoice for consulting work of this nature. This is to protect you, the public.

Selling your property

Both architects and quantity surveyors can advise on repairs, alterations or even cost-effective additions, to increase a market valuation and make your property sell fast. They also handle the tedious task of advising on items for council compliance, arranging and contracting minor works adjustments to satisfy the inspector, and ensuring “as built” plans are correct. They can do this faster and more cost-effectively than doing it yourself.

If you don’t have the time to babysit contractors and attempt the procurement process yourself, rather appoint a QS to budget for and manage this important aspect.

Buying existing property

Often the selling price is determined by previous sales of similar properties in the area, and what the banks are prepared to finance. This valuation does not consider all specific technical aspects of the property being viewed such as the cost of repairs to bring it to a market standard, and costly hidden problems that only an expert would see.

Have a thorough risk assessment done and avoid buying a lemon.

Buying an erf with the intention to build

If you are considering building, you need expert advice and guidance to minimize your risk and maximize your investment potential to ensure a successful project venture. Even before buying land, phone an expert to have a look and advise.

The architect is both a designer and an adviser who can translate your requirements into reality. He/she will find your solution, based on your needs, budget, timeline, legal and statutory, building regulations, and most importantly the conditions imposed by the nature of your site, with creative input to produce a building that incorporates good design and functionality.

He can’t work alone, an objective third party QS must measure, price, consider and guide design development, to stay within the box of cost, value, quality and longevity.

Finding out the cost of building only after the design has been done, and municipal plans have been submitted, is a recipe for disaster. You first need a basic concept costed, then the design is developed by a team to stay within the approved cost, and only after this would one apply for a council building permit and put out the tender.

To the contractor and self-build renovator

The Namibia Institute of Architects (NIA) and the Institute of Namibian Quantity Surveyors (INQS) advise both the builder and client against starting building works from incomplete drawings and schedules. This practice and the use of “one pager” agreements with incomplete terms, quantum and standards, are the biggest cause for dispute in the industry. The legal fees in a house-build dispute can easily exceed the original professional fees and cause serious delays and drama.

A word of caution, do not believe it is less expensive to purchase your own materials and only ask for labour to build. This is one of the biggest owner/builder mistakes. Contractors are able to obtain bulk discount and zero rate VAT on new builds. If you are supplying materials, there is no incentive for the builder to reduce waste, theft or use your materials elsewhere. A building materials supplier cannot give you an accurate material list from a set of drawings. When prospective clients, or even architects, request a builder to “price from the drawings” (often just municipal submission drawings), they are ultimately putting both contracting parties at risk – the employer and the contractor.

The INQS and Namibian law recommend that an objective third party, qualified in these matters, protects the financial and legal interests of the project, as the ultimate success of the building is in the interest of all the parties.
Good contractors agree that a registered QS must look after the commercial aspects of a building project, sign off payment valuations for bank finance withdrawals, and must advise the employer and architect regarding cost of variations to the scope of the contract.

Monthly cost reporting prevents misunderstandings and overspending, and final account agreements ensure there are no arguments between employer and contractor. The QS mediates most disputes, and we all know most disputes originate around finances.

Making the right decision

All the commercial banks require control of financial exposure for a building loan. A detailed QS estimate can be used to apply for the loan and a duly completed building agreement with priced bills of quantities would then later be required to finalize the bond approval.

Select an architect and QS who have completed similar projects, and with whom you feel comfortable as they will ultimately represent you in the building contract.

Always ask for references and remember that a specific architect can employ a variety of building styles to suit your brief; a good consultant loves a challenge and would not simply copy a previous house design.

Architect and QS practices are legally bound to a minimum fee scale, either a sliding percentage on the building value, or different hourly rates depending on the resources and skills employed for a task. There should therefore be minimal difference in fee proposals.

The tariff of fees and the client–architect or client–QS agreement should clearly spell out work stages, and the fee proposal would indicate the approximate cost of each milestone.

Here are two QR links for registered architects’ and quantity surveyors’ practices, listed in alphabetic order.

In addition to the above advice, also ensure you only appoint contractors registered with the Construction Industries Federation (CIF). https://www.cifnamibia.com

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