All about choosing an architect and builder for your Philippine house — our experiences and recommendations from someone who has done it.
We spoke with many architects about our Tigbauan, Iloilo house project. It seems to be the norm for the architect to either have his own construction crew or to have favored construction outfits they work with. Most Philippine architects will just do the plans for you if you insist, but since most of the profit is in the construction, they are more eager to be involved in both design and construction. Here are some of the options for the foreigner wishing to build his Philippine dream home.
1. Pay for design services and hire your own crew to do the construction work. This approach can have major advantages if you have the time, skills, patience and confidence to use this approach. If you don’t have experience with contracting and construction don’t try this. Running your project will be a full time job with considerable frustration.
Educate yourself. Read the book “Peace of Mind in Earthquake Country”. Shop for materials in advance so that when your crew needs materials, you will know where to get the materials you want to go into your house. Otherwise you’ll be forced into buying whatever is available at the time you need it. Often, only the most basic materials are available in the provinces. If you live in the provinces, consider spending a week or two in Manila getting to know prices and availability. You may find it advantageous to shop for and ship materials from Manila to the provinces.
The advantages. You cut out the substantial profits which would go to the architect/general contractor. You buy your own materials. If things go well, you get the quality you want and avoid the cut the architect/contractor would have almost certainly arranged for himself — perhaps 20 or 30%. As construction progresses, you are free to make changes without dealing with a contractor trying to get extra pay for change orders. You are paying your crew by the day so you are in control of any modifications or added expense. Since the architect has no business relationship with the construction crew, the architect can be on you side, looking out for your interests.
Agree in advance that the architect is to make regular site visits, especially at times when there are problems you don’t feel competent to assess or resolve. This has been a problem for us. Once she was paid for her work, the engineer who did our plans was not especially interested in continued involvement with the project.
The key person in this approach is the construction foreman. An honest and competent foreman is essential.
The plans were provided by our engineer were lacking in detail. Evidently, some architects and engineers assume that many of the construction standards and details will be worked out by the construction crew, or that the project will be overseen by an engineer. If you are going to have your own crew, it’s essential that the plans be detailed, that you can read and understand the plans and that the architect and engineer make regular visits to the job site.
2. Hire an architect to do the design work and put the project out for bid. Shop your project to several contractors. As in the U.S. this approach invites contrators to low ball their bid and then to cut every corner and seek additional pay for the smallest change or ambiguity in the plans and specifications. There is little possibility that this approach will work unless the plans and specifications are very detailed. Establish strict mile posts and a corresponding payment schedule. Be very careful about requests for a large “mobilization” initial payment. Do not let payments to your contractor get ahead of work actually completed. This will be a constant struggle.
3. Hire an architect to design and build your house. This is not the least expensive option, but may be the best for property owners unwilling, unable or unavailable to hire a crew of workers and supervise the house construction project. Here, everything depends on the integrity and competence of the architect-builder. You must do a comprehensive background check. Find out what he’s built and not just from him. Look at the houses he’s built. Talk to owners. Usually they’ll be glad to show off their houses, or share complaints. We used this option to hire a talented and personable young Iloilo architect to design and build our perimeter fence. I did everything wrong. I only looked at one of his projects. He drew up the contract and I did not review it critically enough. I advanced too much mobilization money. The money must have been spent for other purposes because work slowed to a crawl. I had to take over the project. It went well after that, but we lost a lot of money which we were never able to recover. You can read all about it in a separate account here.
With the usual trepidation, can suggest an Iloilo design-build outfit. Joemarie Yao is a talented designer and an experienced builder. We’ve seen a number of his buildings and spoken to satisfied clients. As with many sucessful architects, he’s a bright, articulate and charming salesman for his firm. Once your contract has been signed, your project will probably be turned over to his staff. The only complaint that we’ve heard is that things do not progress quickly enough for some clients. If we were going to hire a design-build firm, it would be that of Joemarie Yao, mostly because we appreciate his design talent which tends toward simplicity rather than ostentation. We have no business association of any kind with him.Joemarie Yao JV Landmark Inc. email: firstname.lastname@example.org 0918-908-8838 63-33-337-3624 63-33-336-6052 J.V. Building, J.V. Locson St Dulonan, Arevalo, Iloilo City
4. Buying a lot and house package in a subdivision. Many buy their homes as a lot-house-financing package from a subdivision developer. There are many such heavily promoted subdivisions in Iloilo City, some run by large Philippines development companies. They buy large tracts of land cheaply, make improvements (especially lavish gate houses), and make money multiple ways; selling the lots, building the houses and interest from installment payments. You’ll be shown a prettily furnished model home. The base price can seem reasonable, but often not much is included — maybe not even kitchen counters. By the time you add in all that’s needed to make a livable home you may find that you’re paying a high per square meter price for a house of mediocre quality. I have heard so many complaints about the quality of such houses and the unwillingness of developers to correct after sale problems.
Buying a house and lot package is an easy option, but we believe it is better to buy a lot and build your own house on it. Most of the high-end subdivsions only sell lots and leave it to the purchasers to build their own houses. The house lot packages are mostly sold in the lower and mid-range subdivisions.
Read all about our Philippine House building Project at /building-our-philippine-house-index/