How to Build a House on a Budget in Kenya

  | 8 min read
ways to save money when building

Building a house on a budget might seem like a pipe dream to many but it is attainable. The secret is making the right decisions, having the right team on your corner and sticking to your budget.

Cutting costs does not mean you compromise on what you want, it simply means getting a little creative and scaling back on some of the extravagant designs and materials you would want to have in your custom-made home.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to ways to cut costs when building a house. However, following some basic rules will help you create a space that you will love and call home. Want to know the starting point when building a house on a budget?

Here are the topmost important things to consider when designing a new house.

Constructing a Smaller House

small house design

This is basic math: the bigger the house, the more money you will spend constructing it. The first step to reduce costs is to determine your house needs for your family. What kind of space will you need? How many rooms? What fixtures and fittings will you require?

If the house is small, you will need less building materials which will help you save on cash. You will also incur less monthly expenses in terms of maintenance. For instance, the cost of building a single room in Kenya will not necessarily be the same as building a bungalow.

One thing to take note of is, you could build a small house, like a mabati house but still, end up using a lot of money in the cost of materials, Therefore, you need to work with a skilled contractor who will advise you on the affordable place to source for materials.

Simple House Design

The next important aspect to consider is the design of the house you want to construct. You have to look at the finer details of your house. What is the easiest house to build? One with open floor plans. Simply because you can use the space for different functions. E.g. if a kitchen opens into the living area, the extra space can be used as a dining area, home office or a play space for the children.

Other things to consider is the direction your house will face (helps with natural lighting), the layout and number of rooms, power points in various parts of the house, flooring amongst other finer details.

If you don’t know where to start, Pinterest has a variety of design ideas you can look at to start getting an idea of what your house will look like. This will also help you come up with low budget house plans and make it easier for you to describe your ideal home to the architect. Which leads us to the next tip to think about if you want to build your house on a budget.

Hiring Essential Professionals

architect drawing a house plan

If you are working with a limited budget and want to save money, you have to decide which professionals you need and what things you can do on your own. Depending on your budget, you will need a number of contractors to help you construct your home.

But the one person you can’t do without is the architect to design your house. Look for one who will understand your needs from the get-go, stick to your budget and will design a house that you will love. Don’t be afraid to have open communication about how much you’re willing to spend. It is the wearer of the shoe who knows where it pinches.

Apart from your architect, the other person you will closely work with is the contractor. He will help you find materials which fit your budget. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are arguing with your home builder about money once the construction process begins. He will also manage the other subcontractors and make sure they are following your requirements.

You will also need a structural engineer who will work on the foundation and structure of your house to make sure that it doesn’t collapse. A civil engineer will ensure that you are meeting the building codes in Kenya and check that the materials you will use are of the right quality.

When it comes to designing your house, an interior designer is perfect for this. But you don’t necessarily need one. You can get ideas from the internet on how to design the ideal space. Some of the DIY projects you can undertake are painting your house, landscaping and decorating the interior of your house. Remember to do only projects you can physically and technically be able to do on your own. Safety is a priority if you use this route.

Other professionals you will need are electrical engineer, plumber, painters, carpenters and landscaper.

Basic Fittings and fixtures

cabinets in a kitchen

The beauty of building a house on a budget is that you can upgrade on some items at a later time. You don’t have to buy everything from the start. This will eat into your pocket and leave you feeling frustrated with the entire process.

When you are working with a budget, start with the most important materials you will need for your home. Create a list of what is basic and what you would consider as a luxury. Sometimes, you might have to work with the items which are in your existing home like mirrors and other decor items. Other items you will need to buy new things like wardrobes.
Planning for Hidden Construction Costs

One thing to keep in mind when constructing your home is that there will be costs that will not be included in the estimate. These costs include electrical and water meters, fences, gates, wiring costs and plumbing. Other costs you need to have in mind are the zoning fees and landscaping costs.

Remember that the longer the construction takes, the higher the labour costs. It is imperative for your contractor to stick to the agreed-upon timelines and requirements to avoid going over budget. Always have 15% – 20% extra on top of your budget to cater for these unforeseen costs.

Essential Building Materials

essential building material

Are you wondering how to estimate building costs? Worry not. These are the essentials you need to consider.

a) Framing (fitting together pieces to give a structure support and shape)

This is the most expensive part of the construction process. It is not easy to estimate the exact cost of framing, however, the size of your house, type of framing, materials and labour involved will give you a figure to work with.

b) Foundation

This is what your house will be built on, another very important part that you need to be careful to get right in order to reduce construction costs. The type of foundation and depth will determine how much money you will spend. Your structural engineer will help with this quotation.

c) Plumbing

If you don’t do the right plumbing from the start, this might cost you later on. For instance, improper plumbing can lead to mould in the house which is both a health risk and costly trying to get rid of it. This cost is determined by the types and size of pipes you will use, the size of your house and how much excavation work will need to be done.

d) Roofing

Different types of roofing materials will have different pricing. Each has its own pros and cons. It’s imperative that you find an expert who will advise you on the right material to use for your new home.

e) Flooring

The type of flooring you settle on will determine the installation and maintenance costs. Again, each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. The type of flooring includes hardwood, vinyl, ceramic tile, terrazzo, carpet flooring and laminate flooring.

Shopping For Affordable Financing

You might need a loan to build a house. Before you approach the financial provider, it is important to note that a construction loan is not the same as a regular loan. You will not receive the fund all at once. They will release the money periodically once they do an assessment of how much you will need.

Because construction loans work with an estimate of the value of the completed house, you will need to carry out proper research and come up with a detailed plan before approaching a lender.

Final Word

Before you settle on each of the above people, do some research of your own to find the right fit. Ask for referrals from your friends and family who have gone through the construction phase. When you find one, ask to see their previous work and if possible, talk to their former clients. Building a house is a huge investment, you want to get it right from the start.

You don’t want to go over budget building your house. But you also don’t want to build one that you will be miserable in just because you were trying to save on costs. Enjoy the process of building your dream home, live within your means, work with your budget, find the right experts and get quality materials.

Have you built a house before? What hurdles did you face?

Maureen Mbithe
Content Writer at BuyRentKenya


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