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So you’ve reached the point where you have earned and saved enough to buy a lot/property and you are in the process of having your first house done. You haven’t the slightest idea on how to go about it. Here’s a guide from a Contractor’s POV based on experiences and feedback of clients.

Finalize your design direction

You’ve probably got tons of saves in your pinterest board on how your dream home will look like. Sort it out, from details to layouts and finishes, so when you meet up with your Architect, he/she will have a good handle on what you really want.

Line up your dream team

Just like in any sport, there’s a lot of team effort that goes into building a house.
Tip: Get a team that can follow your design direction. Research and check their body of work, that way you are assured that they can understand your vision for your dream home.

The Licensed Architect

He/She is the main man (or woman), so find someone who is trustworthy and is backed with credentials. He/She designs the plans, prescribes the materials to be used in construction and oversees the construction process from day 1.

The Contractor

The key role of the Contractor is to execute the plans accordingly. The Contractor should understand the design of the Architect. Your house might look good on paper, but if you do not get a suitable Contractor, your dream house will just be that, a dream.
Tip: Usually, Architects would recommend Contractors they have worked with, which is advantageous for you as it lessens design misinterpretations along the way.

The Interior Designer

He/She brings life to your living spaces. Color, lighting and textures are his/her expertise.
Tip: Focus on having your common areas (living & dining area) done first. With this you can adapt the design direction to other parts of your house.

The Landscape Artist

While the Interior Designer livens the indoors, your Landscape Artist works on beautifying your outdoors. Trees and plants are carefully chosen to match the aesthetic of your house.

Now that you have short-listed your team, let’s move on to the most crucial item on the list.

Your budget

This is where it all boils down to… How much will it cost? Well, this all depends on the following:

• How big your lot / property is?
• What type of house are you building? Is it a bungalow or two-storey house?
• Client requests (may it be in the use of certain materials, a nice big kitchen, an impressive walk-in closet, etc.)
Tip: Talk it over with your Architect, let him/her know that you have a budget and you’re willing to spend up to a certain limit. So he/she can be guided as to how to maximize space without sacrificing the overall design.

Once your budget is set, your next concern should be timelines.

Timelines

Here’s the average duration for building a house:

Plans: 2-3 months
Processing of Documents: 1 month
Construction: 8-12months depending on property size
Interior Design: 2-3 weeks
Landscaping: 1 week

With these in mind, if you have a specific date, ask your Architect, when best to go about it since weather is a factor that affects the Construction process in terms of delays and deliveries.
Tip: Clients are usually excited to speed up the process, but remember that rushed works always end up in more repairs and costs along the way, so be patient.

Document every process

You are on your way to becoming a legit homeowner. Get involved in the planning stages, take selfies of your site visits and make this process as enjoyable as possible.

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After living in Europe for nearly two decades, I came back to resettle in Manila three years ago.  Manila is a city with a teeming population, relentless traffic, pollution way over the global norms, a city so built-up with hardly any public place left for nature to thrive.

There were lots of decisions to be made, which is always the case when you make radical changes in life. I spent a  month of soul-searching, wondering, asking myself whether I could still call this place home.

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Despite Manila’s external disadvantages, the feeling of belonging I got from moving back to the Philippines and being in my own culture was indescribable. That was the clincher that made me decide to make it my home again.

But where was home going to be exactly?

I thought of buying a place in Cebu where my family resides. Makati? I lived and worked in this city before I left the Philippines. But there were also other places that I considered like BGC, Rockwell, QC, and suburbs in the south of Manila.

This was my decision process.

1.     Know Yourself

A mentor once told me that life was not complicated. He said,

“First, you need to know what you want.
Second, you need to organize your life so you get what you want.”

Easily said but difficult to execute, although after following this advice several times through the many major transitions in my life, I can safely say that I’ve gotten better with practice.

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These were some questions I asked myself when I fleshed out what a dream home meant for me, considering everything from a broad perspective to the details:

  • How was my life going to be in terms of work, private life, interests?
  • Did I want to live in a condo or a house?
  • How big a space did I want?
  • How much could I afford?
  • How soon did I want to move in?
  • Did I have a social network in an area I was considering?
  • What was the demographic profile of my potential neighbors?
  • Other considerations were the water supply, power supply, flooding issues, accessibility to public transport, hospitals, and airport.

2.     Talk to Family and Friends

Ask family and friends about their opinions. Ask them how they decided on such matters. Use them as a sounding board and see what they think about your own thought processes. I am lucky because I have a number of opinionated people in my life who I know care about me.

When I told my family that I was thinking of resettling in Cebu, my siblings including my dear mother, said in unison, “Why?” Then came a waterfall of “your friends are in Manila, your work is in Manila, you’ve lived more years in Manila than Cebu, what are you going to do here in Cebu…”

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Thank God for a family that believes in plain-speaking and cariñong brutal, and who have my best interests at heart!

3.     Location, Location, Location

Scanning through the places I was considering in Manila, I very quickly decided on Makati. I used to live here, and even though it has changed so much over the years, there are many familiar landmarks still. Even the Ayala Triangle which I now call the Ayala Trapezoid, is still recognizable.

Besides, I did not see myself braving the harrowing traffic situation day in, day out.

4.     Decide on the Kind of Property that Fits Your Lifestyle

I did not consider living in a house for two reasons: 1) because I couldn’t afford it, and 2) because I did not want to be bothered about security and maintenance issues.

Surfing real estate platforms, I informed myself about what was available in the market and the price range of the condo of my dreams, adjusting those dreams if they were not realistic. I shortlisted those that I wanted to view, and then scheduled viewings with real estate agents.

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These are some of the property websites that I trawled:

  • Lamudi
  • Property24
  • Zipmatch
  • hoppler
  • olx.ph
  • condo.com.ph
  • phrealestate
  • point2homes

Of course, you can go straight to the developers themselves like Ayala Land, SM Development Corporation, Rockwell Land, Robinsons Land Corporation, Shang Properties, DMCI Homes, Megaworld Corporation, Federal Land, and Century Properties.

It’s always good to let people know about your plan to buy a condo, a sort of crowdsourcing. You can also ask your friends and acquaintances for references and leads. That’s what I did, and that’s how I found my dream home.

5.     Taking a Closer Look at Your Kind of Property

My dream home was going to be a condo. But which one? I visited many, and these were the questions I wanted answered:

  • Who is the developer?
  • How old is the building?
  • Where is it located?
  • What does the neighborhood look like?
  • What are the facilities in the building? Are they maintained well?
  • What condo layout fit my lifestyle the best?
  • How did the price in relation to square meter space compare to the other properties?
  • How much were the monthly association dues?

It would help if you would be able to talk to someone who lives in that building.  Chat with those people you see in the reception area. Or you could also talk to the people responsible for the management of the property.

6.     Do the Math

There are many other expenses to consider, and not only the price of the property.

Once I decided which ones could be candidates for the dream home, I did my own calculations, not only for the purchase but also the recurring costs when I get to live in the condo. You need to know not only if you can afford to buy the condo, but if you can afford to live in it as well:
Costs of Registration – Documentary Stamp Tax, Transfer Tax, Registration Fees, incidental and miscellaneous expenses incurred during the registration process
Realty Tax on your condo + parking which you need to pay yearly
Condo Fees – association dues, membership fees, if applicable, share of realty tax on the land where your condo is constructed,  and share of realty tax on common areas
Renovation Costs – If you want to renovate the property before moving in, get an architect or interior designer to give you a quote for the design and construction. Then you need to add 20% on top of that because chances are there will be construction budget overruns.

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If you are taking out a bank loan, read the fine print of any document the bank gives you. Don’t be shy about asking questions. Don’t even bother thinking that your questions may make you look stupid. You are taking out a loan, and it is you and only you who will be responsible for paying it so UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE GETTING INTO.

7.     Feel that Energy

I experienced moving five times in three different countries within three years. This does not count the many other moves I made during the other years of my life. So I do consider myself an expert in feeling the energy of a place.

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What do I feel when I enter a space? This is something I ask myself when I consider changing my home.

I check myself from head to toe what it feels like to be in that space. This isn’t New Age; this is as ancient as Feng Shui, “a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment.” Everything is made of energy, including you. So try to feel if your vibe and that of the space work well together.

8.     Make an Offer for your Dream Home: Don’t be Shy About Negotiating

I knew I was ready to make an offer because it worked out not only with the math, but also with the lightness I felt thinking about living in my chosen condo.

This is a huge investment you are about to make so you should take your time. Don’t be shy about asking the owner or his representative that you visit it more than once. You need to check it out during different times of the day so you will see what it looks like from morning to evening.

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Negotiate the price and/or the conditions of the purchase. You should know the price per square meter of the property you are interested in if you did your research well, and use that as basis for your negotiations.

It would be good to know what the seller’s objectives and goals are, and to test that with yours. If there are commonalities, it would be easier to find a way forward to a creative solution that benefits both of you.

9.     Celebrate Being a New Homeowner

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When you are successful in buying your dream home, go out and celebrate with family, friends, and “angels” who have guided you and helped you on this journey. Celebrate because you are entering a new phase in life.

Take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the dreaming stage: How do you want your home to look like?

 

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Your room says a lot about you, and I couldn’t agree more. But when you’re decorating a room from scratch, it can be a huge challenge to stay true to yourself and not alienate yourself from your own space. Believe me—I recently experienced it for myself!

Along with my parents, I moved into a brand-new house last year. After all the architectural and construction-related decisions I made, decorating was the next big hurdle to overcome. Preparations started way before the new house was done, but the day we moved in my room was still a shell with bare walls and boxes waiting to be unpacked. I only had one piece of furniture the first night—my grandfather’s that I brought from our old house.

Sleeping in an empty room was a strange feeling, one I was determined not to experience for too long. So the day after we moved I set out to make my room much more like a home and much less of the empty shell it was. True enough, this process put me face-to-face with my personality and needs. It was as much a learning experience about myself as it was a decorating spree!

Three Main Spaces In My Bedroom

I divided my room into three main spaces, based on the three things I plan to do in my room: a bed and resting area, study space, and a vanity. I also chose a general look and feel for my furniture and decor: everything was either light wood finish, white, or a pastel shade. That helped me narrow down my choices, and made my room a lot more cohesive!

My vanity

The first area that came together was my vanity. When we had just started building the house my mom and I began looking around for furniture, but I couldn’t find a dresser I liked and could imagine in my new room. Since my mom was having a few pieces of furniture custom-made, I decided to have my dresser made as well. I knew what I wanted: a big mirror, drawers for extra storage, and a clean, white finish. Having it custom-made gave me the freedom and flexibility to get exactly what I want! Then I found this light wood chair at Home Depot (that matched the shade of my floor!) to give my vanity area some contrast. A few weeks later, I added a bright blue throw pillow to make the space cozier.

My study table
Cork board with my essentials

Once I fixed the vanity area, my study was up next. We ordered work tables with matching drawers and chairs for my room as well as our second floor den, and those were delivered soon after we moved in. As a writer, I spend a lot time at my desk so I needed a big, functional workspace. I added a cork board, all sorts of organizers, and filled the space with my essentials. I also have 6 electrical outlets to the left and right (and a ready phone connection!) which is perfect. For extra space, I installed 2 floating shelves.

Of course, as a literature grad I had a lot of books with me when we moved. I had a lot of fun arranging and decorating some of my go-to books and magazines on the floating shelves! While other people don’t like mixing work (or studies) and personal things, I feel the need to do just that. I’m a workaholic, so most of my time is spent reading, writing, and just being productive. If I don’t mix fun and personal things into my work I might go crazy! So while my floating shelves have a lot more stuff now, the sentiment is still the same—one shelf is for books, and the other for photos and touches of decor. I kept everything clean though, plain white frames and letters as decor, and cherry wood to match my floor and other wood furniture.

Floating shelves
More books

Speaking of books, of course I needed more than just floating shelves to store my books. While most of them are in storage, I keep my favorites out in my room for easy access. Reading remains my main de-stressor, and working in a stressful industry means I need to read a lot! So in my rest area, I have a small 2-level shelf. One level is for my bags and everyday utilities, and the other is for more of my go-to books. It’s at the foot of my bed, so sometimes I don’t even have to stand up to reach for a book!

Bedside table

I also have a bedside table which is simple and clean white like my vanity. It’s a lot messier now with medicine and all sorts of lotions, but when I was decorating it I made sure to make my dresser pleasing to the eye. It’s the first thing I see in the morning, and I want to wake up looking at nice things! As usual, I have more books on my night table. I also have a family photo (in the same white frame as the ones I used on the floating shelves) and a faux flower arrangement. I love the blue hydrangeas! They give my pink, lavender, and white room a pop of color, without being too loud.

It’s been almost a year since we moved in, but only a few months since I stopped decorating my space. I think my room will evolve more as time passes, so I’m never completely done with decorating! My walls are still a bit bare, especially the ones without windows. I might hang a painting in the future but I’ll have to find the right one first. My room will always be a work in progress, and I like it that way.

Up until I was 21, I lived in my grandparents’ ancestral home. It was a late 50s/60s bungalow with huge, flower-filled gardens and enough space to accommodate four generations under one roof. While I have only a few memories of my grandparents before they passed away, living in the same rooms, sitting on the same furniture, and seeing little reminders of them every day made me feel connected to them. But it was never really my own room or home—it was someone else’s.

Building A New Home

While I was in college, my parents decided to move out of the ancestral home and build a new house. It was a long and arduous process from finding a village that was safe, accessible, and had the right atmosphere, to planning the house and going through every little detail. Even I don’t remember much of the construction now!

Building the house literally from the ground up was a new experience for me and my parents, but of course designing and decorating my own room was the most personal. Up until last year I slept, studied, and lived in a room occupied by countless family members before me. When I moved into my old room as a grade school student, this meant I only had control over the color of blinds and a few decorations. The walls had just been repainted blue the year before, my furniture were all hand-me-downs from my aunt, my mother, and my grandparents, and there was very little space to be creative with the arrangement. I don’t even have any photos of my old room because believe me, it wasn’t photogenic at all.

My Very Own Room At Last

So you can imagine how excited I was to have total control over the design, decor, and overall look of my new space. I had to pick everything from the color of my bathroom tiles, to the color of my bedroom walls, down to the handles on my walk-in closet drawers. I even got to decide whether I wanted a bigger room or a bigger walk-in closet! (I chose the bigger room.)

I wasn’t fussy about most parts of my room especially the tiny details like how many light bulbs or the placement of drawers and shelves, but I did have a few requests.

I wanted a corner window, as big as possible. My old room was dark and didn’t have much light shining in because the windows were smaller, so I was dead set on having a bright and cheery room. The one challenge: the windows couldn’t be floor-length because they’d have to add a balcony, which would be useless space for me and my family. But even so, I got my wish! When I’m in my room during the day time, my room is so bright that I only need to pull the blinds halfway up to light the whole space. I wake up to a bright and cheery room every day, which definitely puts me in a better mood!

My Favorite Colors

Next, I wanted my walls to be pink and lavender. I debated against this for a while—thinking that I was 21 already, a working girl, and that maybe I should pick a more “grown-up” color scheme. But then I thought: this is the first time I get to decide on the color of my room, I should choose colors I genuinely like. I ended up choosing a very, very light shade of pink for 3 of the walls, then a soft lavender to create a striped accent on the 4th wall. Needless to say, my accent wall is now the perfect spot for IG-worthy photos.

My Bathroom Design

My last design request wasn’t aesthetic but practical. A dirty, wet bathroom is one of my biggest pet peeves. As a kid I traveled and toured a lot with a children’s choir, and I’ve seen the worst of the worst when it comes to bathrooms. I can’t stand it when water from the shower stall splashes on the toilet! So this was the one thing I had to avoid in my own bathroom, no matter what. I made sure of a few things. First, no shower curtains! I think I’m in the minority when I say that I absolutely hate shower curtains. The solution? We installed a glass shower enclosure. The second solution is something I requested for all the bathrooms in our new house: the shower door and toilet should face the same direction, and the door should not, under any circumstances, open to the toilet. I’ve seen this mistake in so many bathrooms (probably in an attempt to save space) and it causes most of the dirt and splashing water. So even if the floor plan is a bit inefficient, I think it’s worth it.

That’s it for the design part of the journey to a room of my own! It was fun to look back on the process and appreciate the little things that made my new room so much more comfortable and personal. I’ll be back for part 2, where I’ll share how I decorated my space once we moved in.

You can picture it vividly in your mind. Too vividly that you even dream about it, in fact, you can almost touch it, literally.  It’s your last thought before you doze off to la la land, and the first thing that flashes in your mind when you get back to consciousness…’ah, my dream home!’

The hubby and I were well into the  fifth year of our marriage, with our then two bundles of joy born a few years apart, and had been renting a decent bungalow near my parents’ home, when I started feeling the itch to have our own place. It was an itch that never left us. So, born out of our desire to finally see our dream home after years of mindful saving and investing, we bravely started the construction of our home.

It took many months of meetings and huddles with the architect and contractor, numerous trips to depots near and far to make sure we got the best building materials that we could afford. It was about ten months of highs—so happy about how our lanai turned out, and lows –- one of the kids’ bathrooms was too small so just gotta tear down a wall; no big deal, right? The journey was physically, emotionally, not to mention, financially exhausting that I felt like breaking down at some point, or maybe I did!

Then came the masonry work, tiling, and finally painting. Hubby and I both wanted a young, energetic vibe so that our sons could imbibe the positive energy. So we opted for a mango yellow tone for our walls. I loved how it turned out, complementing our home’s Mediterranean theme. It was years later when I was becoming bolder  at experimenting with colors that I decided on my own to paint accent walls with terra cotta. It gave the added oomph and contrast to my predominantly yellow home. Many happy Christmases were spent in our home, which became our sanctuary of memories.

Until one day, hubby came home looking frazzled after a 3-hour drive. Oh, did I mention that hubby worked in the northern part of the city, while we lived in the southern part? This was to be our new normal, the long hours spent in traffic. Suddenly, our dream home was no longer the solace it previously was. There were signs to act on it, to do something, but what? Then our sons, now teenagers, successfully made the cut to the bigger schools up north. What to do? Then, a moment of epiphany: It was time to move…and so we did, because our current location no longer fitted the status quo.

We acquired a pre-built house near the kids’ new schools. It was a year of transition.  We had the old house repainted, and we put it up for sale at the same time that renovation and repainting were being done in the house we were moving into. The enormity of the work ahead floored me, more like knocked me down…almost. We had to put in serious efforts in decluttering and purging, and bear the constant struggle with the angst of letting go of things that we had accumulated but were no longer essential. After a year of shuttling back and forth, we finally settled into our new home. It can still be considered a dream home by virtue of the house being practically near everything.

What were my biggest takeaways from our move?

The concept of a dream home can be temporary.

There was no doubt in my mind that my former house was the home I would grow old in. I failed to consider the changes in our daily lives as our kids grew and our needs changed. What was once ideal for us did not quite match our  current living requirements.

Stick to a home design that is generally appealing.

If you want to install a clear glass open shaft in the flooring of your second floor bathroom, or put a sliding kind of spiral staircase for entertainment in the middle of your living room, you may want to forego doing so. As much as it appeals to you, this may affect the marketability of your home later on.

The easiest and most cost-effective way to change the look of your home is by repainting.

Nowadays, repainting your home is easier than you think. Just a few adjustments of some furniture and stuff, and you’re on your way to making your home look new again. It is so uncomplicated that you can go DIY, and because paints now come odor-less, the repainting job will not significantly disturb the movement of people inside the house. A few strokes of paint, a change in the tone of color, can make a remarkable difference in your home’s ambience. I had my old house repainted with an off-white color palette as it was a more neutral color than my mango-bravo-yellow-extravaganza color of choice, which can be too bright for sensitive eyes.

Remember that every single item you bring inside your home will not disintegrate or melt on its own.

Until now, I still cannot believe the amount of purging and disposing I had to do during my decluttering efforts. It got me to a point where I asked myself, “Why did I buy this ______ (insert item), when keeping or disposing it only added to my ‘TO DO’ list? And my TO DO list was already way too long.” Fancy buying those Italian vases? Just remember that at some point, you will have to tackle how to dispose of them. They are not going to magically vanish into thin air to  make room for your new stuff.

It is every person’s dream to see his dream home come to fruition. And hey, it’s good to dream big dreams, but make sure to leave room for changes.

So, are you ready for your dream home?