The biggest mistake the vast majority of small-scale developers do is lack of financial planning. Consult your accountant and have projected cash flows and see what is possible. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.


  1. Identify an Architect.

An architect is the main consultant in construction projects and will coordinate all the other consultants needed to put your project together. Choice of an architect is a tough balancing act. Some developers go for less experienced architects as there is a perception that they can do hard bargaining of their fees, other developers pay higher for older professionals. Other developers go for architects with a record of more ‘exciting’ designs that have a degree of experimentation, others want bland ‘tried and tested’ styles from more rigid architects. Whatever the case, have an architect throughout your project.


  1. Have all Documents in Order.

Ensure you have paid your land rates, get a land search, have a survey map, and in instances where your land is sloping, it is highly recommended you get a surveyor to prepare a topography plan. You will have less surprises once you hit the ground.


  1. Do Trial Pits.

Trial pits and holes that are dug in the ground to establish how deep the foundations are likely to be, and hence also decide on the foundation type that has implications on the cost of the project. We have an experience of a parcel of land that had red soil at one point and barely 5 metres away had 6metre deep black cotton soil.


  1. Full Contract or Self-build?

We have mentioned before that full contract projects we have handled are more ‘successful’, finish on time and have overall better quality in finish. Full contracts (where the contractor procures everything materials and labor and the developer just pays for work done) work better as long as you have consultants throughout your project and the developer is willing to pay once the architect issues a payment certificate. However, if you decide to self-build, ensure you get a schedule of materials from your Quantity Surveyor. This is a document showing the number of materials needed at every step. It is a very important planning tool.


Consideration in a contractual agreement is anything given or promised or forborne by one party in exchange for the promise or undertaking of another. For a construction project to be successful, this careful balance must be achieved. The easiest way to achieve this is by these two factors

  1. Go through the Bills of Quantities and specifications with your architect and QS before you sign your contract. Provide samples if possible so that expectations are understood in the beginning.
  2. Have your consultants throughout the project.

If you ever probe any project with a dispute, one or both of those two factors were not accommodated for.


  1. Site Visits by Consultants.

It is usually a difficult thing when a developer is hard pressed for money for consultants to come inspect a building and when they are leaving, you have to remunerate them, money of which most developers feel should go into buying materials or paying their contractor. Budget for these site visits. We have said it before, the vast majority of developers today are silently crying in the closet because they avoided a plumbing & electrical engineer. Water is getting out of sockets and when you switch on the lights of your garage the bulb in the gatehouse goes on. Let he or she with ears hear or you will become another statistic.


  1. Get an Occupation Certificate

After you have completed your project, apply for a certificate of occupation. County officials will assess your building and issue the certificate. If you ask around, the vast majority of developers never apply for this and it is mostly because they know they cut every corner found in the books of all libraries in the world.