Buying a home off plan? Walk through it first… on paper
- published in the Business and Financial Times -
by Scot Murray
In the lobby at Ghana Home Loans, you’ll find a multitude of flyers showcasing a range of good-looking houses. Oh, but there’s a catch. The majority of them don’t exist.
This is the nature of our market. With the high cost of construction finance (north of twelve percent in U.S. Dollars per year) and a typical eighteen to twenty-four month construction period, any developer that runs the numbers arrives at the same result: off-plan sales is the best way to offer the lowest possible price. And customers are well aware of this too. The shrewd ones often prefer to buy early on in the marketing cycle to lock in the best possible deal.
This is good to a certain extent because it means the upside in value at completion accrues to the buyer. However, the downside to purchasing off plan (assuming the reputable developer delivers) is that most buyers don’t really know what they’re getting. They don’t ‘explore’ the plan with the same time and intensity that they would a completed house or apartment. And while surprises are great on birthdays or at Christmas, you need to do your homework when it comes to purchases as expensive as homes.
Here is what we encourage our off-plan clients to do – walk through the house in your mind and imagine you’re in the space.
Walk up to the front door. What kind of door will you see? What style door handle? Open the door and look across the room. How many windows? Are they large enough? How high are the ceilings? What’s the size of the balcony? Is it spacious enough to have a table and chairs outside, or is it meant only for drying clothes?
As soon as you start to meaningfully engage your imagination and walk through the home in your mind, you’ll know exactly what questions to ask.
To help you in this exercise, have personal points of reference. Measure a space that you know well – say, your current bedroom or living room – and compare it to the floor plan of the apartment you’re considering. Go room by room. Measure and compare. Ask questions. And finally, make sure that the specifics of what you want are detailed in the contract you’re signing.
Unfortunately, not all developers produce faithful photo renderings. Some will show a living room worthy of a presidential palace when reality is far more constricting. Don’t let yourself be disappointed. Study the dimensions on the plan, compare the plan to the renderings and try walking through the place first on paper. As Steve Jobs said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Off-plan purchases are not an exact science, so bring your imagination to increase your chances of coming home happy.
Scot Murray is the Managing Director of Denya Developers. He and Ernest Hanson, the Managing Director of Beaufort Properties, write columns on the property market in Accra. You can contact them at +233268315111 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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