Sunday, April 21, 2013

Home Sweet Home - A House construction story (with a review of the builder - The Habitat Group) - Part 1

This is a review embedded in a story, I started to write it as a review, but the experiences and the events which unfolded automatically came out and it began to look like a story, most of which contains the hardship experienced by a middle class man trying to build his house. this might be a two or three part saga

The land purchase

One of the major milestones in the life of every Indian middle class family is house construction. Now a days the ready to occupy villas, apartments, easy availability of loans and the money available with people has made this less cumbersome. In my belief, if one goes through the experience of building a home he or his family will have a greater connect with it and love it to the core.

Coming from a middle class family, I too grew up seeing my parents toil hard to construct a house. In those days, since my father and mother were working, my grandfather used to oversee the house construction and I used to accompany him during my vacations. The greatest thing which I enjoyed is the food which was brought from a local shop comprising of tea and parippu vada. In those days these were the only outside food which I got to eat.

After all the routine milestones in life viz study engineering, get job, be in love, get married, have kids, the next thing in line was building a home. My childhood experiences made me decide to have one constructed according to our needs rather than buying one. This happened in the first half of the previous decade. Cash at hand was extremely low, but thanks to banks offering loans we could buy a land in the location we indended. There were lots of negatives, viz the plot was rectangular with less width and more length, land was sloping, there was no road frontage, it was the last plot of a steeply inclined road, the approach road was enough to test the powers of an SUV. The advantages were, it was the maximum which we could afford and location was the midpoint of my wife's and my office.
These advantages far outweighed all other negatives coz we were in the search for a plot for almost one year and found this.

My tips on land purchase is shared here

Some tips on Home loan is shared here.

Choosing the Builder
Once the deed was signed, more questions on construction came upfront than answers. After lot of enquiries with those who had done it in the past, found out the options.

1. Make the plan by available local expertise, give the work on daily wage basis
2. Get the help of an architect to arrive at a plan, give the work on daily wage basis
3. Give the full construction on contract to a local contractor.
4. Give the full construction on contract to a reputed builder.

Help sought from builders
Decided to approach some of the builders around and also some of the local contractors. Whom ever I met were telling me about the square feet rates and were blah blahing about the constructions they have made so far and gave references too. Somehow, either I did not like the way they projected themselves or I did not like their creations or some of them were far above than our reach. Somewhere a passion seems to be missing.

The turnaround
In the process, one day I happened to visit a house of my friend who is working in a leading Malayalam daily. He seemed quite passionate about his house, began explaining each and every simple but useful facilities, told how customized it is according to his needs. Naturally my question was about the people behind this construction. He gave the address of Habitat technology group based in Thiruvananthapuram.

I contacted them over phone, fixed an appointment with its Managing Director, went to their office. Their office, located at Poojappura in Thiruvananthapuram, itself was quite different. It was quite difficult to spot amongst other buildings and seemed quite small from the outside. But once inside I felt the coolness eventhough there was no AC. The walls and even the separation for cabins were made of mud, there were lot of plants inside, there was a breath of fresh air. The lighting was mostly natural light and I doubted whether I am inside or outside a buidling. Climbed up the steps and waited for my turn for the meeting. Sitting there, I noticed how simply things have been done there, the windows were made of iron, the office building was very lengthy, with a peculiarity that the managing director could view each of his staff, whether he/she is in the ground floor or on the upper floors from his room, very little space was used up for staircase, plenty of avenues for letting in the sunlight.

Soon I was called up and their sat a man who was smiling at me, as if he know me very well and within no time we were talking freely and soon I found that I was getting an advice on how to reduce spending in the name of a house. For each requirement, I was posing, he was asking me why it is required, and he was urging me to just think about my current lifestyle before deciding on the facilities needed in my house. His argument was why should I make a facility for just showing off and which is of no use to us. I thought about the house which my parents built, it had a car porche, but we never bought a car for the fifteen years we stayed in that home. After this meeting of 15 to 20 minutes I was kind of thinking in a different way, I seemed to have got an insight to the way things should be looked upon and the person who guided me for the past 20 minutes was Mr. Shankar, the creator of Habitat technology group. (Mr. Shankar was bestowed with Padmashree award recently by Govt of India)

When I started my bike to go back, I knew that my search for an architect has ended.

Lesson learned: Make lengthy conversations with your builder. The best one in my opinion will not be the best for you !!

The 3D Plan

Within a week I was back to his office again with my better half and we found the discussions quite meaningful in that he was successful in making us understand the practical considerations, the need for blending with the nature, the way how a house reflects ones character, the way which the occupants should thoughtfully do a retrospective on themselves and found out what they need. We were back at our home with a lot of homework to do.

These sessions continued, the architect visited the plot, we got drawings in autocad, reviewed and created updates and finally after 3 months a 3 D model of our home adorned our PC at home. It was made the desktop wall paper and we began to day dream on the we will be stepping into home sweet home for real.

During this stage we made the following decisions too

1. We will be using interlocking bricks for the construction (Click here to read my review on interlocking bricks, advantages, disadvantages, where to source them etc)

2. Doors and windows will be on wood only for the main entrance and hall area only. Rest of the frames will be concrete (Click here to read my review on Concrete Doors and Windows, the good points and bad points)

The next step was to start the work. Habitat group had a lot of registered contractors under their disposal, and the client can directly enter into an agreement with the contractor. The rates are already prescribed by the Group. The client is free to use other labourers too. But I decided to choose from the Habitat listed contractors, reason being I have an appalate authority in case of non performance and the rates prescribed by the Habitat group were already on the lower side.

Plan approval was not painstaking since their is one person in the Habitat group who will take up all the plans for approval. Only thing is that we have to keep on contacting him over phone. He will take care of all the necessary bribes and clears all the hurdles for approving the plan. (I wonder why bribes are needed, even when we have followed all the rules while charting out the plan. The beauty of the Government Set up in my state - Kerala).

The process from starting discussions with the architect to plan approval took 4 months !!

Continued in Part 2, Click here to read ....................


Rekha said...

What a great review...Really appreciate it..Good work friend. I am in the design phase of my dream house and I am very eagerly waiting to read your next phase. said...

Next phase review is already posted in this link

Anonymous said...

This is a great post!

Builder Reviews

Jayakumar K said...

Could you please share the Habitat Contact details?as i could see many habitat sites on web.

Samuel Trust said...

This is an interesting story about house construction. Construction companies like TopNotch construction should know your story.

Triton Builders said...

I am grateful for this blog to distribute knowledge about this significant topic. Here I found different segments and now I am going to use these new instructions with new enthusiasm. New Home Builders Melbourne

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