Monday, January 5, 2009

Finding a Contractor

In late Nov of '08, I went down to Belize to find a contractor to build our house in Consejo Shores ( I had seen several different homes from builders in the area and now I needed to get references. A few contractors had been recommended to me and a few contractors I was told to stay away from. Problem was, they were the same contractors in both categories. It just depended on who you talked to.

The one contractor, who has built quite a few homes in the Shores, has stretched his resources a little thin and the workmanship has suffered. He was recommended by a few people who had their homes built by his crew, but a few others had horror stories of past encounters. I went to see one of the homes he was building, and it was about 2 months behind schedule, with the owners expecting a finished product by the first of December. The tile work was OK, but they had no direction on how to do the layout, so transitions from one room to the next had poorly offset tiles. The tile was set from one side to the other, not factoring in corners or doorways. It had lots of small pieces and odd shapes.

The dock that was built used 12 inch wide boards, instead of 8 inch, so the edges are curling up. Makes it easy to catch a toe. Less than half of the nails used for the dock were gavanized, so rusty nails are already showing up. And the Palapa, built on the dock, had no side to side support. It was a 30 MPH wind away from being blown into the bay. The project looked as though it had no supervision.

So the next day I went to the neighboring development called Wagner's Landing/Mayan Seaside ( and toured some of the houses being built there. There were a couple of houses being built by other contractors that had been recommended. I had seen other work by one of the contractors who had built a pool for Dave and Dianna, ( and they are very happy with his work. They are now in the process of building a guesthouse next to the pool using another contractor that is on our contact list. It may come down to the price per square foot.

I also checked out a new B&B on the road out to Consejo. It's called Serenity Sands ( and it's run by Phyl and Jill Mason. The main B&B was built by the contractor who had spread himself a little thin and Phyl was not too happy with his work. But down closer to the bay they are building a beautiful new home for his son-in law. This building has gone to the other extreme. They are extremely happy with their contractor but the budget went from $250K US to over $580K US., about $220 a square foot. The building could withstand a hurricane, tornado and an earthquake, all at the same time, and it would be the last thing standing. I'd like that too, but I don't have that kind of a budget. I think it's a little over engineered, but I'll be at their house during the next Cat 5 hurricane.

Another recommended contractor only takes on 2-3 jobs a year, and he already had one going in the Shores and another over at the Mayan Seaside, so he wasn't sure if he was going to pick up any more jobs. The neighbor nextdoor to our lot was also looking to use him as their contractor and to start building in Feb. '09, so they are in limbo until he makes his decision.

I'm hoping that the decline in prices for gas, steel and cement will have a positive effect on the budget and that building costs will be around $65-70 per square foot.


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