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Picking the right engineer to build your home

February 25, 2015

If you have recently bought a beautiful home site in Costa Rica and you want to build your home on it, you may be asking yourself, “How should I get started and how can I pick the right engineer to build my home?”

In Costa Rica, many property owners do not use a civil engineer to build their home if it is going to be small or if they aren’t building a high-end home. To build a simple middle class home, many use what is called a maestro de obras  (a construction foreman). This maestro de obras takes care of the structural and electrical part of the construction and generally no other construction professionals are used when building a medium-sized home in Costa Rica.

As you probably know, we have frequent earthquakes in Costa Rica and in many places the soil is not the right quality for new construction projects. Therefore, we recommend using a good civil engineer when building your home as well as having a specialized company take soil samples to see what the quality of the soil is and how deep they have to dig to lay the foundations.

Typically, before you decide on the design of your home, you should interview different architects. If you like a modern contemporary design, a Mediterranean style, a Spanish colonial or a ranch-style shipping container home, you should choose an architect who has experience in designing such a home and can show you a portfolio of similar houses which he or she has already built.

Ivo Banner American-European

When you have picked an architect and have finished the design, ask your architect to help you get a quote for the construction of the house with different construction companies. Your architect should give each company a design, a floor plan, a list of construction materials and finishing materials so they all use the same products when coming up with the quote. If you don’t do this, you will be comparing apples and oranges.

Once you get the quotes to build your home, interview each civil engineer who will be involved with the construction and ask him or her to bring their calculations so you can walk them through your requirements, and so that you can get to know them better. Bear in mind that the cheapest offer is not necessarily the best one. Get an idea of their personality during their presentation. This will help you make a better decision based on the personal rapport you develop rather than just looking at the numbers.

When you have decided which engineer to hire to build your home, get your attorney to write up a detailed construction agreement. Involve your architect in this process, too. Hire your architect to oversee the construction of your house. This is the only way to be assured that all the right materials are used, including the quality of the concrete when it is poured.

Architects and civil engineers do not work for free, but we recommend that you hire professionals to design and build your home of your dreams in Costa Rica. Why run the risk of your house falling down the mountain or cracking in two with the first earthquake?

Ivo Henfling, a Dutch expat who has lived in Costa Rica since 1980, founded the American-European Real Estate Group back in 1999 which was the first functioning MLS with affiliate agents from coast to coast.

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