House being built in West Bay Honduras on the iron shore
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Building on Roatan

 

Roatan at the moment is awash with construction. The after-effects of COVID and the swarm of buyers that followed it has left Roatan with a small inventory of completed houses for sale. This has triggered a wave of construction. That is generally a good thing, although some builders are misguided with beautiful houses being built in a terrible location or an ugly building being built in a great location. We have a great need for houses in the 250K to 400K range as well as some lower-cost communities.

 

With so much of the island being underdeveloped and it being an all-cash market, the buyer can always find the ideal location and build the ideal house for themselves. That is something every seller has to deal with as often they are not competing against other houses, they are competing against a dream house.

 

When someone sells a house here one of the hardest things to do is value it. In places like the USA, most houses have nearby comparisons. Sometimes on developments, you know that an identical house sold a few months back just four doors down so pricing is simple. Here pricing is a skill that most realtors but very few owners have. It is natural for owners to feel that they want more money for a house than they bought it for, especially as over the years they have put money into it and maybe even expanded it. Unfortunately, however, a house is worth only what someone else is willing to pay for it.

 

A good listing agent will work out what your property is worth by a complex set of variables. Are there any comparables that have sold (not listed - sold) nearby? What is the square footage of the construction? What is the condition of the house? How good are the design and the architecture? It is amazing how a house won't sell because the design is such that you can't open the bathroom door fully, or the windows don't face the view, light bulbs are out, or parts aren't finished. There are myriad reasons that put buyers off, however, a good agent will explain these facts and help prepare the house for listing. Many times an owner has a price already in their mind and will insist that is the price. A good agent will argue for whatever they know the price the house will sell for in a reasonable time frame and walk away if the owner will not come close to that price. Some agents will list at whatever price as they can use the house for advertising. The house of course will sit on the market and the price will slowly be reduced until it sells.

 

So what is the process if you want to build your dream house?

 

Locating a lot.

 

The choice of a lot is of the utmost importance as a good lot always has value but a good house in a bad location will lose value. Sometimes my clients tell me they have a budget for a lot and house and I can see them working backward from the house they want, how much it will cost, and then working out how much they can afford to spend on the lot. This is a mistake. The most important part of your house regardless of if it is your forever home or an investment, is the location. Of course, having a budget for your lot is important, but it is crucial to never buy a lot that is not going to make you happy just because it is in your budget. People move here to have beachfront living or have beautiful views of the ocean as they watch the sunset/sunrise from their deck. If you buy a lot that has neither then you have just shot yourself in the foot as far as resale goes. 

 

Choosing an architect.

 

Obviously, the best way to choose an architect is to find houses you love and use the one that designed those. If you have some vision in mind they can adapt to it as that is their business. If you want to use a design you saw elsewhere that is your prerogative but you will still need a Honduran architect to sign off on it. Some architects here are also builders or have relationships with builders so they can help with that side.

 

Once you have your plans you will need to find a builder. Prices and quality vary a lot between builders so shop around. At the moment your biggest problem may be finding a builder with the capacity to build your house right now as everyone is so busy. I cannot emphasize this enough: get and check references. Even post on a Facebook group if you are unsure. Though see my notes on posting in groups elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The building process

First, you need to prove you own the lot and have paid all of the property taxes. So you will have to visit the Municipal with your title and make sure you are up to date with everything. 

 

You will need to have an architect draw up the plans and they need to be signed off by a licensed structural engineer. It does not matter if the architect and engineer are in Roatan or the mainland as long as they are licensed in Honduras. If the plans are not from Honduras they will need to be signed off by a Hondurean architect before being given to the engineer.

 

If you live in a place like Lawson Rock, Lighthouse, Keyhole Bay, etc. you will be confined by additional building codes as many communities have restrictions on what you can build and how it is built. Some are very restrictive. Before you buy a lot in one of those locations you should be clear on these restrictions. The Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) are there to keep the community up to a certain standard. However, these requirements may add an additional cost to your building. E.g. If you are required to use terra cotta tiles for the roof they are obviously more expensive than a normal roof. They also usually include more restrictive setbacks from property lines, the beach, the road, etc.

 

Obviously, the structural engineer is just going to check that the house is not going to collapse after construction. They will also check to see if sewerage and gray water are dealt with properly. They do not deal with the location of the building. That is done by the municipal.

When the structural engineer has approved the plans he will affix his stamp to the plans.
 

The municipal will then send out an environmental team to check the plans and the location. This is to see that the building will fit into the location where you plan to build it and that it does not break any of the environmental rules. For example, mangroves are protected and must not be disturbed, you are not allowed to build near the iron shore, too close to the property line, etc.  In some cases, it is sensible to go to the municipal before submitting the plans to ask for a precheck of the location. For instance, if you are building on a steep slope, or if you are going to be building close to the iron shore then a precheck would be very sensible as the inspector can tell you that you need to be a certain distance from certain outcrops of the rock. This might mean adjusting the architectural drawings so that the supports are in slightly different locations. Doing this will save you time by presenting plans that the inspectors are likely to accept without comment.

 

If it passes the environmental municipal inspectors then next follows a civil engineer.  On average, this occurs about 20 days later. They double-check that the engineering is good for the location and that the structure of the building will be sound. 

 

The final sign-off is the Mayor of the municipality where the building is located. Either the municipality of Roatán (west part) or José Santos Guardiola (east part).

 

You can usually build straight away, however, if there is a large evacuation of dirt they may not let you build until the rainy season is over to prevent excessive runoff from the site into the sea.

 

At this point, you can just build. There are no scheduled checks but the inspectors can turn up at any time and have the right to inspect the work being done. If someone complains for any reason it may trigger an inspection.

 

Once you start building you can build right from the foundation to the finished building without any inspection. It would be unusual for them not to check at some point but there is no requirement for them to do so.

 

Costs

 

The costs are from before the pandemic as the prices at the moment are high. I cannot tell if they are artificially high due to supply chain issues and if they will go down again. It is possible the large increase in construction on the island is allowing builders to charge more money and make more money.

 

Also, prices between builders vary tremendously. The one thing I suggest strongly is that you go with a builder with a strong track record. Picking a builder based on price is a mistake. It is a mistake anywhere but the last thing you want is a legal dispute with your builder and have to go to court to settle things. 

 

To build a barebones house so that it is finished with plumbing and wiring, but nothing else should cost about $80 to $120 per square foot. The variance depends on the type of construction, your choice of builder, and the difficulty of construction. To get the house finished is $130 to $150 but can go as high as $200 if you have very high-end finishings.

 

Also, a lot depends on your involvement in construction. If you are a builder you can manage the construction yourself and do the finishing yourself. So your costs would be completely different. Most people who buy here just want to take possession of a completed house.

 

I am happy to recommend builders my clients have used and are happy with but it is always recommended you do your own research and ask for references. The paperwork you will need to provide or prepare is as follows.

 

From property owner

 

ID Passport or residence

 

Copy of the property deed

 

Real estate taxes payment receipt to show all taxes are up to date

 

Copy of the green card solvency of personal taxes paid

 

The budget for the work must detail labor, materials, and expenses

 

From Architect

 

Architecture plans. If foreign they still must be stamped by a Honduran licensed architect.

 

Licensed engineer's stamp on the drawings

 

From Builder

 

Builder documents:

 

Builders Identity documents

 

Valid builder license

 

Builder Solvency

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Roatan Municipal Office Dixon Cove

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