If you have a piece of undeveloped land that you've been wanting to develop but have been procrastinating the start of the project this article is for you. You don't have to have all the money upfront, build as you earn, that's what I did. I didn't even have much foresight with regard to how much the project would end up costing nor how long it would take but I started anyway.
In the end, it took four years to complete the project. It sounds like a long time but the time flew by.
I paid for the land first. It was a pricey piece of land so it took me six months to pay it off. You can do the same. Inflation is currently high and unpredictable so if you want to pay for land over a prolonged period of time then you may need to agree on a dollar value with conversion to Malawi kwacha using a given exchange rate.
For instance, you can say I'll pay USD3,000 for the land. I can pay USD500 per month but I will pay it in Malawi kwacha using the "sell" or offer exchange rate in the Nation newspaper on the last day of each month. That is a reasonable agreement and many people would be willing to accept it. You win because you get to pay for the land slowly, the buyer also wins because the value they get is pegged to the much more stable US dollar.
Next, build the house in small stages.
Clearing the land is relatively cheap and requires basic materials including unskilled labour.
For the more costly foundation, rather than save up all the money you need before you start, find out what materials are needed, that is quantities of sand, cement, bricks, wire and so on.
Given prices change rapidly, I suggest you spend money the moment you have it. If you have a few thousand kwachas, buy cement and keep it somewhere. Then when you have accumulated enough cement you can organise a delivery of bricks and sand (mchenga) to start the project.
You don't even have to do the entire foundation in one go, you can do it in baby stages. The most important thing is to start. Even if it takes 10 years to complete the project it's better to work on having a solid and concrete asset rather than living hand to mouth.
Overall, the building of the house is quite cheap. The costs start getting large when you reach the roofing stage and decorating thereafter. But it can all be done as slowly as you need.
I have discussed starting a business in reasonable depth in previous articles and in my experience I found that having a side-business does really help to boost the rate at which you complete your building project.
Got a piece of land? Start developing it, even if it's just with the boys' quarters.
"Faith is taking the first step even if you can't see the whole staircase." Martin Luther King Jr.
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.