Three years ago, I shared a blog about my home in the lovely Akuapem mountains in Ghana. At the time, it was liveable but unpainted, unfurnished and just very unfinished. In this blog, I want to share the updated photos of the finished home and also share some insights into the journey of building my dream home. The first step I made in this journey was to find a piece of land. I knew I wanted it to be in Aburi, which is in a beautiful part of Ghana and just a one hour’s drive from Accra. I loved the serenity there and so I focused my search in Aburi. With my mum’s help, I found an acre of land from a reputable seller who was an ex-politician that lived in the community. An acre was going for $20,000. I didn’t have anywhere close to that kind of cash especially as I had just finished paying off a graduate school loan. But, I knew I could get a bank loan. So, this is how I made the purchase.
I want to encourage young professionals to consider a loan as an option for land purchase rather than waiting to save a little fortune or get married first etc. When you start working and have cleared off any student loans you may have, land can be your first investment. When I bought the land, I was 29 or 30 years, single, no kids… but I had a vision of living there one day with lots of kids running around and having friends and family visit from time to time. So, I bought the land and did nothing further till 4 years later when I had saved up a bit of money to start building a 7 bedroom house.
The beauty about building in Ghana is that you can take your time. I know in South Africa, you are hit with tax penalties if you take too long to build. I took 6 years to build the house to a “liveable” stage and other another 2 years to really complete it. So, 8 years in total. Mostly, I financed it with my own money (about $150,000) but once at roofing stage, I was flat broke and very impatient. So, I went to a bank and took out a loan of $100,000 to complete the house. The house was valued some years ago just under $500,000 so it is very well worth the investment. In a few years, the value may even double as the area further develops. By the way, $150,000 spread over 6 years is about $2000 a month just to give you an idea of cash flow. Basically, do not be put off by large amounts. The key is to start somewhere, have a long term vision for your house and as much as possible, have a realistic budget forecast.
Now, let me talk a little bit about the house design. My house was designed by my South African friend, Nadine Engelbrecht. Nadine and I were supposed to be neighbours when I was living in South Arica. We had bought land in Pretoria next to each other alongside a beautiful nature reserve. But, I abandoned that project before construction started. I felt a stronger need to focus on the Ghana property and possibly move back to Ghana, and so, I sold that land. But, Nadine came on board to design my Ghana house and it worked out great especially as we had similar visions on indoor-outdoor living, use of local materials, earthy feel, minimalism and integrating the environment into the design.
There is a lot I like about the house and somethings I wish I could change (or may change in the future). I love my choice of flooring (wood laminate flooring). It provides warmth and character although real timber would have been the first prize. Having large slightly tinted glass doors allows for a lot of natural light and the tint gives a bit of privacy during the day as I do not use curtains in non-sleeping rooms. If I had to do the sliding doors over, I would go for doors that slide out completely – like completely disappear to feel more openness. Our pool is perfectly located in a courtyard style with easy access from two bedrooms and the living rooms. I like that a lot! With some left-over timber, we have built a “tree house” in the backyard which is a treat for my little boy.
We are connected to the grid but in the future, I will limit my on-grid consumption and install solar panels. We are not connected to municipal water supply so we provide our own water through a borehole. It works very well but we generally try to ration our water consumption to make up for having a pool. I don’t have very good soil but with composting, it is getting better and we are able to grow a number of fruits and vegetables. A dream is to be able to largely live off the land, but for this, I would need a bigger land (something I have started working towards).
I hope this blog inspires you if are thinking about building a home and hopefully gives ideas about where to start. I have talked a bit about finances because often people don’t share that and I think it’s helpful to know these things. To sum it up, start with finding your ideal piece of land; then get a good architect; find builders through recommendations; get involved in the process; even then expect to be cheated and expect endless costs overruns; be flexible in adapting your design when the need arises; do not rush.. sometimes, it helps to take a construction break; expect mistakes and sloppiness and learn to live with some imperfections. In the end, it is all worth it.
Peace and love!