30th September 2022

All you need to know about building a house in the Dominican Republic

All you need to know about building a house in the Dominican Republic
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So you fell in love with Las Terrenas and decided that it's the perfect place to build the house you always dreamed about... now what? Everyone around seems to be buying ready or pre-sale properties and you want to know if it's a good idea at all to start the process of construction in the Dominican Republic?
 
Many people don't realize that building a house is a very complex process, especially if you decided to take on building your dream house in a foreign country. You need to be aware of many specificities and nuances in advance, always apply your knowledge at appropriate stages of the construction and manage numerous things at once.
 
Embark on this article to learn about the construction process in the Dominican Republic, specifically Samana and Las Terrenas.  We will discuss types of lots, costs, and many more interesting topics regarding building a house in paradise!
 

Building materials and costs

The cost of building in the Dominican Republic varies depending on the finish materials and type of construction you want to build. The average cost of good quality construction is about US$1000 per square meter, which usually includes the use of the following materials:
 
  • Cabinets, doors, and closets made of mahogany wood
  • Italian ceramics
  • Imported bathroom fixtures
  • Sliding glass doors etc.
Some luxurious real estate projects for sale in Las Terrenas have much higher costs per square meter because the builders use higher quality materials such as Marble for the floors and even walls. The obvious advantage is the long-term effect on the investment, especially when building near the beach or the ocean.
 
People sometimes choose to build with low-cost materials, believing they are saving money, and then expect a realtor to sell their villa or condo for the price of much higher investment. This not only delays the sale but also undermines the builder's credibility in the business environment in which he operates.
 
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Being creative is the best way to deal with a limited budget. Many good builders understand how to effectively match low-cost materials to create excellent works of art that look better than many poorly designed high-budget projects.
 
Leaving all of the details to someone else works only if you are working with a reputable construction firm that has a clean record that you can verify in person. If you have no experience with construction but still want to take on a project, you should find someone who has done it successfully before and try to hire their advice, otherwise, you risk only adding another poorly constructed villa, house, or condo to the community, lowering the overall value of the area.
 
 

Types of lots and layouts

Those who have been to the Samana peninsula will always be able to tell its unique landscape apart from any other place - other than the most beautiful beaches, there are many small green hills, one on top of the other, covered with lush jungle offering spectacular ocean views and endless potential for hiking and adventure - you never know where you will find a cave, a waterfall or a natural pool - there are amazing secrets nature is hiding all over Samana.
 
There are two main types of land - hills with a slope or flatland. Flat lots have a higher value per square meter as their buildable area is bigger than those with a slope at an angle. The larger the lot, the less cost per square meter will be. The closer it is to the ocean and the town, the more expensive.  
 
Once you've found the perfect location for your future home, whether it's oceanfront or oceanview, in a gated community, or out in the open, the next thing to think about is the land and layout configuration. Even if you're building for yourself today, you're also building for someone else who will buy from you later. If the land and layout plan is inadequate, you will have a difficult time selling the property when you want to.
 
When it comes to the lot layout, the following are the most important factors to consider:
 
  • Limited front space on small lots, no private buffer zone
  • Building too close to the street with no extra space for the back
  • Leaving insufficient or no sidewalk space
  • Buying a house with a narrow passage entrance and no front yard space
  • Leaving no parking space on the property for the house
  • Building a house that takes up the entire plot of land, leaving no room for a gardens
  • Building too close to adjacent lots, with no buffer zone for privacy
  • A large number of trees at the bottom of a slope causes problems when it rains
 

Project and collaboration with an architect

First and foremost, to estimate the total cost of the project, including building license, taxes, and fees, we must define a living/construction program with the client and architect. This program will serve as the project's canvas, encompassing surfaces and their applications, materials, and aesthetics. It must be as comprehensive as possible, with the understanding that every variation has an impact on the overall cost.
 
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Then, or mostly simultaneously, project plans will be developed, taking into account various options such as roof (flat or with slopes, materials, etc.), terraces, pool, and so on. Once we've defined all of the major points and aspects of the project, we'll need to get into the details to draw, such as bathrooms, kitchens, rooms, and even furniture, if necessary.
 
However, all of this work cannot be completed during the construction process for two reasons. The first reason is that material costs fluctuate quickly in this area, and a price can rise by 20% between the start and finish of a project (on a 10-month basis). For example, in 2022 it was registered that the country’s direct housing construction costs increased by 14.69% in one year
 
Moreover, the projections of the sector’s representatives indicate that they will continue to increase because the war between Russia and Ukraine has once again complicated the scenario. That is why, from the start, a construction project must be defined and calculated to plan all material purchases and avoid cost increases.
 
The second reason, based on our experience here, is more practical. Even if supervised by a general provider, every craftsman will give an initial price but will also discuss any variations, always in an increasing manner. So elaborating on project details during construction means that the costs will be out of control. This can quickly become a major issue, both for the work and for the relationship between the customer and the architect.
 
Finally, it is extremely difficult for us to begin a construction project without knowing where it will eventually "go." The solution would be to work on a preliminary draft to define an estimated cost that could be deduced from a total construction project fee in a very specific way. However, in that case, an architect would request a guarantee that they will work on the entire project until it is completed because it is a lot of work at the beginning, way before the construction even starts.
 

Common issues to avoid

When we go to see a house or villa for sale with a prospective client, the first thing we look for is the presence of cracks and moisture on the walls and ceilings, which is a clear indication of the quality of such construction. The foundation of the building is one of the most important aspects because if it is poorly built, the entire structure suffers (especially when the earth shakes), leaving the structure visually and structurally affected.
 
foundation+crack+repair
 
Most homes around 150 m2 should take no less than 7 months to build, depending on weather and other conditions, because if built too quickly, there will be insufficient time to let the cement and structure dry to their optimum, which is especially important when adding the tops. This lack of vision eventually leads to cracks and humidity, which stain and damage the structure in the short and long term.
 
Because the paint is directly affected, many homes require repainting every 2-3 months, and when a buyer sees a house or villa in such condition, the sale is diverted to other properties. Due to poor planning and a lack of experience in the field, approximately 30% of homes built by individuals are affected by cracks and moisture.
 
Regardless of how much you paint and care for the walls and each area of the house, moisture, the eternal enemy of households, will eventually lurk behind the beds, ceiling, or bathroom. The walls crack, the paint fades, and the house takes on a sense of desolation and abandonment. Humidity control in the home is a difficult task because it appears gradually. Because it focuses on specific areas, you only need to repair the affected part of the wall rather than the entire house.
 
Moisture deteriorates the beams over time, destroying drywall, and warping and rusting cabinets and metal frames. Their emergence is caused by a variety of factors, the most common of which are leaks. However, it may occur in closed environments with high water condensation, such as a kitchen sink, and result in the growth of fungi that can attack shower curtains, wood furniture, and cabinets.
 
When laying a foundation and a roof, it is critical to have a qualified professional present, not to mention that a faulty pipe installation can be a major disaster for any villa in the short or long term. First and foremost, it is preferable to have a realistic budget and to create a design to follow with the assistance of experienced staff. Most villas in fine neighborhoods in the Dominican Republic were built by well-known engineers and thus retain a high resale value and are considered a good investment.
 
 
Here is a list of planning mistakes prevalent in the area, so you can learn from the mistakes of others
  • Very small, poorly lit kitchens with tiny windows that allow no light from daylight
  • Narrow, small windows that allow little light to enter
  • Narrow doorways that limit the size of furniture passage
  • Small master bedrooms
  • Insufficient and narrow bathrooms
  • Light switches hidden behind inward-opening doors
  • A visitor's bathroom beneath the stairs with a WC at the far end - Bathrooms with poor ventilation
  • Kitchens without air extractors
  • Narrow winding stairs
  • Lack of planning for water reservoir construction
  • More than two doors between the master suite, walk-in closet, and master bathroom
     

Oceanfront VS Oceanview - pros and cons 

Oceanfront properties

The dream of owning a beach or oceanfront property is ever-present for most people traveling to buy property in Samana. The reality of oceanfront living is that, while it is more romantic and even healthier, the proximity of the sea will have a significant financial impact on the owner in the short term. The cost of maintaining oceanfront villas is high, and the coastal city of Las Terrenas cannot escape this reality.
 
Oceanfront properties are right on the beach, which means ground floor units have direct access to the beach. Properties that are on a higher floor usually have a stairway connected to their terrace that offers access to the beach. Other properties have a patio or backyard that leads to the beach.  Living in an oceanfront property cuts your commute to the beach down to zero.
 

Pros

  • For those who have always dreamed of living in an oceanfront property or renting one for the summer, there are plenty of pros.
  • If you wish to spend your holidays hanging out on the beach with your family and friends, then an oceanfront property is the way to go. You will always have people who want to visit you, so there will be no shortage of gatherings. 
  • You will always have something to do when you live on oceanfront property. For example, you can take early morning walks on the beach, drink coffee on the patio, picnic on the beach, and watch the sunset. 
  • Living by the ocean can also be beneficial to your health. Not only will you get plenty of vitamin D, breathe fresh air, and lessen your stress.
  • Since oceanfront properties are sought-after, they make a great investment. If you don't plan on living at your oceanfront property year-round, you can rent it out and earn additional income.

Cons

  • Although there might seem like there are no cons to oceanfront properties, there are always a few cons. 
  • When you invest in an oceanfront property you only want to think about the warm sunny days you will enjoy. However, when you live near the ocean, the weather can also be unpredictable. 
  • In the presence of a storm, you might worry about high waves and rain for days. Aside from trapping you inside the house, bad weather can also cause a lot of damage to your property. 
  • This also means you might have to pay higher costs of maintenance for your beach property. Saltwater is corrosive and can cause damage to the structure. Your homeowners' insurance will also put a dent in your wallet. 
  • With an oceanfront property, you can also expect to have to deal with a lot of sand. If you're not careful, you will find sand everywhere. 
  • Although you picture yourself on a secluded beach when you live on a beachfront property, chances are you have to share the beach with other people. 
  • You might not have a lot of privacy when you live on oceanfront property. During the summer months, you can expect more beach traffic. 

Oceanview properties

With oceanview properties, the beach is not steps away from your door. However, you will still have a view of the ocean and some properties are a walkable distance from the beach.  Some oceanview properties are along the coastline and can offer closer access to the beach. Other ocean view properties have the beach at an even closer distance, but it's oftentimes a rocky beach.
 
However, other properties are on cliffs along the coastline. While they might not offer closer access to the beach, they do have great views of the ocean. Although they might not be steps from the beach, oceanview condos will still offer incredible views. 
 

Pros

  • If you want to be close to the ocean but want some separation from the beach traffic, an ocean view property is a perfect solution. You will get the vibe of beach living, but still, keep some separation from pedestrians. 
  • Another great thing about an ocean view property is that you won't drag in as much sand inside. 
  • Living near the beach with great ocean views will also provide you with great stress relief. You will enjoy the peace as you sit on your balcony while drinking your morning coffee. 
  • You will also be able to open your favorite bottle of wine as you enjoy the sunset. 
  • Believe it or not, living in an ocean view property can also improve your fitness. You might have to take a short walk to get down to the beach.
  • If you're in a lively area, you will start walking to shops, and restaurants, and do other activities. 
  • Not to mention, your friends and family will love to go visit you at your ocean view property. 
  • Ocean view properties are also a lot cheaper than oceanfront properties. 

Cons

  • The distance from the beach might be a big disadvantage for people. Some people like the convenience of being close to the beach, so having an ocean view property can still feel like a disadvantage, especially if it's in a secluded area.
  • While the winter season can be a lot quieter, the summer season often draws big crowds for oceanfront properties. The increase in population can create more traffic to an otherwise quiet community. 
  • Although living in an oceanfront property means great sunny skies almost year-round, you still have to worry about mother nature throwing some curve balls. 
  • In the Atlantic Ocean, hurricane season is from June to November. 
 
Check out our oceanview and oceanfront building lots available for sale!
 

Swimming pools

The swimming pool is one of the features that can make a Caribbean villa more or less appealing to friends and family. In the past, people would judge it based on its size alone, but now there are other factors to consider. Large swimming pools are clearly a headache in terms of maintenance, not to mention the high energy bills. If you intend to design with a future sale in mind, a medium-sized swimming pool with the proper height to accommodate both swimmers and non-swimmers is a must.
 
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There are numerous online resources for swimming pool design where you can obtain appropriate diagrams that include proper depths, sizes, spas, gazebos, pergolas, and a variety of other useful tips. Here is one such site where you can get great ideas for swimming pool designs.
 
Real estate websites that display villa listings for sale and rent are also a good source of information, not necessarily for design purposes, but for finding many different styles of pools built in very exclusive villas and houses throughout the Dominican Republic.
 

Are you ready to build your dream home in our Caribbean paradise? 

If the answer is yes, or you are interested and would like to discuss the construction process with our local real estate experts in more detail, let's get in touch today! 
 
 
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