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Housing Advocacy Network

How to build a house cheaply

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It’s possible to build a house cheaply as long as you aren’t placing a value on the time you spend doing it, because the key to building cheaply is doing most of the work yourself–which means spending at least 2 hours working per square foot. In addition to saving a lot of money, you’ll always have a wonderful feeling of self-accomplishment when you look at the house that you built with your own two hands. Read the steps below for some proven ways to reduce your building costs.

Step 1
Keep your house design simple. Design the house to use standard-sized building materials. A two-story house is cheaper to build than a one-story house that has the same living area.
Step 2
Choose inexpensive materials. Cover the roof with galvanized sheets. Use shelves instead of cabinets in the kitchen. Buy low-end windows and doors. Use pine or vinyl for the floors, rather than hardwood or carpet.

African cities become the new home to over 40,000 people every day, many of whom find themselves without a roof over their heads. With that in mind, IFC has committed to do more to develop the property sector, both to provide new and affordable housing and to encourage an industry that requires significant building materials and has the potential to be a major employer. In May, IFC and Chinese multinational construction and engineering company, CITIC Construction launched a $300 million investment platform, CITICC (Africa) Holding Limited, to develop affordable housing in multiple African countries. The platform will partner with local housing developers and provide long-term capital to develop 30,000 homes over next five years. IFC estimates that each housing unit will create five full-time jobs – resulting in nearly 150,000 new jobs on the continent. Kenya and Nigeria are high on the priority list for the new effort. Kenya’s housing shortage is estimated at 2 million units, while Nigeria is in want of 17 million units. The soaring demand is being met by scant new supply. Africa’s housing market has few local developers with the technical and financial strength to construct large-scale projects. The IFC-CITIC Construction platform will work with local housing companies to develop affordable housing projects across Sub-Saharan Africa, each ranging in size from 2,000 to 8,000 units. CITIC Construction has a proven track record in constructing and delivering large scale housing projects. The platform will start by developing homes in Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria, expanding to other countries as operations ramp up. “In Angola, through planning, financing, construction and post-construction operation, CITIC Construction has successfully completed the 200,000 units housing program, new city of Kilamba Kiaxi, with relative infrastructure and utilities in four years. CITIC Construction has also founded the CITIC BN Vocational School in Angola which helps youth acquire the skills they need to become professionals”, said Hong Bo, Assistant President of CITIC Group and Chairwoman of CITIC Construction, “CITIC Construction will take advantage of our engineering experience and delivery capability to develop more affordable houses for Africa through the platform with IFC.” “As Sub-Saharan Africa become more urbanized, the private sector can help governments meet the critical need for housing”, said Oumar Seydi, IFC Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “The platform will help transform Africa’s housing markets by providing high quality, affordable homes, creating jobs, and demonstrating the viability of the sector to local developers. IFC will work with financial institutions to support mortgages and housing finance that will allow people to purchase the units.” The new housing units will be constructed in accordance to IFC’s green building standards, delivering homes that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. The World Bank Group estimates that by 2030, three billion people, or 40 percent of the world’s population will need new housing units. To date, IFC has invested more than $3 billion in housing finance in over 46 countries world-wide. IFC focuses on regions where large portions of the population live in sub-standard housing and have limited access to credit to build, expand, or renovate their homes.
Step 3
Use recycled materials. Check eBay or your local classifieds. Visit local auctions and houses where people are remodeling.
Step 4
Eliminate unnecessary rooms and services. A cheap house will have only one bathroom, no garage and a wood stove for heat rather than a furnace.
Step 5
Buy the cheapest lumber you can find. Look for a local sawmill that sells native wood. If you have usable trees on your property, you can rent a portable sawmill to make your own lumber or hire someone to do it for you.


Step 6
Build the house close to the road on well-drained land. You want the shortest distance possible between the nearest utility pole and your house. If you are not able to build where you can get town water and sewer, well-drained land allows you to build the cheapest septic system possible.
Step 7
Build as much of the house yourself as you can. Do the carpentry and finish work on your own. Code may require you to have the septic system, wiring and lights professionally installed. You may also want to have professionals build your foundation and grade the lot.

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