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Author: Subject: Building costs in Los Barriles
monoloco
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[*] posted on 6-12-2010 at 09:19 PM


I have had very good luck with just paying my contractor and crew by the week. I am there and constantly check their quality and make sure that everything is to my specifications. I pay for all the materials and can shop for the best prices and quality. I have done the same with plumbing and electrical. I made it clear to my contractors that if I wasn't satisfied with the speed and quality of their work that I would get another crew. So far things have worked out well and I have been able to keep construction costs reasonable and quality high. I looked at the houses my contractor had built and talked to several of his former clients before hiring. The key though is just being there for all phases of construction.
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Bob and Susan
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[*] posted on 6-13-2010 at 05:27 AM


i think monoloco is correct

but what is your cost per foot estimate
just "ball park" ...finished product




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[*] posted on 6-13-2010 at 06:06 AM


"I get a contract, and pay by the project. I don't much care what the guys make on the ground on a hourly basis. I pay for the project. I don't pay their SS, that's the contractors job, they are his employees."

very interesting precep - similar to acting as an owner's agent/rep or as CM at risk here in AZ - a role i have specialized in for years for both resid and comm'l projects.
just curious - as you are not acting as GC or paying the workers and covering their FICA as employees - what is it that validates your ability or legalities re "working" in Mexico as you stated earlier in this discussion?

under what criteria are you able to "work" and charge for your services, to whom are you accountable besides the client as far as gov't compliance. do you pay income taxes etc? i am not critiquing here - i think it sounds great - just wanting to hear how it is managed as far as bureaucracy goes.




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[*] posted on 6-13-2010 at 12:26 PM


If you are not a contractor
Not a worker
Not a arcitect
Not a lawyer
Why would anyone need your services?
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[*] posted on 6-13-2010 at 02:31 PM


Are you saying gringos can not trust a mexican contractor?
I want to build a small house.
Do I really need a project manager for this small house?
If you charge by the hour, how much per hour?
How many hours do you charge per week?
How much have your clients saved by using your services?
Do you have pictures of your projects?
Could you post them here?
Do you have a website?
Do you have referances?
Can I contact old clients for referances?
Can you provide me with a cost estimate for a typical 1600 sq foot house?
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[*] posted on 6-13-2010 at 06:29 PM


If you charge by the hour, how much per hour?
How much have your clients saved by using your services?
Do you have pictures of your projects?
Could you post them here?
Do you have a website?
Do you have referances?
Can I contact old clients for referances?
Are there any millionairs here that need this service?
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longlegsinlapaz
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[*] posted on 6-13-2010 at 07:49 PM


fishabductor, ignore the naysayers & skeptics. I understand & agree totally with what you're saying. I've built 3 casas in the La Paz area over the past 11 years. By far the most cost effective one was #2 where I was my own general contractor, negotiated my own pricing for materials & got them locked in for the duration by committing to total amounts up front. Granted, my finished product was nowhere in the $20 - 45 sq ft range & it wasn't as small or "rustic" as the 666 sq ft casita you've mentioned. I opted for tile, custom wood cabinets, 2 interior fireplaces, 17,000 liter cistern, 2-car garage, perimeter wall, pool, etc, etc, etc. I also designed each of the casas I've built myself, right down to the electrical & saved a bundle in Arq. fees.

I totally agree with your philosophy of negotiating your own materials prices & being on-site every day to stop things before they reach the point of no return; it also helps keep materials from "getting feet" & walking off the site! It IS possible to build a well-constructed, structurally sound basic structure for much lower costs without having an Arq. involved until final design submittal. The person doing the negotiating & overseeing just needs to have a working knowledge of various tools like a level, plumb bob, square, tape measure & know how to read a blueprint.

Of course materials & labor costs can vary greatly, depending on the site location, higher materials & lower labor costs for more remote areas.

Oh yeah, that person also needs to be tenacious as hell to ensure their instructions are followed, as well as the ability to know & act when they aren't! :bounce:
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[*] posted on 6-14-2010 at 10:23 AM


Well, we all live and learn......the older I get the more I realize how little I really know...thanks for all the comments...and good luck



Mexico!! Where two can live as cheaply as one.....but it costs twice as much.....
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[*] posted on 6-14-2010 at 11:15 AM


I have a feeling I will be in need of your services fishabductor. I have built cars, motorcycles and boats for 40 years, but never a house. Let alone a house in Baja. It looks like it will be the first of the year before I am able to follow my wife down, she's leaving for La Paz next week. I look forward to meeting you, and seeing a few of your projects! I will need all the help and ideas I can put together.
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[*] posted on 6-14-2010 at 04:25 PM


I am also interested in following the casita barata saga, as well as any follow on things (Bajabass' house?). I have plans to build in East Cape in the next couple of years, and have one of two dilemas. One is the possibilty of trying to have a house built while I'm not around to oversee. I do understand that this is fraught with peril. The other scenario involves me being there to oversee, bu the amount of things that I do not know about home construction make this fraught with peril. I have had the pleasure of using Longlegsinlapaz as a sounding board, and she has been very helpful. But I am interested in watching as things go forward, I might well be another needing Fishabductor's services.
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[*] posted on 6-14-2010 at 06:01 PM


gnu kid - you missed his point - he has a portfolio now and is connected to mexican culture by family and lengua skills.
besides that there is nothing wrong with wanting a good well built home whether in USA baja or on gilligans isla...
your post reads like you are soliciting to do 3rd party building yourself.
what are your qualifications?

building is not rocket science but i know many who think they are scientists but couldn't carry a simply tool belt themselves.

when i eventually build in baja and i will in a few years, i'll be there 24/7 but i will hire my own personal PM to assist me in getting the message to my crews as i bird dog them daily. Bob Frambes is my living example of how to get it done.




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[*] posted on 6-14-2010 at 06:29 PM


we just got lucky...and susan was there full time

my builder had many finished projects to show me and people that had used him were happy

having someone oversee the construction is a good idea if you have the extra cash to burn...

otherwise that cash could be used later if necessary

if fishabductor has a track record and
could show referances maybe he's a tool you could use
but
if he "goofs" you still have to pay

i never realized the la ribera area was growing right now
is there all that construction going on in this economy?

punta chivato is dead
so is the bay

maybe next year...go dodgers:spingrin:




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[*] posted on 6-14-2010 at 07:23 PM


Quote:
Originally posted by Bob and Susan
i think monoloco is correct

but what is your cost per foot estimate
just "ball park" ...finished product
I won't know what the cost per foot is until the job is finished. I am paying 3500 a week for maestros, 2500 for the ayudantes, and 4000 to the contractor to run the job, and supply the equipment, and I pay seguridad on the crew but not the contractor. So far I am at about $30 a sq ft. for the obra negra and plastering. The house is on a fairly steep hillside so included a lot of foundation work, we also have high ceilings and many architectural details.

[Edited on 6-15-2010 by monoloco]
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[*] posted on 6-14-2010 at 08:49 PM


Quote:
Originally posted by capt. mike
gnu kid - you missed his point - he has a portfolio now and is connected to mexican culture by family and lengua skills.
besides that there is nothing wrong with wanting a good well built home whether in USA baja or on gilligans isla...
your post reads like you are soliciting to do 3rd party building yourself.
what are your qualifications?

building is not rocket science but i know many who think they are scientists but couldn't carry a simply tool belt themselves.

when i eventually build in baja and i will in a few years, i'll be there 24/7 but i will hire my own personal PM to assist me in getting the message to my crews as i bird dog them daily. Bob Frambes is my living example of how to get it done.


I am sure you are right, that I missed something. He sounds like a great addition to a team as a construction manager and a big help, just that it's so different in baja. It's hard to garner respect as an outside manager if you don't work hands on, in fact the manager can be used by the team to increase costs, by telling/asking him for things. Basically when the team finds out you pay an external manager and have the money to do so, that is a clue you can afford to pay more-and you will.

Also, I have seen many bad experiences in this situation, where the manager adds costs, and things go crazy politically. Regardless there has to be standoffs in the process, does this manager have the ability to stand up to crazy nonsense? He has no ethical or logical reason to deny requests, and the more he knows-that the team knows he knows can be used against him by asking him for things that make sense-in the USA but do not make sense in Baja.

As a Baja construction manager there are few strategies or tricks perhaps but being a manager with USA experience is not implicitly one of them. The materials and process is profoundly different.

I am sure that if anyone could afford to have a great manager and pay the team also etc... it will help, but my point is that costs will escalate dramatically unless perhaps fishabductor knows how to play the game.

The topic was about saving money or building good quality at $40/sq foot in Los Barilles which is notoriously one of the highest building cost regions.

I'll suggest a few of the tricks instead:

1) Do not tell the team who they work for, suggest they work for Grandma who isn't here now-she is a smart matriarch and a difficult person. You are Grandma's nephew-she is coming to live in the house. Then when they come up with their money games you can always say I need to ask Grandma, it will take a few days. The answer is always no. Grandma is inflexible.

2) Have a woman be the manager, she can play like she isn't an expert, even though she is, and she can complain about problems from a perspective that is hard to argue with for crazy contractors. The woman can explain that she isn't authorized to allow for increases, not until a later date at least...

3) You need to be able to communicate with the team without opening the door to money problems, sometimes a younger person or a woman is better at that than a sophisticated outside male party. Another trick would be to dress down, way down, to appear to be as poor and traditional as possible. No fancy cars.

4) Only pay team/workers at the end of specified periods, meet each separately and talk to each one about the details of their family and work, give separate goals and incentives as needed. Do not give loans or advances. Never respond to emergency demands for money for supplies etc... Otherwise you create a scenario where you find yourself responding to crazy demands.

5) Tell workers/team that if they do not show up or fail to work they won't be able to continue-they will have to be replaced. Stick to it if possible unless you really do not care or have no choice.

6) As part of the agreement with the contractor, ask each worker for their voter card, copy it, find out where they live and who their family is-go to their house and confirm. Have the worker sign an agreement that they work for the contractor, if that is the case. This can help avoid crazy lawsuits.

7) A manager can be another worker who is apparently working on something else, gardens etc... on site and does not speak to the workers nor notify them that he is managing, then he can find out what is really going on and tell the owners without being targeted by workers.
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[*] posted on 6-14-2010 at 08:50 PM


wsdunc.....Thank you for your kind words. As I've said many times, I force-feed massive amounts of factual information to the "new kids" on the block, and I do it because I wish there had been someone who was as willing to share their actual experiences & knowledge learned in the trenches with me when I was the "new kid", as I've shared with you & others.
Quote:
Originally posted by gnukid
I respect Fishabductor enthusiasm and welcome his effort and style, though I have some commentary, it would seem that fishabductor knows about US building standards, that experience has little no bearing on building in Baja. And while I am sure that his US management experience is quite good it translates in no way to getting a local team/resources to work for your goals. That is unless he can joke and cajole in dialects of the workers/materials salespeople. Or perhaps if he was New Jersey Mafia construction manager it might help.

gnukid, respectfully, IMO, it doesn't matter where someone acquires a knowledge of good solid construction techniques, standards & practices....I believe that the English words level, straight, square, fair price, correct, safe, win/win situation, good value for the money, among many other translate into many different languages.

Any fluent Nomad Spanish speakers who know me personally have my permission to rate my mangled Spanglish....second language skills do not come as easily for everyone!:( I do joke with & cajole the workers, but 90% of them look to the 10% who laughed for a translation from my Espanol to Espanol they understand! IMO, it's more important that I TRY to converse in their language, I treat them respectfully as individuals, and when I ask something of them they aren't familiar with, I'm out in the hot sun showing them how I want something done. I've had workers, and an English fluent jefe, tell me something I wanted couldn't be done; I explained to the jefe exactly how it COULD be done & the workers still stood there shaking their heads muttering "Es no posible!" I kicked into my fractured Spanglish & mime & showed the workers that it was possible & exactly how. Smiles & nods eventually appeared all around as comprehension dawned! I got what I'd originally asked for and the workers learned something new to be used another day!
Quote:
In Los Barriles there are excellent teams and managers who build high quality homes and there are amazingly skilled local gringos too, as well as DIY types. You can't demand $200/sq foot quality and service and try to pay $40/sq foot. So one simply must decide what you want. You gotta pay to play. The teams need work, so now is a good time to build, or better time to buy.

Yes, there are, and there are also contractors who will promise you $200/sq ft quality & service for $40/sq ft. They'll do it with a straight face & they'll even put it in writing in a contract....but what do you think the chances are that you'll actually get it....never mind, that was a rhetorical question.
Quote:
In the end, it's important to realize that you don't need so much high quality in door living space in Los Barriles like the US, you don't need US quality construction, it serves little benefit unless your goal is to sit inside and watch satelite TV with AC on, which is a really sad way to live in Baja. A simple kitchen and a few palapas can serve a family vacation well.

gnukid, I'll be the first to agree with you that the lifestyle here is much more outdoor oriented, it's totally unlike the lifestyle & the housing amenities I had in the Pacific Northwest. My biggest concessions were no dining room & a LOT more windows!;) You DO need good quality, well-engineered structural integrity here....it's especially appreciated during hurricane season. I don't know about you, but I'm not about to attempt to sit out a hurricane in a palapa!

This is my permanent full-time home, I LIVE here, I'm not on vacation!

And FWIW, I don't use A/C....I built with foam blocks & in 3 summers, my interior temperature has yet to exceed 82 degrees & I'm comfortable using a fan to move the air.

I could survive in a pallet board casita with dirt floors & a tin roof, but I choose not to & thankfully I've been able to live in comfort....not luxury & not extravagantly, by any means!

Our two cultures have different standards & expectations. That's not to say one is right/wrong/better....merely different.
Quote:
The real fun of Baja is getting in there, participating and doing it yourself, spending time on site to understand the sun and wind and flow, accepting that the level and straight is not always best or significant and learn to live in a simpler manner that takes advantage of the resources, climate and view.

I've done all of that, including standing on top of a 6' step ladder on my uncleared land to determine the best elevation for optimum views! I have personally designed each of my casas uniquely & specifically for the land they sit on.

gnukid, you need to respect & accept the fact that there are as many different reasons that people choose Baja to live out their days as there are personal & unique lifestyle choices that we choose & as there are people! Each of us arrive here with different backgrounds & skill-sets, different mindsets of how to best accomplish our individual personal goals.

As much as I appreciate the beauty of a palapa, IMO, they attract scorpions & other bugs as well as birds & they shed dirt & palm debris daily. I want window screens because I have a bad reaction to mosquito bites & I go into anaphylactic shock from wasp stings. I want level, because the older I get the easier it is to walk on a level playing field! I don't want to have to put a Pacifico cap under one or more legs of all my furniture to keep it from rocking!

In a nutshell, your personal lifestyle choices are not my personal lifestyle choices.

Quote:
I bet that Fishabductor will make many costly mistakes due to lack of understanding and experience of local work style, legal and otherwise, likely devastating mistakes, dealing with every detail, misunderstanding workers, misunderstanding types of sand or water supply or temperature etc... everything will go wrong because that's what's happens to outsiders, he'll be far more expensive in the end, and achieve a lower 'quality' than someone who has more Mexican experience with the local construction style, strong La Paz relationships and contact list and a sense of local humor.


I sincerely doubt that he will....he appears to have the universal basic skills under his belt, he's married into a large extended Mexican family, speaks the language, knows the difference between beach sand & arroyo sand, knows not to use saltwater to mix cement, it sounds like he understands how to communicate respectfully & get consistent quality from his workers, knows how to negotiate for fair materials pricing, it appears that he knows & respects local laws & practices.

I, for one, feel he offers a valuable service to those with either no local construction knowledge, or no construction knowledge at all. My personal experience tells me how much I've been able to save by negotiating my own materials prices. He brings years of experience to the table for cost-savings in this industry.

Quote:
On the other hand someone with experience like Longlegs or Vandenberg would be great assistants.


Thanks for your vote of confidence....but I gotta tell ya that prior to my moving here 11 years ago, I had nada construction experience or knowledge! I gained what I now know through personal need, tenacity & self-preservation of my sanity & finances. I learned it in the trenches of La Paz! And I'm far from done learning!! I'll let Vandeberg speak for himself.

Quote:
There is way too much to learn, whether it be about materials or team issues for the abductor to succeed as construction manager so soon, unless you want an expensive stucco home or a factory mansion.

I guess if you have a ton of money (and I know some do) it's always possible to get what you want and have many managers, architects and engineers on staff, but if you want to save money, you need a team manager who is hard working local laborer/manager, who can carry rocks, shovel sand, mix cement, cook, clean etc...

Soon?????:o Did he just fall off the back of a recently-arrived turnip truck? I'm not going back & rereading this entire thread to verify my suspicions, but I got the distinct impression he's been doing this here for a while.

From MY knothole, it appears that fishabductor qualifies & would be a value-added asset for many new & raw recruits.
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gnukid
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[*] posted on 6-14-2010 at 09:09 PM


Longlegs, you're right on all counts. Apologies to Fishabductor for being too harsh. I guess I have seen far too many people misled by what sounds like a similar scenario, but I do not know fishabductor and now having read more, his background is certainly deep and with roots and that is what helps.

I guess you know I built my home too, it's got walls so thick that the temperature inside is always cool. The walls are straight. I suffered, I had many mishaps with workers-probably went through more tan a hundred who would just failed to show up, many promises from gringo contractors and manager types who ripped me off or tried real hard and just about every conceivable story you could ever imagine. So, I am gun shy, I know you and others and would trust you immensely in any regard, I just haven't met fishabductor yet.

Here's an anecdote, I was overwhelmed on my home project, I couldn't leave the job site ever or risk chaos, so I hired a smart construction manager for about $3000 pesos a week, all was going well sort of, except he never would really stand up to contractors, he had no incentive.

Finally, after a few weeks of good progress, I took him out to dinner and drinks with our girlfriends, I bought him a shot of tequila and another and another. He went crazy and confided, that I saved his life, he was actually a MS-13 gang member who had committed murder in San Diego and his name wasn't really Mario... well, for some reason the next day I explained I was ill and ran out of money and the job was stopped. I took a break and continued later.

That is one of a hundred crazy stories. But the house is great, I realized in the end, I didn't need a manager, and I was probably a bit too uptight about costs. My costs were below $40 sq foot.
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[*] posted on 6-14-2010 at 10:51 PM


Fishabductor, Good, there is nothing wrong with a restarts to set things right Baja. It took me only 5 tries with 5 separate teams to get my floor done level and the tile straight.

One thing I have learned, when an albanil says 'no te preocupes' - that's bad.

Can't wait to meet, Have fun!
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[*] posted on 6-15-2010 at 05:31 AM


Wow, when I started this thread I had no idea it would be so interesting, I have learned a lot (mostly how quick people are to judge eachother) but also good info about builiding. We have basically finished our projects and feel good about them. I know that we didnt get the best deal in town but that is ok. I totally understand how fishabductor could be very helpful when building and if my brother does decided to build I will give him your name!
But.... I really never got my question answered....... is there a sq. ft. ballpark number for building a casita in LB? (simple block sturcture )
Also I would like to say that Baja isnt the only place we get ripped off with building, the US is almost as bad............. or can be..... I think...
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[*] posted on 6-15-2010 at 05:43 AM


Ps. I would also like to say we had 2 different builders build the 2 castas on our property, paid the same price for the 2nd one 2 years later and he did a WONDERFUL job. The first one had no idea what finish work was (even on a very small project). So we will keep him for anything else we might add on. It would just be nice if I knew what my brother should "shoot for" as far as a sq. ft. price goes with our builder, seems like times are though and he might be able to get a good deal......
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[*] posted on 6-15-2010 at 06:59 AM


Somebody needs a hug. Just natural that if you begin any enterprise in Baja California where your plan/attitude comes off as cynical, mean-spirited, biased, distrustful of proud Mexican workers you might have problems. It's clear to me that if you flip all those things around your trust will, at times be misplaced -- in the end, the enterprise, your well being will offset any small hiccups in the job. I always got more than I bargained for at the most pleasurable cost of uncountable Pacificos, a little light platico and the occasional Bloody Mary.
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