Building in Harbour Island: FAQ
Do I need a permit to build?
What is the cost of construction?
How strict are the building codes?
How do I choose a contractor?
May I bring in outside (non-resident) help?
How can I build the house I want and still remain sane?
Yes, several. Everyone needs to submit a detailed architect’s construction plan for engineer approval to the Ministry of Public Works before building or adding on to an existing structure. Pick up the form at the Commissioner’s office. Also, the town planning board must approve the appropriateness of the design for Harbour Island.
Non-Bahamians need an additional permit if a) The property being purchased is greater than 5 acres; b) The intention is to rent out all or a portion of the property; or c) The property being purchased is for commercial development. Non-Bahamians who buy land for which an additional permit is not required must register their purchase with the Foreign Investment Board.
Construction costs vary widely depending on the location of the construction site, the design of the building, the materials used and the finishes. Costs per square foot of finished house may be as low as $65-80 for low cost housing or as high as $400 for a luxury home with the finest finishes and details. The average seems to be about $200 per square foot.
Count on the cost being 40% higher than for a similar home in south Florida. This is mainly due to freight, duty and delivery cost to site representing approximately 65% of the F.O.B. material cost.
Very. You’ll note hurricane-proof requirements throughout the process, like 2×8-foot beams (rather than the standard American 2x4s). Indeed, building standards are higher in the Bahamas than in South Florida. The majority of homes here are of concrete block or poured concrete construction and are built to meet a very strict building code.
Inspectors periodically check on the work of foundation layers, electricians, plumbers, et al.
You’ve probably heard horror stories about lengthy delays because of logistics, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Most builders choose a general contractor, and as Susan Neff put it, “stay close to him, make certain he amintains your vision, and that his workers are following the architect’s plan.
Of course, you can be your own general contractor and hire individual tradesmen on your own as Wade Higgs has done. . Local business woman Juanita Percentie did also, and along the way learned more about construction (laying tile, wiring, etc.) than she ever though she would. “My father would be proud of me,” she said, “I’m building my own house!”.
A non-Bahamian, like an architect or someone skilled in laying marble, may be granted a temporary work permit if that skill is not available on Harbour Island; but this process is not automatic.
Chill. And remember that this is Harbour Island, and some tings take longer than you plan.