Three years ago, for a property a little bit out of the town of Jinotega, I paid about US $6,000 for a 120 by 112 foot lot (about a quarter of an acre), and then the house cost me around $30,000 to build, including labor and all building materials, such as local brick and wood. This is a 900 square foot house with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a fireplace chimney.
So, the cost to build our house was about $30 per square foot. It’s not craftsman standards, but it's a nice sturdy house. We built it. I worked with an architect. Even though my neighbors thought I was crazy and laughed at me for that, I asked the architect to design it for earthquake standards, so we basically built it using US codes, put together a uni-monolithic construction with concrete columns and what they call “vegas,” which are the crosspieces. I used cinder block on the inside walls, firebrick for the outside walls, and steel purlins,
steel roofing. Then I have four fiberglass panels, one over each bathroom and two over the living room/kitchen area. So during the day the house is very well lit without having to turn the lights on. The whole place is nicely tiled. It looks pretty nice and comfortable.
I was my own contractor. Prior to making that decision, we interviewed eight and one guy turned us down. He was the one who built the house we were renting. Of the other seven, only three asked us for plans to work up a cost. When the remaining contenders came back with a bid of over $60,000 just for their salary to be the contractor and I would have to pay extra for workers, I just said no, so I became my own contractor.
You don’t have to have vast knowledge in order to build here in Nicaragua. The information is there and if you have taken any time watching construction being done or actually have worked in any construction, or if you have any other skills, that is all to your advantage. For example, I have electrical skills.
Our process was to first let people know we were looking for a contractor. When you do this, people show up at your door. You have to deal with your blueprints with the city. So right away, people know you're going to be building a house and people start showing up. If they don't ask to see blueprints, and don't ask for a copy of the blueprints to work from to give you an estimate, and don't ask relevant questions, like what materials are you planning on using, what’s the square footage of the completed project, and so forth, turn around and run from the guy! A contractor who at least has a clue what he's going to do is
going to ask for certain information so he can actually write up a bid to do the project. And also get several bids.
If you had a competent contractor to supervise and do the work I did, it will be fair to add $15,000 to the $30,000 price I paid to have my house built. So, under these circumstances, it would cost about $45,000 to build our 900 square foot house, or about $50 a foot. In my situation, doing my own electrical work, running conduit and ding the plumbing, we paid $30,000 total. We're going 5 years now living in the house, and so far, knock on wood, it’s perfect.