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Building a property

You have found a beautiful building plot where you want to build to property you always dreamed about. In your mind you already have some ideas on style and looks. Now the planning starts. You have to find an architect, get a builder, take care of the building permit, follow up once the building has started. Plenty to do! Vitrine guides you through the building process from A to Z.

The building plot

Building starts with a building plot of course. Bear the following important issues in mind before buying a building plot: do you have the necessary proof that the land is in fact a building plot? Visit the Cadaster to check what the destination is of the surrounding plots. Maybe they plan to contruct a busy roundabout or a new industrial area in the neighbourhood? A soil certificate is mandatory and should be delivered by the seller. Check the soil, is the earth of good quality? Also check the orientation of the plot and the overall accessibility.

For more information on building plots, check out "buying".

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The architect

Choosing an architect

Being an architect is a difficult profession. It requires creative skills, as well as being able to execute a realistic and price-conscious project. Before making a definite choice, it is best to visit several architect. Do you have the same vision on living and building? Do you like the architect?s building style? Check out some of his realisations and references.

When you feel right about these, make your final choice. Next step is to fix your architect?s assignment in a contract. You can use a standard contract, but be sure to put in your specific requirements. Do not be afraid not to agree immediately with his view or plan. You are the commissioner! Be demanding, you're talking about a lot of money. The fee of the architect can easily be up to 7 or 8% of the total budget.


The contract should hold some important descriptions and clauses to avoid future problems. We think of the following:

  • a precise description of the assignment. For example: building a single-family house on building plot in the High Street 43, Gent.
  • the budget, mentioning the total cost, VAT and fees.
  • content of the assignment: pre-design, building application, cost estimation, definite plan, building site supervision, checking of invoices, delivery time...
  • fees: the architect?s fees are usually invoiced in instalments, according to progress. 20% upfront payment,, 20% when submitting the building application, 20% at start of building, 30% during building and the remaining amount at delivery.
  • the provisional delivery date.
  • penalties for delays and disputes, and how to resolve them.

Which formula?

There are three ways to handle the building process:

1. Architect with individual builders

This is the best process if you want total control. You choose (together with the architect) the different builders, and you take care of getting the building application. This formula is time-consuming and requires a lot of work. The architects' task is extensive and he therefore might charge a higher fee.

2. Architect with general builder

One builder will take charge of all works, or he is responsible for the subcontracting. He therefore also bears the full responsibility for all executed works. Coordination usually runs smoothly and is less time-consuming. It also gives you a certain guarantee because a registered builder has to apply to the law of Breyne.

3. A to Z building solutions:

This is the area of the building promoters (also subject to the law of Breyne). The promoter offers a complete package, including the full finishing. Even the garden can be included. The building promoter has his own architect, or always works with the same architect. The advantage here is that you only have one contact person, who is responsible for everything.

The 10 year liability

Many problems can arise after the delivery. Cracks in walls, subsiding floors, leaking roof? These and many other problems fall under the liability of the architect and builder. The architect is responsible for the supervision of the building process and for bad concepts. The builder is responsible for the correct execution of the plans, for faulty materials and for executing a clearly bad concept. Architect and builder can each be made responsible separately. In case of a building promoter, there is only one party responsible. Finishing works, no matter how expensive, are not the responsibility of the builders, because they do not cause safety problems. In some cases of dispute prepare yourself for a legal battle.

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The builder

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The building application

After modifications of the pre-design plans of the architect it is time to submit the building application. This happens at the local town planning department. When submitting your application, you will receive a receipt. In principle it is their duty to provide you with an answer within 75 days, but in real life it sometimes takes longer.

The town planning department checks your plans to see if they correspond with the official regulations. Your architect is well aware of all documents that should be put into your file: the necessary pictures, plans of each face including information on colour, the necessary application forms, attestation and authorization of the architect.

When your building request is refused, you are entitled to an appeal at the "Standing Committee". If they as well refuse your application, you have the possibility to address the "Council of State". This can be the beginning of a long procedure, and the findings are irrevocable.

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