Between 2021 and 2022, I conducted a survey on rental property owners in Kabwe, Zambia, to ascertain how often they conduct asset maintenance works and how much approximately in Zambian Kwacha is spent on these works. It was discovered that a majority do not even set aside any funds for the purposes of maintenance, renovations or improvements to their real estate which I believe is the case even in most other parts of the country. One of the reasons stated by responsive property owners for not taking routine maintenance of their property seriously was limited financial resource. They would rather channel money to other more pressing issues than to routinely maintaining their buildings. The only time a leak was being fixed was only when it caused havoc to the surroundings or really negatively impacted the water bill. Other than that, the leak was really not worth any fixing. Because of this, it was evident that most buildings would deteriorate at a faster rate than was necessary, had routine maintenance been embraced.

In this article, I will discuss some of the ways in which property owners can cut on routine maintenance costs as highlighted by Hartwig (2014) in the “Home Improvement Maintenance” book.

If you intend to carry out major maintenance works on your property, engaging your district Chief Building Inspector is of great essence. It is a known fact that even if you own the house, you are not free to do whatever you like. If for example you would like to put up a boundary wall or perhaps improve the outlook of your property which entails demolishing of a part of the building, you will need to seek the advice of your district  Chief Building Inspector and get consent. This professional knows all the local building standards that you have to adhere to hence the need for you to seek his/ her services. By so doing, you are avoiding any penalties that might arise as a result of breaking your local laws.

Sometimes property owners are at cross roads and have to choose whether to renovate, add on or even demolish and start all over again. In this case it is recommended that you do not financially drain yourself by adding value to your property of more than 25% of what’s currently obtaining. A house for example is said to increase in value only by 10% more than the neighbourhood average. This therefore means that spending more on beautifying it will either not yield much as compared to the average neighbourhood price or indeed remain unsold for a long time which has its own cost implications. If improving the face value of your property at more than 50% of the current value means only 10% sale value, then do it for your own enjoyment, for you only live once.

Choosing whether to engage a General Contractor (GC) or not is also another deciding factor in cutting costs on renovations. Getting a General Contractor provides warranty that you do not have to worry about the work output and which individual did what because the GC only is answerable to you. Home owners have served as GCs for the longest time and it is easy to note which GC/ Home Owner is experienced in construction or not. Remember you are trying to cut down on costs, therefore, being your own general contractor if you do not have experience in construction will not be of great help to your coffers. An inexperienced GC is likely to make wrong predictions about duration and even appropriate construction materials to be used. Other than that, being a general contractor or project manager can be really stressful especially on major projects and might even take a toll on your relationships especially if it’s your own project; this is Experience speaking, she stays in Zambia.

Lastly, I am encouraging everyone of us to get involved in buying construction materials. Sometimes if everything is left to the contractor, it is highly likely that the cheapest materials regardless of quality will be bought to maximise on profit because it is business. Therefore, it is recommended that clients select their own construction materials or provide quality assurance. If possible, do the shopping on your own, you might just get a discount on your purchase. Other than that, you will be very happy that you chose the doors for your property.

You have to always advocate for your own wishes!

You might want to know that we have the 2023 Construction Expo coming up on the 26th and 27th April at the Lusaka Showgrounds in Lusaka. Come and network with construction industry players like General Contractors and Chief Building Inspectors. If you would like to exhibit, please visit

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