How did you arrive at the decision to build your own home? Has it been a lifelong dream? Did you become too frustrated while looking to buy a house already built and on the market? Did the cost of desired renovations cross the line to “Let’s start from Scratch”? Did your brother-in-law, friend or neighbor build their own house so now it’s your turn? If you decide to go ahead, understand that building from scratch is not the quick and easy alternative. It takes time, patience. Knowledge and solid financial footing and only the specialized owner builder loans are good enough to cover these up-front costs and see your project through to the end.
Can you purchase an existing house?
- There are a lot of existing houses for sale out there. Some are old, some are brand new and some are in-between. Have you done a thorough search to be sure what you are looking for isn’t already just sitting there somewhere waiting for you?
- Did you look at a enough homes or did the realtor limit your selection?
- Are you looking to be in a specific area?
- How important is it to be near a school, work, shopping, relatives, friends?
- Do you want a home with a lot of unique features? What are they?
- Do you want a combination of amenities that you just can’t find already built and available? If critical elements that you are looking for are already in an existing house, this may be a better option due to the time requirement and financial commitment involved in building a new house.
What about renovating your current home?
- Can you add-on a new room and redo one or two other rooms to get what you are looking for? If it only takes a few key changes to make the process quicker and cheaper.
- How much is too much? When does the total cost push you across that invisible line? If you are looking for a lot of changes, the piecemeal theory may not work and may not even be an option (especially if exterior additions such as decks, pools and patios are involved).
- Do you just need a lot of changes and want them to be your own?
So, if you decide that renovating doesn’t make financial sense and that the house you want is not already out there, then you have decided to build your own home. Next is the planning.
The Planning & Preparation Process
Planning is the most important factor in the success of your home building project. It can be a slow and deliberate process. It may take as long as the actual construction itself. Typically the turtle will have a better built home than the rabbit. Do your homework. Read some books & magazines, review websites, attend hardware store seminars, use your local building associations for references and speak with one or more people who has been through the process.
Be your own General Contractor or hire a Professional
You need to decide whether you will be running the project yourself or if you will be hiring a professional General Contractor (if the later Chapter six will provide assistance). There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods.
Being your own General Contractor:
- Saves the GC fee, any labor you do yourself and may save money on material mark up
- Requires the time & attention to make the contacts, place orders, monitor deliveries and supervise subcontractors.
- Requires good communication skills, coordinating skills and detailed planning
- Would be easier if you have some level of construction knowledge or experience
Hiring a professional General Contractor:
- Allows you keep a reasonably normal working schedule
- Puts an experienced and knowledgeable professional in charge of the construction process
- Utilizes his contacts and experience with sub-contractors, which could be cheaper and may provide higher quality work
- Generally makes the Lender feels more comfortable
Set up a construction schedule
You should put together a reasonable time line for the contractors to follow and then hold them to it. Without deadlines the construction may be delayed and your cost may increase. There are a number of factors that can sabotage even the best laid out schedule.
- Standard design homes will take less time to build (and may be more cost effective) than a custom built home.
- Some materials will be in stock and can be purchased quickly, but if they out of stock or are short on the number/amount needed it can cause a delay
- Custom orders on specific items will always take longer and a four plus week delivery time is not unusual. If you know you want something other than the standard item plan ahead so that it will arrive when needed.
- Other jobs your contractor(s) may be working on can interfere with your progress
- Weather (freezing temperatures, snow, rain, wind, etc) will also come into play and may slow down or delay some aspects of the construction
- Holidays, vacations and illness can limit the availability of the General Contractor, the subcontractors and even yourself
Determine the type of home you want
What is the general structure and what are the basic elements and amenities. Home design plans come in standard stock or can be custom designed (we will review this in more detail in Chapter seven). For now just have a rough idea of want you want?
- Brick, wood, timber built or maybe a log cabin
- Colonial, ranch/rambler, split level, cape cod, tudor, victorian
- How many floors
- How many bedrooms
- How many bathrooms (master bath, basement)
- How elaborate of a Kitchen (eat-in or just for cooking)
- Separate dining room
- Formal living room
- Family room
- Den or home office
- First floor laundry room
- Foyer, mudroom
- Finished basement (walkout)
- How many car garage
- Deck, patio, porch
- Pool, hot tub, outdoor kitchenette