The Ultimate "Do It Yourself" Project

As a test of perseverance, skills, patience, finances, and luck, building one's own home ranks as the "final exam".   As a way to save money on a new home, this test of endurance requires more thorough study.  While there appears to be great potential savings, reality paints a very different picture.   For example:

  1. You save money when you mow your,own yard, but ... you do-the-work. On this scale, the time loss is inconsequential, but on the scale of a new home, the time and effort is beyond comprehension.   Part time employment by a couple for an equivalent period of time will generate more money than most contractors charge and will do it with far less effort, both mental and physical.
  2. Self construction generates multiple problems with financing.   Banks must deal with homestead laws when lending interim money to the final owner.   In these times of severe regulatory scrutiny the bank must also resolve the question of the owner's ability to complete a house that is worthy to list as collateral.
  3. The various skills necessary to build a home have been, in many cases, developed over a lifetime.   A cursory understanding of each of the crafts involved in the construction that is obtained from a book or a short course will yield results that reflect your level of knowledge and understanding of the "craftsman" involved.   Multiply these results by the number of crafts in home building and the potential for mishaps should petrify even the most stouthearted.

There is a great misconception that "builders get rich" from building homes. The truth is that, as in any business, there are occasional "home runs" but the general rule is hard work, plus overhead, plus experience, plus knowledge, add up to a reasonable gross (not net) profit. Even with all of this planning occasional "strike outs" occur.   Acting as your own general contractor has even more pitfalls.

  1. Even with competitive bidding, any subcontractor or supplier worth having on the job knows an inexperienced builder will take longer to work with (and be more trouble), so his price must be higher; for time is money. If it is not higher is it because the sub doesn't know any better?
  2. Lack of experience in scheduling, plus no potential future work to motivate subcontractors, assures a longer (more interim finance costs) project.
  3. The long-term warranty policies on the market are not available for self-bullt homes. With no regular general contractor (for future work) subcontractors will be slow, or nonexistent, for any repair or warranty work.

The hiring of a professional team for the monumental task of constructing a home is the most cost effective and logical solution to the problem. The contractor will deal with the wide range of issues, from finance to the warranty. The home will be built by knowledgeable, skilled professionals, in a timely manner. Even with the above help, just the required decisions and selections of custom construction are difficult, time consuming,and very stressful for most families. Contractors can generally be hired in a variety of ways, from a single set price for the whole project, to a straight fee for their services. There are advantages and disadvantages to be balanced for any selection of contractor and the payment method. As a "do it yourself" test, the construction of one's own home is an ultimate one. It will be a serious challenge to even the best and it will provide unmatched pride upon completion. IF THESE ARE YOUR GOALS, then a self-built home may be the answer.   However, there are substantially better, and easier ways to lower the final "cost" of your home.