What to Know When Building Your Own Home

By Matt Smolsky , last updated July 19, 2011
Building your own home is an exciting and rewarding experience, as long as you are wary of a few tips. You'll get what you want along with the satisfaction that comes from knowing every detail about your home. It's also tough process filled with the possibility of many expensive problems.
Building Options
There are a variety of ways to go about building a home. There's the one-stop-shop version where you buy the land and house from a developer, choosing from a variety of floor plans and interior/exterior design options. You can purchase the land and then contract with a builder to build one of their standard designs. Custom-built homes are another option. Kit homes are delivered to your building site ready for you or a builder to assemble. With these, you'd better know what you're doing or have a reputable builder working on the project.
Before giving any builder or general contractor a down payment, check his or her references. This includes calling people that have done work by this builder as well as the Better Business Bureau. Get in touch with the local builder's association to get a list of builders in your region. Inspect their work as closely as you can. Find out how long they've been in business. A short history isn't necessarily a sign of trouble. It just means you'll need to do your due diligence.
Once you've selected your builder, get a signed contract. This should be as detailed as possible, including the architectural design, materials used, labor costs and more. Cover as many details as you can.
Acting as General Contractor
If you're acting as your own general contractor, be sure to go the contractor's side of home centers and supply houses. They still might not deal with a non-professional, but at least you'll have a chance at getting the deals that professional contractors get. Don't forget to factor in time you'll spend managing the project. Will it take you away from your other work and cut into your income? If so, you might be better off hiring a general contractor. Make sure your subcontractors are licensed and bonded. When you get estimates from subcontractors, get them in writing, and make sure they're for the entire job. Don't hire a contractor on a per hour basis. When ordering materials, order what you need, when you need it. Materials stored on a job site run the risk of being damaged or stolen.
Take everything into consideration, not just the time and materials it takes to build the house. Factor in links to utilities, water and sewer. Be sure to pay contractors with lien waivers so they can't come back, claim you didn't pay and put a lien on your house. Along those lines, verify all inspections and make sure you get approvals in writing. Be present for all inspections. Finally, make sure you have an insurance policy that covers your job site while it's under construction.
Regardless whether you act as your own contractor or not, be aware of building codes. And don't trade quality construction of the foundation, framing, or roof for overpriced fixtures. While you want the interior and exterior of your new home to look great, you'll be much happier knowing it's built with quality workmanship on a solid foundation.
Resources and References
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