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DIY home contracting

T Bone

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Jan 8, 2001
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5,241
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West Slope, CO
We're thinking about building a home, and acting as our own general contractor in an effort to save $.

We own the lot.

We'd sub out everything except finish carpentry, painting, flooring, and landscaping.

I know enough about all the other aspects of construction, and know enough tradesman, I feel I could get a quality result.

Has anyone else gone down that road?

My primary concern is getting the construction loan.

I want to hear the good, bad, and the ugly.
 

npaden

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Feb 3, 2011
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4,039
Location
Lubbock, Texas
I did the general contracting for my house. Don't remember having any troubles with the construction loan, but back then lending in general was a lot different than it is now (We built in 1999).

The biggest mistake that I made was actually taking a vacation while the house was being built. Had a contract with the company I bought the logs from to set the logs and dry it in. They were about done stacking the logs and seemed to be good guys and making good progress so I figured there wasn't any need for me to stick around and watch them work. BIG mistake!

Ended up coming home to no work done and the subcontractor that was supposed to get it dried in gone. Ended up going through another framing subcontractor who ended up being a thief before finally finding someone good.

Ended up spending about as much on fixing things the first 2 guys had done wrong as I would have if I just hired a general contractor to begin with.

I think if I would have skipped the family vacation that year things would have turned out much differently.

I would say don't do it unless you can commit to being on site at least 2 times a day, every day.
 

kenton

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Mar 19, 2014
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Ohio
No reason you can't do it but you really have to know you're area's building code along with any permitting you need. Without a GC, any fines and/or inspection fees come back on you. Good luck.
 

brymoore

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May 24, 2007
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Idaho
I did it 9 years ago. I saved money because I did a lot of the work myself (I spent a year of my life building a house). However, I'm sure I paid more for subcontractors and some materials because I wasn't a builder receiving volume discounts. Builders make 10-15%. I'm not sure the money you'd save is worth the hassle unless you're doing a substantial amount of work.
 

Muskeez

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Aug 21, 2012
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NW Iowa
And be ready for it to consume an entire year of your life from planning stages to final doorknobs being put on. We built in 1999 also, and even with a GC it was a big commitment. I wouldn't tell someone not to do it, but it's not for everyone obviously. Being the GC will mean that you have to be an azz once in a while when subs don't do what they say they will in the time that they say they will. The subs also get very good at blaming other subs for their delays and problems!
 
H

hnt4life

Guest
You can do it! I was fortunate enough to borrow against my first house for the loan. I sub contracted some bigger stuff that would have taken me a long time by myself. This project has consumed my entire life besides my fulltime job, for a year and a half. The amount of money we have saved by making all the decisions on purchases, doing a massive amount of work myself, and being able to take longer than a "construction loan" timeline, has made it well worth it.

Looking back, I would have still sub'd the foundation and framing, but would have done my own elec and rough plumbing. I found a guy that hung my rock for a killer price, well worth it. I did all the siding, doors, floors, trim, finish plumbing, painting, taping drywall (with brothers help), dirt work, and thousands of hours of research.
 

1_pointer

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Dec 20, 2000
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18,108
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Indiana
You need to go back and re-read some of Big Fin's posts on being a handy-man then realize this magnifies by magnitudes. ;)

I know a few folks that have done it and all but one wish they hadn't. I know it wouldn't be for me.
 

Nameless Range

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Jun 6, 2013
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Western Montana
I know a few folks that have done it and all but one wish they hadn't. I know it wouldn't be for me.

This is in line with what I have heard from others as well.

There are certainly people who have done it successfully and smoothly. I know it can save you quite a bit of money when done correctly, but I will throw this out there. 2 years ago my wife and I had a house built by a General Contractor who was excellent. We saved thousands of dollars by doing the flooring, painting, fireplace, tiling, and cabinet hanging ourselves. Both of us kind of learned those skills on the fly and it worked out well.

Whichever way you go, my only piece of advice would be to check in on the project often - like nearly every day. If something against your wishes is set in motion accidentally it can be costly, in terms of time or money, to reverse it, which could be very costly if you don't have a long term business relationship with the subs you are contracting out. I think that is a huge advantage of going with a General Contractor. They have a relationship with their subs. If things aren't on schedule for you, a sub may bump you to the bottom of their schedule, which could snowball.
 

teej89

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Oct 7, 2015
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West of the Rockies
You need to go back and re-read some of Big Fin's posts on being a handy-man then realize this magnifies by magnitudes. ;).

haha! I was just thinking of his podcast that he talks about this. You build your house, there goes your hunting and fishing indefinitely!

Good luck!

Are you doing a custom house or a pre made house? By premade I mean you're just picking plans online of predesigned houses. Therefore you don't need an architect or engineers.
 

ringer

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Joined
Dec 1, 2004
Messages
887
I did it on our first home about 35 years ago. I had a family of Mormon framers and some really good subs to do the foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing. I did the shake roof, the finish carpentry, painting etc. I was just a kid so my Dad loaned me the cash then it was easy to get a loan. It was a massive PITA and we were on site every day at least twice between my wife and I. Always hauling extra lumber or something. I only did it because my Dad had built a couple and I could not afford the buy a home. I saved around 20% but times were simpler back then and the government was more friendly. I worked 8 hours at my job then was working on the house until dark and every weekend daylight until dark for 3 months. It got us started out so all good.
 

Brittany Chukarman

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Dec 16, 2003
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Richland,Or
If you decide to go that way pick subs who will actually be on your job working and supervising their crews. It goes a lot smoother and quicker that way.
 

deer_shooter

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Jul 20, 2009
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Southwest Pa.
Get everything in writing. Be on site every day. Insist on getting top quality work and fire a second rate contractor immediately.
I finished my house by myself after I fired my GC. He under bid the house by about 75k so I didn't have many options.
 

ERSS

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Jan 23, 2008
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1,497
Location
Eastern Idaho
I did it back in 2009. It worked out and I am happy with the house, but not sure I would go that route again. Probably depends on the market and demand, but good subs are loyal to the GC's that are going to give them repeat business, putting the one time owner/contractor at the bottom of the priority list. They would much rather piss you off and make you wait than someone who is using them several times a year. 3-6 month delay in completion can cost thousands, not to mention weather damage if not closed in on time. If you do it, be onsite as close to daily as you can and never pay for anything until it is complete ( some you may have to pay out in stages, like the framing, HVAC ).
 

jryoung

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Jan 16, 2012
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Unable to determine due to velocity
We just rebuilt our house that was a complete tear down to the foundation. We used a general contractor and are very glad we did. My wife and I both work in high stress jobs and to us it was well worth the cost to pay a general contractor. Overall, it was a "savings" for us, as our hourly bill rates are higher than than our general contractors. Coupled with the lining up of subs for a smooth transition from one to the next so there were no bottlenecks of work and dealing with them when the job wasn't done satisfactorily was well worth what we paid.

Our situation my be different than yours, but make sure you place a value on your time and what it would "cost" for you to manage all the subs.
 

Joe Hulburt

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Feb 23, 2012
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1,219
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Oregon Coast
There is no way you could get a construction loan in Oregon to build without being a licensed contractor with some history of building a few houses. I tried to go that route in 1998 and it wasn't an option with any lender I spoke with.
 

elkhnter

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Aug 7, 2009
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967
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On the road again.
Most banks in my area shy away from owner- builders. I'm building our new home/show home and my banker has told me that I'm the ONLY owner-builder that they've loaned money to.
We are a log home distributor and do construction and restorations, so that did help us out.
 
H

hnt4life

Guest
You can do it! My wife and I designed our entire house, and I drew it up on Punch Home design software. If you look at only the money savings, that alone doesn't add up, but if you want to get back to true home ownership, this is the way to go.
 
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