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Build it yourself

Posted by tomh on May 6th, 2003 12:35 PM
In reply to Self subcontractor by Monique Roby on May 5th, 2003 11:50 PM [Go to top of thread]

I agree with much of what homebild says, but won't prejudge your capability. I thought my experience as an owner/builder might be helpful. I have been my own contractor for building a 2250 sf cape code (additional 1500 sf in walkout basement). I have also restored a turn of the century wreck and built a number of additions and large outbuildings, stables, fencing, roofing, siding and other projects. I'm not a pro, but know pretty much every aspect of building.

Building takes a lot of planning. You will need to own a buildable lot or parcel with capbility for water supply and wastewater disposal as well as access to power. You will need to creat or contract for completed building plans and engineering drawings. As you own contractor you will subit those plans for permits and address any issues with the permit authority. You will need to demonstrate you are capble of completing the is project in applying for your construction loan commitment from the bank. If you act as the general contractor you must bid and schedule subcontractors as needed for grading and concrete work, framing (including lumber and window schedules) roofing and any interior HVAC, electrical, plumbing, insulating, drywall and finish carpentry. All of this needs to be done on a tight schedule and on budget while protecting yourself and the lender from leins.

It takes a lot of planning to be your own contractor, and if you don't have significant experience already, I have doubts that you can acquire it in short order. BUT there are alternatives.

One option is to hire a consultant general contractor. He may be an active licensed contractor or retired builder or if you are not careful, a suspended contractor. They generally work for a percentage of material and labor costs (usually 10-12%) or fixed fee. The consultant can assist or perform design, scheduling, advise you on subs, take care of bids and permits A reputable consultant can give you credibility at the bank. Once construction starts he can hold his ground and fight for you when a subcontractor inevitably screws up or fails to maintain budget. He will instruct you to make paments and draws, keep the project on budget and protect you from mechanics liens. The consultant is a not the general contractor because you are taking the risks and absorbing budget over-runs. He does not profit in the sale of the home, he is a contractor to you, the general or more accurately the owner/builder. When you are all done, you will have a house that you designed, built and will live in with pride. It is clearly a hell of a lot of work and substantial amount of risk.

That's the drill. Now are you sure you want to be your own contractor?

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