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Build Your Own Home, Issue #013, Home Building Choices
October 28, 2005

This month’s newsletter is about making the right choices when choosing to build your own home, or selecting a home building service or program. I cover the different program choices on the Pre-construction page. You may wish to review those details again. Some of this may be redundant, but it is very important. Your home is most likely the single most important investment you will ever make.

I recently received an e-mail through our contact us page from a gentleman that was having to make a decision whether to build his own home, or hire a building service to do so. He was quoted $65 dollars per square foot to build his new home, which was very close to the cost if he were to build it himself. I give very careful consideration to everyone who writes to me because I know what it feels like to need help on this issue. There was very little help available to me when my wife and I wanted to build our own home.

Here is what one of valued readers wrote:

“I have a question for you if you have time to answer it. I've contacted a company that is a 'owner/builder' type place that basically 'holds your hand' during the building process allowing you (me) to be the general contractor. They give you a list of sub's and also get discounts on building materials. Anyway, this guy told me that he figures it would cost around $65 or so dollars a sq. ft. I've talked to 'build on your lot' people, XXXXX for one, you may or may not be familiar with them, but they've been around for a while, and they can build me a house, a house that they have plans to, that I like, for about that same price. My thing is, why should I have the headaches for the same price? Any advice?”

Here is my answer to him:

I have heard of XXXXX (name of building service) they are big here in Texas. I have no personal experience with them. I do have one piece of advice. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. It is very hard with all the different ways builders structure deals to actually know exactly what you are getting for what price. We built our house for around the same price per square foot you are talking about. When we priced it out with builders it was anywhere from 90 to 110 per foot. The difference was the extras that we all want like granite countertops, ceramic tile etc. We also added many electrical features and high-end lights and such. What I would do is sit down and decide exactly what you want and write it down. Take it to the builder and make sure you get it in writing, then compare. It can get really confusing with all the different levels and programs they offer to really compare what is what.

After sending this e-mail I thought back to the time that we were contemplating how we were going to build our home. I remembered how crazy it was looking through all the brochures and notes, trying to make an intelligent decision.

I can really empathize with those of you that need to make a choice whether to build your home yourself, or hire a builder, or pay for a program that will help you. My wife and I went through the decision making process and did a few things that helped a lot.

Remember back in issue #10 of Build Your Own Home? I talked about getting organized and setting up a filling system, from the beginning. I can’t stress this enough! It will help you compare the different program if you file all your notes, brochures etc. in one neat system. The decision making process may take several months, or even years. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can’t find my car keys from the night before, much less a couple of months down the road.

Another thing we did, was get as detailed as we could, with the builders and programs on what the spec was on countertops, floors, carpets, construction materials etc… so we could compare all of them intelligently (I know I mentioned this in the email earlier but it is important!). We got down to the fine points…how many electrical plugs in each room, what exact grade of light fixtures…. what appliances exactly, what model…what kind of insulation exactly…what kind of roofing shingle…be exacting…. don’t assume ANYTHING! Every detail has to be covered before you simply assume that the building program/builder will build the same house for the same money you say you can build it! Let me get this straight…. the builder works for little or no profit…. yeah right!

You may also want to record the conversations you have with the builders or program sales people to refer to later. Or you can take a recorder, and use it after the meeting, when the details are fresh on your mind, if you are uncomfortable recording the conversation. Write down the key points of the meeting and file it away for comparison later.

Let me step back a little, and give you another tiny bit of info. Go to all your meetings prepared. Have a list of all your questions ready. If you have blue prints, make sure they are marked up with all your revisions and specifications so that you can get an accurate bid.

It is almost a given in the building industry that if you add to your list of wants, after the contract is signed, it is going to cost you a BUNCH more than if you had it included in the original bid. Remember they want to get your business so they are willing to negotiate up front to get it! After you sign the contract, and you have money in the game and ask for additional features or upgrades, they can jack up the price, and all you can say is OUCH! Trust me, I have been down this road and have gotten price gouged!

The rule in home building is “ What is not well defined is easily manipulated”. Get it in writing up front. Define what you want explicitly…only then you can get a good deal. Define what you want in a loose manner, then trust me, you will pay and pay….and pay….

If you want information about Construction Loans or Home Loans go to our Home Loan & Construction Loan Page.
If you want more information about building your own home go to our Building Knowledge Center.
If you want information on hiring qualified contractor go to our Building Contractor Page.
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