Back to Back Issues Page
Build Your Own Home, Issue #023, The Builder and Building Your Own Home
September 06, 2006

The Builder and Building Your Own Home

In this Newsletter, I want to take a little time and talk about using a Builder to Build Your Home. Before you get a rope, and form a lynch mob…. let me explain why.

I get a ton of email from you, my friends and readers, and many of you write in and mention what a struggle it is going to be, to have the time to properly General Contract their own home building project. Sometimes we have to face reality, and let other people do things that we know we could do as well, or better, IF we had the time.

Time is our most valued resource, and without it, we can do nothing. Time is the one thing that no matter how hard we work, or how educated or gifted, we can not make any more of.

Many of you out there honestly may not have the time to do what is truly necessary to Build Your Own Home. So as much as it pains me to tell you, you may have to use a Builder to build your house. Let’s face it…. sometimes reality is just not fair.

So, in order to help my friends who don’t honestly have the time to be their own GC, I want to make to list some of the items that may prove useful to you, when you work with a builder:

Here we go:

  • Check your prospective builder out very, very carefully. Remember Research is the key. Use the process that I suggest on the Building Contractor Page. Make sure you get at least three that you can work, with and check them out thoroughly. And please think about this: If you can’t even talk with the man or woman, how can you expect to work with them? Think about how you feel around them. Do they make you feel nervous? Relaxed? Reassured? Scared? Trust your gut!

  • Once you have chosen a builder, make sure you have a completion date in writing. This completion date should have a penalty associated with it if the builder misses it. The penalty has to be financially painful enough to insure compliance.

  • Never EVER finance the construction of the home without an even MORE substantial penalty for late completion that escalates higher and higher as time progresses. Remember, YOU are paying the interest while they take their time (and maybe build a dozen other houses in the process) if you don’t have this detail in place. I say, let the builder be his own bank, but this is your choice! You might really win a nice discount on the price of the house if you agree to finance the construction in your name. Maybe BOTH of you can win in the process. But look before you leap!

  • Never EVER assume that the builder will just do the right thing. Ever heard the term “Trust But Verify”? I don’t think we should run around thinking everybody is the devil, but there is no harm in understanding that everybody doesn’t have the same set of values as you do. With your builder, (or any contractor for that matter) you need to make sure you cover your bases up front. Good contracts make for good friends. How do you do this?

  • Get EVERYTHING in writing. Make sure that you get all the details in writing up front. It is not rude to be thorough…. it’s plain smart! Before you sign anything make sure all details are in writing. A good detailed contract, with addendums, makes for good business!

  • After you start building, any changes are going to really cost you big time, so make sure you carefully decide what you want up front and get the bid from the builder on the whole package. Little changes can cost a fortune and add up very quickly! (Try to look at it from THEIR prospective! They initially bid on the jobs with the sub-contractors! Now they have to go back and get new prices!)

  • Be as detailed as you can be, about everything, and write it down and have the Builder sign it then give him or her a copy. This one tool can save you untold heartaches in the building process.

  • Get a copy of the plans from the builder if they are supplying them. If the builder should suddenly pass away during the building process it will be chaos to go on without a set of house plans. You need a complete set of plans!

  • Go to the building site at least once a week and check progress against the plans. (When we used builders in the past, several times, I found several serious mistakes while they were building our houses. But they were building a lot more houses, 14, at the same time as ours.) If there is a problem, submit it to the builder in writing and make him sign for it. It is critical that you have a legal paper trail if you have any issues that you cannot resolve with the builder. The builder has no reason, or motive, not to want to build the house successfully for you and your family. But we are all just human beings. Never forget that you will have to pay for, and live in this house for many years to come. Not the builder….he will be down the road. So pay attention… YOUR house being built!

I would prefer that you supply the plans for the building of your home…. but sometimes this is not practical, because many builders will supply them as part of the package deal. You only have so much money….but…..

Not having a real set of plans for the builders to bid on, can make choosing the right builder difficult.

A good alternative is to make sure you know exactly what you want in your house. Do you want granite countertops or Formica? Do you want carpet or tile? How much, where, and what grade? What kind of carpet pad do you want? How many square feet do you want? You want to define as much as you can upfront and use these definitions with each prospective builder so you can compare apples to apples.

I know that all of this may seem like a lot of upfront work….BUT….let me a assure you, that if you use a builder, and things don’t go as planned, then the right contract/documentation may save you.

And as always, I think you should check with a licensed real estate or contract attorney for best (professional) advice.

And remember:

You Can Build Your Own Home,
OR Work Successfully With The Builder Of Your Choice!

Happy Home Building,

George, from Build Your Own Home.

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.
Back to Back Issues Page