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sue in el paso, TX0.001

Thanks to those who have helped me with my questions so far... this is a great board!
Jill in Elizabeth, PA

How many trades did you do yourself?

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I know when sheetrockers came and looked at my house for bids, most of them had this strange look on their face when they looked at the ICF. I had a spare block I kept at the workplace just to show them how to find webs, have them screw a couple into the webs and then try to pull them out, etc. After the demonstration, most didn't upcharge their bid prices because they realized drywall on ICF is not a big deal. The sheetrocker I used had experience with sheetrock on ICF, and he liked to glue an
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Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO

Was yours a starter, step-up, custom, or dream home?

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Melanie, one thing you may want to try is looking in O-B Connections and sending private messages to others that have built their own home in Pennsylvania.
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Jeff in Provo, UT
Just wanted to hop in and say that between all of the work outside.What an awesome nation, eh?Steven in Colorado
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Steven in Colorado Springs, CO
150. Finish Some of House Later It's not my preference to only finish part of the house before moving in. I really prefer to be done with the project and turn my attention to other things. But some O-B's thrive on continuing to build and finish, and they clearly save money doing so. Dr. Jason B. of Pleasant Grove, Utah told me: "We built our house and left the basement unfinished until after the assessor filed his report, then we started finishing it ourselves. No sense having twice the square footage to pay taxes on." By taking this approach, you can save on taxes, loan fees, permit costs, and interest. When you apply for a loan, you pay a fee on the overall amount. If the scope of the project is initially smaller, you pay a smaller fee. Permits with the local building department are the same. The costs are based on the gross project dollar size. Later, when you are building, the carrying cost of the gross cost comes through as interest. You can reduce this amount by taking the project in steps. Another variant on this strategy is to move in early. Even though the defined living quarters you are building are not finished, you can get in a bit early and save money. You save by shutting down the lodging costs you are paying elsewhere and by turning off the construction loan and its interest and beginning on your permanent mortgage payments at a lower interest rate. Some municipalities let you occupy before things are really finished, others insist that every last lick is in place before issuing the certificate of occupancy. Owner-Builder Kevin Watson lived in one of the former types of areas: "The area I will be building in does not require finished floors and painted walls to obtain occupancy and only one bathroom and kitchen must be operational. That means I can do the painting, flooring, and baths 2-4 after move-in. This saves cash and time as I see it." Check with your building inspector as to the exact requirements you must meet.
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The on-site tasks of an owner-builder are what management types would call "non-trivial". The owner-builders I interviewed spent an average of 1,068 hours on-site - far more than they anticipated. You need to plan to be able to handle the commitment. If you have planned fully, you may be able to get satisfaction from a 500-hour effort. This means four hours per working day, during working time, for a six month period.
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by Mark A. Smith

In The Complete Guide to Contracting Your Home (see our Bookstore) the authors write: "The old saying, 'Only one thing has one price: a postage stamp.' is alive and well in the building material business."

They are making the point that anything you buy, from excavation to sinks to carpet, can have a different price at different times to different people. As one veteran told me, "It's a negotiated business."

We'd hate to stretch a point, but beg to inform our learned colleagues that even a postage stamp can have many prices.

This came home to me a couple of years ago when the local grocery store offered postage stamps for $1 off per book of stamps. (About 18% off). There was no limit, but one catch, you had to take the stamps with some money-saving coupons in a booklet. The coupons turned out to be very good ones. The store has repeated the promotion frequently.

Shortly after this, our post office began accepting credit cards for stamp purchases. Now the "time value of money" was on our side. We bought all the postage we needed, hundreds of dollars worth, on the 26th of every month, when our new credit card cycle began. We then had 55 days to pay for the purchase. Stamps went on the credit card on the 26th, we got a statement the 30th of the next month, and payment was due on the 18th of the following month. We made the payment on the Internet without using a stamp or writing a check. The charge hit our bank 3 days later, a total of 55 days of valuable "float".

We also compared sources of shipping and found that when we shipped our books to the distributor, (usually done through UPS) the charge was $26.30 per box. By selecting our class of postage we were able to ship USPS for $15.43, another way to get more out of a stamp.

Of course this postage was also charged on a credit card, and we got frequent flyer miles for the purchase. We keep a credit card that gives the most bang for the buck in air travel. We take advantage of all their promotions, and get a good handful of free air tickets every year.

So how much does a postage stamp cost?

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Book Description

How to build your own home

The best available guide to saving money on a home construction project. The Owner-Builder Book is the most reader-friendly of the self-contracting books currently in print, and has the biggest emphasis on saving money when you build. The only book in the category printed in two colors, or reaching a fourth edition, it is loaded with interesting reader sidebars and a substantial resource guide.

"...16 easy to read chapters with lots of charts, lists and examples...More practical advice..." Nancy Cook-Senn, The Shawnee News-Star

"...this is the book which will tell you how to design and build your own home just the way you want it. It also tells you how to save thousands of dollars in the process...You can also save up to 50% of the cost of a house by becoming an owner-builder...goes through the stages of how to plan, planning, how to buy, developing a network for purchasing your materials, how to get bids, what to look for in bids on different areas, how to supervise your sub contractors, etc...seems to leave very few, if any, stones unturned." Curtis Rivers, Vero Beach Press Journal

"Assuming you have the same costs that a general contractor will have, you will save the profit (more than 10 percent average) and the overhead (two to three times the profit) paid to a general...The Owner-Builder Book discusses just how this can be done." "Ask the Experts", Country's Best Log Homes

"If you don't want to be sorry, follow the process outlined by Mark Smith in his book, The Owner-Builder Book." "Builders Showcase", Northwest Herald

"...covers every aspect of the building process, including planning, scheduling, working with subcontractors, financing, building permits, etc....has, perhaps for the first time, demystified the home-building process for the layman. Consider this to be a textbook." Prince William Region Home Focus

"...highlights techniques for materials shopping (what he calls "commando shopping") and planning your home room-by-room to maximize savings." Home & Real Estate Weekly, Daily Times-Call

"This new book gives a step-by-step approach to building your own home and saving up to 50 percent on construction costs. Chapters show how to beat contractor pricing tactics, how to deal with paperwork (contracts, permits, and legal and insurance protection), how to manage home building project on a daily basis, and how to avoid common owner-builder mistakes." The Henry Herald

"Great practical little book filled with tips to save money when building a home. If you want to take on the project yourself, it's good to know the tricks of the trade first. You'll learn to manage bureaucratic paperwork, how to get subs on your side, and even become privy to "commando" shopping techniques. The Smiths explain how to benefit from new tax laws and how to prepare yourself to get loan approval." Simple Living Quarterly

"If you ever have thought of building your own home, The Owner-Builder Book is for you because it is a step-by-step guide for the amateur and covers all aspects of building a home." Robb Northrup, Kitchener-Waterloo Record

"When it comes to building your dream home, sweat equity a.k.a. doing it yourself, can help economize. But you don't need to swing a hammer to nail substantial savings. In The Owner-Builder Book Mark Smith leads homeowners through a step-by-step guide of planning, scheduling and financing a custom built house." Michelle Mahfouri, American Press

"The 16-chapter book takes [you] from putting a materials list together and putting out bids to subcontractors to shopping for bargains and close-outs on framing lumber, fixtures, concrete and appliances. It also discusses how to avoid first-time mistakes." Kansas City Star

Ready to buy? Jump straight to the books

From the Author

Mark and Elaine Smith

When we built our own home, a general contractor estimated the cost of construction at $115 a square foot. It was more than we could afford. We had two choices: shrink the house we had planned, or build it ourselves.

We decided to build it ourselves, and completed the house for $65 a square foot. The amazing thing was that we didn't sacrifice anything in the original plan. In fact, we included dozens and dozens of upgrades on which we found great bargains along the way.

We found very little published help on the key issue - saving money - when we were building. So we decided to make it easier for others by writing The Owner-Builder Book. We began by going to the Library of Congress and reading all the books out there on the subject. They were almost all written by general contractors. Believe me, they don't try to help you save money.

Next we conducted 200 interviews with subcontractors, generals, lenders, inspectors, and many other owner-builders. We found answers to all the sticking points like: "Where can I get a construction loan?"

We found that the average owner-builder saved 35% on the cost of construction against contractor estimate or appraised value.

I also drew on my experience as a former construction industry executive and consultant. We provided templates for the reader to the three key tools needed for success: Written Budget, Written Schedule, and Written List of Features. These tools were almost nonexistent in the literature.

We have been honored by reviews or mentions in 165 newspapers and 20 magazines and newsletters to date. People tell us that our book is enjoyable and gives them confidence to build.

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