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Current Top-Rated Posters


Thank you for picking my Forum tip. I am fairly early in the process, just finishing with the planning. I have taken your advice and planned till I couldn't plan any more. I hope it goes smoothly. The bank was very impressed with the proposal we put together. I also wanted to say how helpful your site has been. Thanks for the great site.
Steve D., Silver Spring, MD

Try one of our new Construction Bargain Strategies for free. Coupon code: CBS. One strategy could save you $1,000 or $10,000 or maybe $50,000 when you build or remodel.


I had no idea I could build a house.

I didn't know the first thing about carpentry, or cement work, or any of the trades; I had no tools; and I certainly didn't have enough money to build the kind of place I knew I wanted.

Yet here I sit in the nicest office I've ever had in the nicest home we've ever owned enjoying every comfort and a breathtaking view of the mighty Wasatch mountains.

Elaine and I built this place. We truly love it. Its a gorgeous house that has everything we want in it and works very well. It's a great comfort because we can manage the mortgage payment and because we go to sleep knowing that we have more equity in it than we owe.

I never thought we could do this because people assume you can't. And the thought that you could do it far less expensively than a general contractor really causes resistance. People told us "no" all the time.

We decided to write a book that would tell you "yes".

Enjoy this book. It's loaded with every tool, technique, and tip that we used, most of which we couldn't find in any other book.

One more thing. We sometimes felt very alone building our house. Because we don't want that to happen to you, we have provided a web site where you can interact with other owner-builders. Elaine and I are accessible via toll-free number and fax as well.

Don't let anybody tell you you can't do this.


Ready to buy? Jump straight to the books

Just wanted to say your book has had a huge impact on our plans. We are building a large custom home… and your book convinced us to take on the job as owner-builders! I’ve read through it several times and have gained a lot of confidence from its pages.
Mike in Orange County, CA

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


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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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