Construction Bargain Strategies
2-1. Start early. - Electronic Edition
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The earlier you start your planning, the more bargains and ideas you find to make a better house. If you start just a month before, you never see the problems or opportunities that begin to emerge after two or three or six months of thought. Your house is built before you even see the key issues.
Suppose you start a month before groundbreaking and just come out with a budget and schedule at the end of that month. Then you have to go with it. But we recommend working and adjusting the budget many times over several months, even a year, before you start to build. Some bargains take time to shape up, like special seasonal prices on house materials. How do you know what the seasonal prices are until you’ve checked them over time? This book has numerous helpful strategies you can’t use unless you start early. For instance: • Your permit-issuing municipality may have annual budgeting process and specific seasons of applications that you have to wait for. • It just flat takes a year to squeeze in 1,000 hours of planning, and what an adventure! O-B’s in a hurry usually “leave money on the table”. • One strategy for manageable landscaping suggests hauling in free soil amendments to prepare beds for planting. If you can do it the season before you build, the amendments compost in place. Good soil is ready for use when you are. • One CBS is “Talk to people, express your needs.” It takes a while to make relationships and chase down their ideas. Many bargains you discover are seasonal, and you need to let the calendar go round to prepare and pounce on some of them. Say you get on a notification list with a freight liquidator for appliances or doors, or woodwork – it takes a while to get a find that matches up to your needs. • “Price out alternative approaches.” We’ve observed that this often doesn’t happen in spite of best O-B intentions, because one don’t even have enough time to flesh out the base case. An O-B interested in alternative construction technologies, like ICF or SIP in lieu of conventional framing never gets the facts rooted out before deadline pressure necessitates the “standard” choice. • Our advice to “Read a lot.” is usually given short shrift. Opportunities to understand the background are missed as time must be devoted to specific tasks in front of us. “Out of the box” thinking is lost. • Checking the seasonality of prices. The National Retail Federation, a trade group based in Washington, D.C., offers this calendar to help consumers look for retail promotions and bargains: January — end-of-season fall merchandise, home goods from linens to cookware and furniture. February — Valentine’s Day, with promotions of jewelry, fragrances and other gifts. March — summer merchandise arrives, brides begin registering for summer weddings. April — spring fashion markdowns begin. May — Mother’s Day promotions, sales of athletic apparel and athletic shoes. June and July — Father’s Day promotions, summer clearance sales. August — back-to-school bargains. September and October — discounts on coats, gloves and scarves. November — pre-Thanksgiving markdowns ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend rush. December — holiday discounts on apparel and appliances. In like manner, there is a seasonality to construction materials. Study the principal materials you need and see when they rise and fall. Typically, when new building permits drop, so does lumber. You can call the building department in the jurisdiction where you are building to check numbers of permits issued. You can’t track this if you don’t start early. • Say you want to take a class as O-B Bob B. is doing – one in PEX plumbing, and one in ICF for his fourth O-B house. Classes take time to schedule and months to complete. Preparation to save money building – whether or not through DIY – takes time for a first time owner-builder. • Another strategy that reflects a lot of owner-builder interest is to use IKEA cabinets. IKEA offers a little-known sale pointed out by an alert reader. But it’s only once a year or so. • Many owner-builders pick up “open box buys” or floor model discounts on high-end appliances. These opportunities may come up once a year or less. If you’re not in the stream well ahead of time, you miss savings like these. My newspaper today had this headline: “Utah Jazz fall to Lakers due to slow start”. I saw that game. The Jazz fell 26 points behind in the first half, and lost the game by six points. If only… Unfortunately, when I built, I only started in earnest a few months ahead of time. I left something on the table, as a result. Like most owner-builders, I think, “Next time I’ll start sooner...”
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